Pros and Cons of Grad School

I want to take a few moments to go over what I think are the pros and cons of going to grad school. It seems like more and more people are considering grad school these days. I think it is because jobs are getting way too competitive.

Entry level job

People just jump into grad school without weighing their options first. So here is a list of some pros and cons of grad school that you need to consider before applying.

Pros

  1. You will get to focus on an area that interests you. In fact, if you do a PhD, you get to only focus on one thing that interests you!!
  2. You will stand out among your peers after graduation. Jobs will higher you before someone with a bachelors (in most cases).
  3. If you are in research, you will most likely be working on a cool project that not many people even know about.
  4. This may cause a pretty decent advancement in your career.
  5. You have higher earning potential.
  6. After graduation, you’ll be an expert in your field.
  7. You get to meet some amazing and brilliant people
  8. You have access to all of the cool software and hardware that the college provides.
  9. You’re creativity will increase significantly.
  10. You’ll be able to make career changes a lot easier.

Cons

  1. Grad school is expensive.
  2. You will be spending even more time in school with people much younger than you.
  3. Grad School is mentally taxing.
  4. Grad school is extremely difficult.
  5. You will most likely have a loss of income. You are exchanging 2 to 4 years worth of income for this degree.
  6. When you graduate, you may not have as much work experience as someone who has been working
  7. You may be in school for 8 more years.
  8. There’s no guarantee that you will get a good job after graduation.
  9. You may be turned down from jobs because of “over qualification” but, I’ve never met a person that was applying to jobs below their qualification.
  10. You will see friends come and go while you are still working away at school.

These are a few of the most important pros and cons that you need to consider. If you are still on the fence about going, I suggest looking into more blogs about whether it is the right decision for you. A good article to read is “When is Grad School Worth It?”(link here). Also take a look at all of my blog posts about mindfulness as well as education. Those posts can help you determine whether grad school is right for you or not.

10 Facts about Grad School

I thought I would add something fun to my collection of blogs today. There are hundreds of facts that can be posted about grad school, but I want to focus on 10. These are facts that surprised me and were just down right interesting to know. I hope you enjoy the list.

1) About 13.1% of the population has an advanced degree. This includes Master’s, Professional Degrees, and Doctorates.

2) On average, a Doctorate program takes about 8 years to complete. This varies significantly from field to field.

doctorate

3) Doctoral attrition rates in North America are estimated to be about 40-50%. Half of the people that start will not finish.

4) The United States has more doctoral graduates than any other country.

5) Individuals that hold a master’s degree earn about 38% more than those with a bachelor’s degree.

Focused African American teenage chemist working on formula in scientific center

6) One average, only about 1.1% of the world’s 25-64 year olds who have been to university, have a PhD.

7) Walden University has the most graduate students as of 2019-2020 academic year.

8) The most common type of graduate degree is a Master’s.

Person in White Shirt With Brown Wooden Frame

9) There is a Master’s in Imagineering which you can get at Breda University of Applied Sciences, in the Netherlands)

10) There are nearly three times as many men and women becoming attorneys as there were earning a medical degree (MD)

This list was extremely fun to look up and share with you guys and gals. Do you happen to have any interesting facts? They don’t even have to pertain to grad school, I just like reading weird and interesting facts lol. If so, please share them in the comments. I would love to read them. Also, take a look at my other blogs about education (link here). I am sure you will find some other very interesting facts in those articles.

How to Start Each Morning

Mornings can be really rough for a ton of people. Grad students are no exception. In fact, I’d say most of them have rough mornings since they know they have to get up and work lol. I am one of the lucky ones who is a morning person. This was also solidified when I got a cat (cat owners know what I am talking about). Mornings are a great time to get most of the stuff done for the day so you can relax/ not work as hard the rest of the day. Here are ways to start each morning.

I found that a routine has helped to boost my productivity in the morning as well as set the mood for the entire day. Starting your day off right can really put you in a good mood, and when you’re in a good mood, every one wins! Here are a few things that I do that really help to start the day off on a positive note.

Black Android Smartphones on Brown Wooden Surface

1) Do not check your phone as soon as you wake up

When you wake up, make sure you do not immediately get on your phone and start scrolling through social media. There’s a great post about how social media in the morning is terrible for your mental state (link here). I personally try and stay off social media because I know I will start my day with either bad news or some form of jealousy. Everyone online is posting their achievements which causes one to feel like they aren’t “living their best life”. You are living an amazing life, but it is hard to realize this if you are on social media. Start your day on a positive note and stay off social media.

Cheerful elderly man listening to music in headphones

2) Set your alarm to a fun tune

Now I recommend doing this often and do not set your alarm to a song you really enjoy. If you like a song, making it an alarm tune can cause you to overhear it as well as associate it with waking up. This may cause you to absolutely hate it later. I suggest having an upbeat song that gets you ready for the day. It doesn’t have to make you want to dance, but it should make you want to get up and not fall back to sleep. Upbeat music is always a great way to start the day.

