Lessons from my Ph.D. experience part 1.

I think one of the things I find interesting about any postgraduate degree, specifically a Ph.D.,
is that it generally takes place when you are an adult who is trying to balance life.

I didn\’t fully start to take care of myself until I started my Ph.D., and so the experience for me has
been a lot. In my first year, I decided I was going to learn to drive, and I was going to buy a car. I
bought the car, but it ended up sitting in my parking lot for about six months because life
happened. I couldn\’t afford insurance, and when I could, I was too nervous and anxious to get
behind the car and drive. In the second year of my Ph.D., I hit rock bottom and hit it hard. A lot of
things were going on in my personal life, and in my bid to balance everything, I neglected my
mental health. In my third year, I tried to fix all the broken relationships from my second year
and stretched myself thin, and now I am suffering from burnout. When I started my Ph.D., I
genuinely thought that life would stand still for me and everything would be smooth sailing in
my personal life until I graduated, but that hasn\’t been the case at all, and I was na├»ve to think it
would be.
Now, when I talk to new Ph.D. students, or anyone really, I always tell them to put themselves
first. I am still only learning this lesson in the final year of my Ph.D. (You would have thought I
would have learned my lesson by now!). A Ph.D. is very demanding, and sometimes it seems like a
huge ask to take care of yourself first, but I am learning self-care is extremely important and is in
the small day-to-day things, like remembering to eat your fruits and vegetables or taking your
supplements.

One of the things that helped me in this last year of my Ph.D. was taking breaks in the middle of
the day with someone. I know this sounds obvious, but hear me out. PhDs are very isolating by
nature, especially when you are an international student (which I am). You are not only trying to
navigate a new country, but you are also trying to navigate a new system. Sometimes it seems
easier to eat your lunch alone or have all 20 cups of coffee at your desk. And even though there
is nothing inherently wrong with that, sometimes it helps to have a chat with someone about
work, life, or just random things.

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