Earning a Break
“Earning” A Break
How often do you tell yourself, “I can stop for lunch once I finish this one last thing.”? I used to do this all the time. I can take a break once I finish writing this one article. I can eat dinner once I finish this experiment. I can go home once I finish this analysis. I can go to sleep once this is completed. It felt like a great idea. A wonderful motivation to get done what I had previously procrastinated doing. I was starving after all. I was so desperate to go home. Now I’ll work harder so I can finally eat dinner. Sounded like a great plan to me. And I’m guessing this sounds familiar to a few of you reading this too. But there’s a fatal flaw with this logic. You work better when you have taken care of yourself. It is amazing how much easier it is to focus when you aren’t hungry. Your brain actually does needs glucose to function. You are not a superhero capable of going days without a break. Accept your human limitations and take care of yourself. It isn’t being lazy; it is helping you become your best self. You are more likely to edit that paper and catch all the typos after a good night’s sleep than at 2am.
I often feel like I can’t take this time for self-care. The term self-care sometimes feels like fad and a millennial excuse to not work hard. But after years in therapy, I’ve finally started changing my way of thinking about it. Self-care is a necessity to be productive. It doesn’t always have to look like taking a whole weekend off. Self-care can be leaving that sample on ice for a few extra minutes so you can drink some water. It can be taking 3 minutes to do some deep breathing before starting the next task. Even these small moments make a huge difference in not only your mental health, but your success as a scientist.
I know grad school is rough. None of us have tons of time for relaxation. But I encourage you not to put off basic human needs. You don’t need to “earn” dinner or sleep by finishing everything on the to do list. You deserve to take a break for dinner simply because you are hungry, and your body needs food. You deserve to get sleep simply because you will be a better student if you are rested. In the hustle of grad school from studying for the next core course exam to writing your dissertation, take care of yourself. You will be a much better student for it.