Person Writing on White Paper

3) Do a bit of journaling

Write every day! Journaling is a great way to start the day because you can write about anything ad get those creative juices going! Personally, I spend my mornings writing blog posts. This has helped significantly because I can write awesome blogs, get the ball rolling for writing later, and also share my little world with the rest of you. If you are into dreams and remembering the dreams you had last night, journaling is the way to go. Immediately write down as much as you can remember as soon as you wake.

From above of round marble textured table with tea set placed near newspaper and eyeglasses in retro style cafe

4) Only read positive news articles

Nothing ruins your day faster then reading bad news. Go to websites like onlygoodnewsdaily or today for really good news. This will make your day sooooo much better. Reading about war, famine, COVID, death, destruction, and everything else the media puts out there can cause unwanted stress and anxiety. That is why I start my day with positive news.

Orange Tabby Cat Beside Fawn Short-coated Puppy

5) Play with your furry friend

Your pets are extremely important. Thanks to quarantine, staying home with your furry friends has been a common thing. I truly think people are a bit happier because of it. Taking the time to play with them in the morning is so good because they need love and positivity too. I always play with my cat in the morning because I know I won’t see him for most of the day. I always feel so happy seeing my buddy casing after the string or climbing the shelves that I have for him. It is a great way to start the day.

Person Performing Coffee Art

6) Drink a nice cup of coffee

Some people are down right mean until they get coffee. Some magical substance in coffee just makes people way happier in the morning (definitely caffeine). If you aren’t a coffee drinker, I suggest tea. Sometimes these are essential in order to start the day. For me, this is 100% true. I have quite a few blogs about my coffee addiction as well as my favorite types of coffee (link here). Go check them out.

Woman in Red Dress Standing Beside Woman in Green Blazer

7) Count your blessings

This is something I have started doing. I feel like I take advantage of all of the thigs I have in my life. I always seem to want more, more, more. Instead of that, focus on the things you have, like health, a roof over your head, people that love you, coffee, this blog, your pets, energy to wake up, and most importantly that you are alive. I take advantage of all of these things but I know take time to realize how lucky I am to be given this amazing opportunity at life. No amount of money or status will be better than being appreciative of what I do have.

Woman Practicing Yoga

8) Meditate

This is a wonderful thing to do, but only after you actually got up. Meditation in the morning can be tricky because you could potentially fall back to sleep. I still recommend doing it in the morning after waking up because you will feel amazing. Your mind will be clear, you’ll be more alert, and overall in a great mood. Try it out and see if it works for you. If you want to learn how, check out my blog post on meditation (link here). Those blogs have some great advice on getting started.

Two 2 Kg. Blue Hex Dumbbells on White Surface

9) Exercise

I used to go to the gym at 6 am and would highly recommend it! I felt more alive afterwards than I had ever felt. Something about getting sweaty in the morning really changes your whole day. I think knowing that I got something challenging out of the way first thing in the morning made me realize that the hard part is done. Also, I was more alert and highly productive. I will try again to start working out in the mornings.

Boy in Gray Jacket Reading Book

10) Read a book

Just read anything that isn’t social media. Reading books in the morning will help to boost creativity and is also just an awesome way to start your day. If you don’t like to read, try and Audible book. I have a list of my all time favorite books that I listened too (link here). Getting involved in a good story is an amazing way to turn a morning into an amazing day.

Mornings can be a bit hectic sometimes, especially if you love sleep. I highly suggest, in this case, taking it easy and just trying one or two of these things that are mentioned above. You will start to notice that your days seem a lot better. Let me know what your morning routine is. I would love to update this blog post with even more suggestions.

Financial Stress in Grad School

I wanted to write about something that is hitting hard for quite a few of us lately, financial stress. That is the stress of being poor in grad school. I have written about dealing with finances in grad school before and how to reduce spending (link here)(here‘s another great resource). This blog is about dealing with the stress that comes from grad school finances. Being poor for many years is part of the process, unfortunately, and I am here to tell you that your concerns are justified. It may be tough now, but I promise you that it will be worth it.

Couple Sitting on the Couch

One of the biggest anxiety triggers that I have are my finances. Even something as small as taking my cat to the vet caused me to have a panic attack at 2 am. Luckily, I am skilled in coping mechanisms so I was able to reduce anxiety enough to get back to sleep. I am not in the worst financial situation by any means, but I know many people in grad school that are. Financial stress can really lead to many problems and ultimately cause an individual to leave the program altogether. Something that none of us want to happen.

