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Anyone who’s ever done a PhD will tell you how all-consuming it can be. From the sleepless nights to all of the sacrifices, it’s easy to lose sight of why you’re doing it in the first place. Everyone goes through tough times with their PhD, but it’s important that you put your health and wellbeing first.
It’s easy to neglect your self-care when studying or going through a stressful period of work, but if exhaustion or illness sets in – you won’t be able to complete it! Here’s your guide to essential self-care when studying for your PhD.
Don’t skip your sleep
Sleep is incredibly important, especially when you need to retain your focus to produce your best work. You might think that staying up all night to finish a chapter or write up your notes is fine, but too little sleep too often will soon take its toll on your health.
As difficult as it might be, aim to get 8 hours of sleep at night. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can catch up on the weekend, it’s not how it works. Some hacks to help you sleep better include getting into a sleep routine, where you go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Make your bedroom a place of calm, and stop using electronics for at least an hour before bed.
Is your bed stopping you from getting quality sleep? Treat yourself to a new one, it could be one of the best investments you ever make.
Exercise is important for staying healthy, but it’s also an excellent way to relieve stress. When you need a break from studying, a visit to the gym or going for a run can be the perfect thing to take your mind off your work and help re-energise you. Why not start your day off with a visit to the gym, or head for a run when you’re done for the day?
Meditation can also be beneficial for banishing stress. You can learn how to meditate quickly and easily to help achieve calm and regain your focus – perfect for when you’re struggling with a particularly tough piece of work.
Make sure you eat right
When you’re busy and stressed out, making yourself a healthy, home-cooked meal can be the furthest thing from your mind. But it’s important that you nourish your body, and give your body the vitamins it needs for better immunity. When you’re stressed and tired, it’s easy to become run down, and eating right can help you avoid colds and other illnesses.
Don’t let a lack of time stop you from eating right. Arm yourself with some recipes for quick, healthy meals that you can make in a hurry.
Keep up to date on your appointments
Your PhD can take over your life, stop you from seeing friends, as well as forgetting key appointments like going to the doctor or dentist. Keep track of all of your appointments, and don’t put off making any if you have a health concern. Going to a dentist like Dr John Michalopoulos Dental can help make sure your oral health is taken care of. Stay organised using a planner or your phone calendar to make sure you prioritise those health appointments.
Remember to take a break
Even if you feel like the work is piling up on you, you need to take a break and not feel guilty about it. Taking some time for yourself will help your mental health, and make sure you realise that there’s more to life than working and studying. Even if you can only spare an hour to get out and walk around, it’s an hour you’re giving to yourself. Being outside is beneficial for your mental health, and means you get some much-needed fresh air and exercise during the day.
If you plan out your thesis properly, you can fit in time for yourself. Try the ‘9-5’ approach and only work during those hours, giving you your evenings and weekends free. You’ll be surprised at what you can get done when you’re in a routine, leaving you with plenty of free time to enjoy yourself.
Once you’ve made time for a break, remember to switch off. It’s easier said than done, but it will ensure you have a more restful break.
Don’t shut yourself away
Many people completing a PhD feel lonely and isolated. While turning down plans can give you the time to do more work, it can leave you feeling miserable. You might not be able to party like you did when you were a student, but you can still take the time to visit friends or go out for dinner. Shutting yourself away will affect your relationships, a sacrifice you might regret later down the line. Even if you can’t get out, you can always pick up the phone – it can be a welcome break from your thesis to have a good chat with a friend.
Try not to say no to everything; it’s good to get out of the house and catch up with your friends and family!
Make time for other hobbies and interests
What were your interests before you started your PhD? Did you have a hobby or a special interest? Don’t give that up just because you’ve got a thesis to write. It’s important to make time for the things you enjoy, otherwise, you’ll find yourself looking back at this time without many nice memories. Whether you love to read or go surfing, make the time – your life doesn’t end because you’ve got to work!
Earning your PhD takes a lot of hard work, but taking care of yourself is how you’ll get through it. Put your health and wellbeing first, and make sure you do things to keep your mental health in check too. This is only a short period of your life, and it will all be worth it in the end.