Macbook Pro Beside Papers

The graduate union on campus recently posted a survey about the financial struggles that graduates face. The results were extremely alarming and extremely sad. People were taking multiple part-time jobs on top of working full time just to pay fore housing. Many people couldn’t even afford groceries because they had to pay for other expenses first.

U.s. Dollar Banknote Lot

Grad school stipends are extremely low. I remember receiving my appointment letter and freaking out because I was going to make about 40% less money by going to grad school than staying at my job. I told myself that 1) receiving a PhD will be worth it and 2) this will be quite a great adventure. Man, was I right about both. I think a huge stressor is seeing people that we graduated undergrad with getting senior positions and making six figures while we eat leftover pizza and ramen. It is a struggle.

For those that are reading this and struggling to make ends meet in grad school, you are not alone. It is something that we are all facing and will probably continue to face. I promise you that this will pass and you will get a career that pays you fairly. This is a learning experience and will be beneficial, I am sure of it. There are many resources that I am sure your college provides. I suggest taking a look to see what resources there are and taking full advantage of them.

One benefit is you will know how to manage money really well, a skill many people do not have. You will also know how to shop bargains, have fun without spending money, and I believe you will find happiness in small things, rather than large, fancy, things. This is something that I found to be 100% true. I have started to really appreciate all of the free things in my life such as long walks, trail hiking, and spending time at my pool (I know it’s not free but you aren’t spending any extra money).

This chapter of your life is quite hard. Will it be the hardest part? I don’t know, but it will be difficult in many ways. I hope that financial problems do not cause any extra stress in your life, like it has with me. One day, we will all be OK.

Write Often in Grad School

This is really the first time in my life where I have been eager to write almost every day. I was never a writing. In fact, writing was my least favorite activity, right behind getting my teeth pulled. Grad school changed that completely. I remember the first semester of my PhD research, I was taking the last 2 or 3 classes for my Master’s and I collectively wrote 100 pages worth of content in that semester. That seems like a lot, because it was.

Woman Typing on Laptop

One of the best things that I have learned is to write as much as possible while you are in grad school. This is a skill that you are almost required to have to graduate. Actually, it is a skill you need to graduate because you have to write a dissertation! Starting early in the key, though. Gather the skills that you need to be able to write a mammoth of a research paper early, and I guarantee it will be much easier to do so.

Blog Letters on Brown Wood

This is one of the reasons I blog almost every day. Writing is a skill that gets better the more you do it. Having a blog can serve multiple purposes for you. For me, I get to share inciteful things about surviving grad school with your mental health in check as well as I get to write and hone those skills. Sure, my writing is not the best, but it’s way better than it ever has been! Also, writing 20 pages of materials is a cake-walk compared to what it used to be. That was extremely beneficial in regards to my qualifying exams. One committee member gave me 8 hours to answer 4 questions. I gave him 20 pages of written material in response. It just came so easily. That’s definitely a perk of writing each day.

Photo Of Person Typing On Laptop

If you struggle to write good material (though any material is good material in my eyes) then I suggest writing content each day. It does not matter what it is on, just write. One suggestion, pertaining to mental health, is to journal. This is an amazing way to just put all of your feelings and thoughts on a piece of paper. First, you are helping to elevate mental stress (huge thing in grad school) and also, you are gathering the skills to be a good writing. Both of these actions will come in handy when you are writing your thesis.

Person Writing on White Paper

If journaling is not your thing, start a blog. I wrote about how a blog has significantly helped my mental health (link here). If you don’t want to blog and immediately get into writing your thesis, do that too. There’s a neat little book that you can buy (link here) that has a page for each day of writing your thesis. I may buy one myself here soon because I think I am getting close to the 100 day mark O.o.

Free stock photo of art, artistic, arts and crafts

Regardless of what you do, I say just write. I find that writing is a great way to take all of the buzzing information in my head and lay it all out. There are so many benefits of writing that it would take a whole week to write them all out for you. Writing has become a hobby for me and I hope I continue this journey well into my later years.

How has writing helped you in your life? Let me know in the comments!

The Unlikely Benefits of Mindfulness

I have been practicing mindfulness and meditation for over a year and a half now. Ever since starting therapy, I have been on a mission to find out the inner works of my mind and develop skills to cope with mental health. I have seen changes that I didn’t think were possible. Most of these changes are extremely positive and I am eternally grateful for what my therapist has done as well as my blog reader, yes you, have done.

There are quite a few unlikely benefits from practicing mindfulness that I want to share. I found these to be extremely surprising and have changed my life for the better.

help

1) People are coming to me for mental health advice

This is huge for me. People are reaching out directly to me for help with their emotions and mental state. Some of these individuals don’t even know I have a mental health blog and post about this stuff all of the time. This is awesome because it means that I have gained enough trust for someone to completely open up to me. I make sure to help them the best that I can but if it’s something out of league, I refer them to a therapist. I am just so flattered that people trust me enough to come to me for help.

teach

2) People are using what I teach them to help others.

I think this is something that everyone would be happy to see. The student becomes the teacher. Someone who I have helped in the past is using what I taught them to help their friends and those close to them. This is huge! I love seeing people take things that I have brought up and use them to spread joy and kindness. We need more of this for sure.

brighter sky

3) I see things a little brighter.

There’s a weird phenomenon that happens to me, maybe to others, where colors dull when I am sad or in a bad mental state. This was what happened after my first panic attack, five years ago. I spent quite a few months in a bad mental spot. Colors were so dull and my thoughts were really bad. Practicing meditation, back the, started to really cause the vibrancy of colors to come back. I was actually thinking about this last night. I can remember the exact moment when I knew I was getting better. It was the moment I looked at the sky and the blue color changed to a more vibrant blue. It was just for a minute, but I knew I was on the right course.

sleep

4) I sleep better

Anxiety is mean. It forces you awake with racing thoughts all of the time and getting quality sleep is almost non existent. I had a conversation with a friend of mind about how well they sleep after practicing mindfulness. They, too, have experience way better sleep patterns than before. Of course, you will have moments where anxiety will keep you up or wake you up, but they will become few and far between as you continue to practice.

Kindness

5) I am kinder

One thing that I have noticed, and you will start noticing now that you’ve read it, is how I talk about people then I say the word “but”. I would describe someone and be like, “So and So is super nice, super funny, an awesome person, but…..” then I would go on to say their flaws. When practicing mindfulness as well as “kindfullness” (check out Ajahn Brahm’s talk on this here), you will notice that you only find the good in people. You will send your description of people with kind things instead of the “but …”. Try describing some one to one of your friends or family without saying “but” or just notice when other’s talk. They will always describe something bad about others. Now start practicing “kindfullness” and notice how you will start seeing the good in all of those around you.

These are a few of the things that I have noticed when practicing mindfulness. People around me have also noticed that I am a much kinder person. This is what I aim to be in life and we need more people that are kind. If you have had some interesting effects from practicing mindfulness, please share them with us. I’d love to read about them. Also, check out my mindfulness section (here) on my blog love-and-bean.com.

Simple Ways to Reduce Stress Now

I want to touch on some simple ways to reduce stress that you are feeling right now. These are just immediate reducers and may not help for long term reduction. Those methods will need to be practiced separately. Stress affects all of us. Work, life, financial situations, friendships, you name it, it can cause stress. If you are feeling the stress of one or all of these things, try some of the methods that I will share below. Hopefully they help.

  1. Exercise
exercise

Literally just go outside and jog a bit, walk some, or hit up the gym and lift a few weights. You will feel a reduction in stress immediately which will allow you to think clearly and be more productive

2. Use the massager that you bought

massage

If you don’t know what I am talking about, check out my blog about the massager that helped my mental state (link here). Getting a massage has been shown to reduce built up stress, especially in your shoulders. It will allow you to relax, even at moments of high stress.

3. Drink tea instead of coffee

Tea

I don’t know about you but if I am stressed and need to get work done, I drink a big cup of coffee. Sure, it gets the brain juices flowing but I usually have heightened anxiety from the caffeine. Herbal tea can give you the boost you need but also reduce the anxiety that come from caffeine. It can also help you relax as well. There are literally hundred of books and articles about the benefits of tea. Science backs it so I back it.

4. 10 minutes of meditation

Silhouette of Man at Daytime

Meditation is going to help significantly. I have written many blog posts that can be found in my Mindfulness section (link here). Meditation will calm you and bring peace to the moment. 10 minutes of meditation is all you need to gain from this practice.

5. Write down your stressors

Person Holding Blue Ballpoint Pen Writing in Notebook

This is a great method to see exactly what is causing stress. Also, it allows you to see if those are justifiable stressors. Often times, you will be stressed out for things that really are so small. By writing down what your stress is, you may realize that it’s not stressful at all. It is a great method to put things into perspective and I highly suggest trying it out.

6. Play mellow music

I find this helps more than most things. In super stressful time, such as deadlines, maintain focus and reducing panic is a must. Study music is my “jam” lol at that moment because it keeps my focus and reduces stress. It’s hard to be worked up when Mozart is playing in the background. I wrote a blog about my favorite study music. This YouTube channels and playlists definitely help reduce stress. (link here).

7. Breathe

Man Wearing Black Cap With Eyes Closed Under Cloudy Sky

Breathing exercises are phenomenal when it comes to stress. When stressed, we tend to take very short breathes, not allowing ample oxygen to enter out bodies, balancing oxygen and carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. By taking deep breathes, we send a message to the brain to calm down. The brain will send that message to the body as well. There are a ton of breathing exercising that you can do. The University of Michigan has an awesome article on these techniques and how to do them. Here’s a link to that page.

I really hope that stress is not a part of your life. We live in a society where giving more and more of ourselves is a must in order to get anywhere. This causes so much stress. No wonder so many people are unhappy with how things are. If you are feeling stresses, try some of these methods out and let me know if they worked for you. Take care of yourself out there, and I’ll see you in the next blog.

Things Not To Tell a Law Student

I am surrounded by law students. My friend’s girlfriend is a law student, same with my other friend’s roommate, my roommate is, and my girlfriend is a lawyer. By default, that makes me a lawyer, right? It is funny because I actually have considered law school, but watching my girlfriend as she went through it really turned me off on that idea. I will stick to what I am good at, playing with chemicals and praying I don’t destroy my lab.

There are a few things that you should never say to a law student or a fresh lawyer, unless you want them to really go off on you. I have learned my lesson and figured it’s best to let you guys know. Some of these will be generic things not to say and other’s will come from the perspective of a PhD student.

  1. You’re not a Doctor
Lawyers Posing for a Photo

Do not say this!!!! I made the mistake of telling my girlfriend that she can not call herself a doctor because it is not a true doctorate. Getting a law degree is 100% a doctorate and they are doctors, though they probably won’t use the label. Just because law student’s don’t follow the same college structure as a PhD, that doesn’t mean it’s not a doctorate.

2. Asking them if they are starting to prepare for the Bar.

Close-up of Hands

Save this one for after they graduate, please. Asking a law student about this while they are still in school will likely cause a panic attack for them. They have enough stress already and the Bar is probably the most stress they will experience, ever. I remember when my girlfriend was studying for it. She spent 12 hours a day, every day, studying for it. This was also during the initial quarantine phase (Tiger king, bread makers, and lots of free time). When law students graduate, ten you can ask them. Some may take some time off, others go right into it. Just don’t ask them when they are still in school.

3. Asking them about legal advice

Businesspeople Talking

Sure, law students really only talk about lawyer stuff, like all of the time. I know more about the court system now then I ever have or ever wanted to lol. Asking them to give advice on some legal troubles you may have or someone you know has will be more detrimental to you and not them. The law students I have in my life love dumping all of their knowledge on the subject, all at once. You may ask for some advice about getting a permit for you house and next thing you know, you’re learning about a Supreme Court decision from 1987.

It’s wild how much they know. Also, they are students, remember! They do not have the license and skills yet to really help with any problems. If you really need advice, I suggest saving up money for a year and go see a really good lawyer. You’ll definitely need that year’s worth of money lol.

4. You’re going to pass

Happy African American remote worker tossing papers in air happy to get rid of boring paperwork while sitting in green park

I wish someone told me this a long time ago. I know this is supposed to help give the law student some confidence, but it doesn’t help. Those tests that they take are long and difficult. That may be their only grade in the class too. Just imagine you studied every day of the semester, was told you were going to pass, then you took one test and failed. That would be devastating, and that is also what many law students experience. This also pertains to the Bar. Imagine studying for 2 months straight, never taking off a weekend, and fail the Bar exam. Now imagine someone assuring you that you will pass. That would hurt a ton, so I would advise just not saying it unless you want one of those 50 pound law books thrown at you lol.

These are a few things that I learned while being surrounded by lawyers and law students. If you know someone that is in law school, I suggest sending them a care package of candy and perhaps their favorite coffee. Also, be supportive but please try not causing them any more stress than they already have. Law school is a hard three years.

Some Days Will Be Hard

This blog post will not just be for graduate students, but for everyone. You will have very difficult days and you may struggle to find the strength to continue what you are doing. You may find yourself doing anything and everything not to focus on your work. This is 100% alright. Everyone has bad days, even bad weeks. I have bad months, frequently, but know that it will pass.

Working on something can and will be hard. In grad school, you will find even the easiest tasks can be equivalent to climbing a mountain. This is normal and part of the process. The best thing to do is be kind to yourself and just try and push through. You may lose the motivation that you once had along the way to getting a doctorate. This is part of the process too, which means that you are right where you belong. There are so many ways to get that motivation back, and that will happen. I posted about habits of a successful grad student. It goes over how to create motivation which will help you on those really hard days. Here‘s a link to that.

Person Climbing on Mountain

Other days, motivation is not what is causing it to be a bad day. It could be just a bad mental health day. These are the days you need to be especially kind to yourself. The problem, at least that I have with these types of days, is how to go about talking to someone. Many of my friends, family members, and loved ones don’t experience these problems like I do. Because of this, I am not able to talk to them so I saw a therapist. Therapy helped to lessen the bad mental health days by a ton, so it may be something to look in to. These mental health days are a great time to brush up on meditation skills as well as cognitive behavior therapy skills. Check out more about that in my Mindfulness and Meditation (link).

Desperate evicted male entrepreneur standing near window

I want everyone to know that you will have bad days. You will have days where waking up is extremely difficult and going to work can be exhausting. This is totally normal and everyone has these types of days. You don’t need to beat yourself up because of it. Honestly, these are the days where your body is telling you to rest. Maybe we should all listen to our bodies these days.

Green Ceramic Mug on Person's Feet

I hope that you get the rest that you need and become more refreshed. I highly recommend taking vacations or just play hooky and go see a movie and c guarantee that you will feel refreshed and revitalized, ready to tackle anything that comes your way. Hopefully you all have a wonderful rest of your week and I’ll see you in the next one.

Does GPA Matter in Grad School?

Grades

If you are just starting off grad school, this might be one of the questions that you may be asking yourself or others. I guarantee that you will either get a yes or no answer and it will be fairly split among your colleges. I have spent a ton of time in grad school and have asked many individuals if they think GPA is important in there graduate studies. This is my opinion, so many people may have differing opinions, but I don’t think GPA is important.

GPA is important if you in undergrad. You can still have a bad GPA and get an amazing job, but you may need to work a bit harder. In grad school, your main focus is on research. Spending all of your time focusing on classwork takes valuable time away from what they are paying (PhD) you to do. I have heard of stories where advisers have actually told their students that they need to spend less time studying for exams and more time working in the lab. The advise would say that the effort that was put forth to receive an A in a class could have gone to publishing a paper, or running another experiment, Things that are much more important.

One reason why I don’t think GPA matters in grad school is because not a single recruiter that I have talked to has asked me what my graduate GPA is. They only ask about my research, publications (now I have one!!! WOOOOO), as well as my job experience. In grad school, you are less of a student and more of an apprentice. You are learning how to do the work and think like a professional rather than just taking tests and partying every night.

Also, and this comes from talking to many grad students, getting higher than a B is extremely easy. Getting an A can be a bit more work but you will probably never see below a B in your whole time in grad school. They want the students to focus on research and less of the class work. The only time I would really suggest putting a ton of effort into classwork is when it pertains to the project that you are working on. Make sure you master that class and get an A.

Overall, go into grad school with the thought that GPA won’t matter. Pass your classes of course but focus extensively on your research. You can be extremely book smart but a terrible researcher. There are many skills that you need to learn to be a researcher and that is what you should focus on. I will have a blog about those skills soon.

Anyway, let me know if you think GPA is important or not. I would love to know other’s opinions based on their experiences. Also, if you haven’t already, check out my blog about grad school hacks(found here). Have a great day everyone. I’ll see you in the next post.

Publishing Your First Manuscript

Free stock photo of brown, business, crumpled paper ball

I think one of the hardest parts about a PhD is putting forth so much effort into one thing and having someone tell you it is wrong or it is not good enough. Talk about breaking you down and making you feel bad. The PhD process is grueling and no wonder people don’t want to go through it. I know the struggles that PhD students face and they are quite taxing on mental health. One of the things that may cause mental stress is getting a manuscript published.

One of the requirements to graduate at my university is getting a first authored publication. Many of the students in my department will send in their research. I sent in a review paper. Literature reviews are required for dissertations but not necessarily for publication. MY adviser wanted me to get a paper in quickly because my research project takes quite a long time, and data won’t be sufficient until the end of this year. So, we decided that it was best to get a literature review over with and send that in for publication.

Well, after 2 years of working on it, it was accepted to a journal. I am super excited so I wanted to spend some time telling you what it’s like to publish and the process of peer review. If you haven’t checked it out yet, go read my blog about writing a literature review. I’m sure it will help those in the process.

When writing a paper for publication, you need to really pay attention to ever little detail. Make sure grammar is correct, punctuation is appropriate, and that all figures are up to the quality of the publisher. When in doubt, check out the website of the journal you want to send your paper to. They will always have a list of requirements that need to be met for them to send off to be peer reviewed.

Prior to sending your paper anywhere, do some research on journals. The worst thing is to keep picking journals where your paper is out of their scope of work. You don’t want to send a physics paper to an ecology journal. I highly recommend using Journal Finder. It is a free service by Elsevier. Here you can see the most appropriate journals with the highest impact factors. This is how I made the decision on where to send my manuscript.

Send your manuscript and hopefully the editor sends it to be peer reviewed. Honestly, this is a very nerve wracking time because the editor can just flat out reject your work. But, if you are fortunate enough, they will send you an email saying they are sending your paper to peer review. Now it’s time to sit back and relax. The paper is in good hands, I promise you.

The peer review process is awful!!! It is definitely needed but you may get comments back that are just flat out mean. They may tell you that this paper is bad or that everything you did was wrong. They may even suggest that you redo the experiments. My experience was with review papers. The reviewers must have gone through every citation because they had a comment for literately everything. It will take you some time to address all comments, but know you will most likely have help from your adviser, so do not fret. They have done this a million times.

After addressing the comments, you’ll send them back to the editor who will read over them. They may accept or reject your paper right then and there. It can happen but sometimes they will send the paper back to the reviewers to see if they are ok with the responses. If you are luck, like me, you will get even more comments from the reviewers -_-. Have no fear, this means that the reviewers are really taking the time to make sure you have a scientifically sound paper. This is a good thing.

By the time all the peer review is over, it is up to the editor to make the final call. After all, it’s their journal that you are asking to be published in. Hopefully they send you an email, like they did with me, that states that they have accepted your article. It is an amazing feeling knowing that you will have contributed a tiny bit to the academic world. Maybe you might have people even cite your paper. That is a cool thing.

If your paper was rejected. It is not the end of the world. Read all of the comments very carefully and make adjustments where it’s necessary. If you have a good project that is scientifically sound, it will get published with some work. I remember reading a comment on Reddit about how someone always sent their manuscripts to Nature. They were rejected every time after peer review, but that is what the person wanted. They wanted to see how to make their experiments and papers better. The reviewers would give them amazing feedback and they were able to use that to make their paper good enough to get into vey impactful journals. So, getting rejected is a learning experience.

If you have gone through the process of your published manuscript, let me know how it went for you. This was the process for me but everyone has a different story to tell and I would love to read about it.

Dealing With The “Lab Ghosts”

If you do research in a lab, you will be fairly familiar with lab ghosts. Every time an experiment goes wrong, it’s because of the ghost that haunts my building. It’s not because of me and my mistake. No….never! lol. But for those that have ghosts in their lab, here’s a list of how to stop them from causing trouble. If you have goblins or trolls, this guide will not be able to help. That’s a very different problem lol. This guide will only protect you from lab ghosts and nothing else.

  1. Bring in offerings.
Assorted Fruits on Baskets

I often bring in cookies to make sure that my lab equipment works that day. I mean, my graduation depends on my equipment working. The lab ghost of my building often causes things to go terribly wrong unless I bring them something fun and delicious.

2. Bargain with the ghost.

Photo of Two People Shakehands

If you are constantly getting upset over your machines failing, make a bargain with the lab ghost. I find that ghosts really mess things up when you decide to stay and do work at night. Maybe tell the ghost that you will only work early during the day and leave before it gets too late. I had to agree to not work nights in my lab with my ghost. Every once in a while I have to go in late but that was part of the agreement. Haven’t really had a problem since.

3. Scare the ghost away

Get yourself a ghost in a bottle (here‘s a link to some). It is guaranteed to scare away any ghost that tries to mess up your experiments. I have one on my desk after all of my experiments started to fail. Like., I was getting terrible results before I received one of these as a gift. My data has never looked better now that my ghost in a bottle is here to protect me.

4. Sage your office.

Ceramic Plate with White Sage Smudge Stick

You have probably heard about burning sage to cleanse the area of ghost. 100% true. I just use sage scented spray (here). It works just as well, and afterwards, you’ll definitely feel like a ghost has left the area. Spray it near your experiments when you desperately need good results. This will make you happy, your adviser happy, as well as the peer reviewer for your paper happy. Good results make everyone happy, unless they are so perfect that it looks like you made them up. Then no one is happy.

5. Sacrifice an Undergrad’s experiment.

Person Holding Laboratory Flask

This one should be the last thing you do. I understand that undergrads are just not as cool as grad student, but remember you were one prior to grad school. Also, they may have a very good experiment, and losing that to a ghost could be very detrimental to a lot of people. If it comes down to it, sacrifice their experiment. Try and convince the ghost that your experiment is less important and boring. The ghost will start messing with the undergrad’s after this. According to the Law of Haunting, section 34.6.7 paragraph 4 “Ghosts can only haunt one experiment at a time.” You won’t have to worry about failed experiments ever again.

If you truly believe your lab is haunted, follow these guidelines. I promise you that you can convince the ghost to leave you alone. I have had quite a bit of success with these methods and so will you. For other ways to make sure your experiments go well, check out my other blogs (here). I’m sure you’ll be a research master in no time.

It’s Ok to Take a Break

Woman in Black and White Long Sleeve Shirt and Brown Pants Sitting on Black Sand during

This post is to let you know that it is 100% OK to take a break from life’s responsibilities. Grad school is super demanding, and you will have a never ending list of things to do. Research, classwork, part-time jobs, social lives, everything can be extremely overwhelming. It is OK to just let it go and do something that brings you joy. Yes, I do not recommend doing a bar crawl the night before an exam, but taking breaks when you feel overwhelmed is completely acceptable.

I have learned that the most productive time for me is immediately after I go on vacation, get back from walks, or after I take a break and do something other than work. In fact, I have my brightest and best ideas when I am just staring off into space. Please do not feel like you need to be working all of the time. Sure, work is important, but so is actually living. Don’t forget that you are on this crazy, adventurous, statistically impossible, wonderous, awe inspiring, journey called life. Enjoy the ride.

Being busy is not always good. Grad school is already tough on your mental state as is, so adding more things on top of what you have can be extremely bad. Learn to take time for yourself. Slow down a bit and enjoy this magnificent ride. You only get to go on it once, so don’t spend the entire time working. This also pertains to social lives as well. Your friends will understand if you just want to have a night in. It is great to have friends that want to hang out but sometimes it’s best to say no.

Currently, I have been saying yes to too many things. I am juggling a million projects and trying not to drown, but I am losing. So today, I am going to just binge watch Cobra Kai on Netflix and hang with my cat. My adviser and committee member all understand the stress I am experiencing now and have been quite helpful trying to reduce that. I am thankful for them.

If you feel overwhelmed with life and school, remember that you are not alone. Find a way to get out of that feeling over being overwhelmed, though. I have plenty of methods in my “Mindfulness and Meditation” section of my blog. I highly recommend checking it out, especially if you are having these feeling.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Best YouTube Study Music Playlists

I often listen to very calming music to help me focus on work as well as calm the anxiety that I feel from said work. It’s amazing how simple tasks can become so complicated because of anxiety. Study music is my go to method to calm myself and get in a very relaxed state to hopefully complete the task that I am working on. I want to share with you a few channels that I think are definitely worth listening too as well as some music mixes that can help brighten your day and make you extremely productive.

The first one I want to tell you about is Lofi Girl.

This channel is wonderful and defintiely helps to keep my attention. I put this channel on when I write since it’s uplifting and there are no lyrics to any of the songs. If you are like me and just want something that you can listen too in the background, this is the channel for that.

The second channel is the Studio Ghibli Relaxing Jazz playlist on Café Music BGM channel.

I usually play this when I am not really feeling good, mentally. The music is very uplifting and definitely helps with those days where I feel a bit down. I think I will add this playlist to my blog post “My Favorite Things on Days I Feel Sad”. Check that post out here. This playlist is also perfect afternoons when you need something to get you going. After lunch, when I am full and sleepy, I’ll put this on for a bit of an energy boost.

I am a huge Legend of Zelda fan, and if you are familiar with the games, you know they have an absolutley amazing soundtrack. Frequently, especially when it’s raining, I put on “a storm of songs || zelda ost + thunderstorm ambience”. Here’s a link to that playlist.

The combination of music and rain is extremely soothing. This is another one that I will put on when I am writing. Be warned, you may fall asleep to this one lol so I suggest listening to it if you aren’t on a tight schedule.

When I am doing experiments, I have very long periods of just waiting. It’s usually like 30-40 minutes of just waiting, so I sepend that time watching movies or shows. One of the latest movies that I watched wat Interstellar. If you haven’t seen it, please stop everything you are doing and go watch it. It’s absolutely amazing. Anyway, Hans Zimmer does the soundtrack to that movie as well as many others and you can listen to those soundtracks on YouTube. Interstellar’s soundtrack is by far the best and really get’s you motivated to do work. I’ll put this on when doing dilutions or prepping samples. A good channel to listen too is Timeless Music channel and listen to The Hans Zimmer Ultimate Mix (here)

This music will motivate you to do literally anything. As I said earlier, I’ll play this soundtrack to give me some motivation to do dilutions or sample preparation. Honestly, without this, I’d probably get nothing done.

I’ll leave you with one last one. When you are having a tough day, or you just aren’t in a happy mood, the music you need is Disney music. I am not the biggest Disney music fan, but something about Disney music on the piano just puts me in an amazing mood. kno Piano Music channel has a playlist of songs that are all on the piano. I highly suggest checking this out and playing it when you are working/studying/relaxing. Here’s a link to that playlist.

I’ll be listening to this playlist for the rest of the day.

Whatever you do during the day, listening to good music can always make it an awesome day. I hope you check these channels out. They have really helped me focus at work and have been super helpful to help me relax.

Helping Others Cope with Stress and Anxiety

Selective Focus Photography of a Man Holding His Head and Eyeglasses Sitting Beside a Table

I post a ton of content on how to improve your life, but I rarely post anything about helping others. In therapy, I was told that one method to reducing the anxiety that I was feeling was to help something in a similar situation by introducing mindfulness. I am not going to lie, I was a bit selfish and did not want to share the tools I had to cope, but I did anyway. My therapist was 100% right because I found that by helping others, I helped myself. I learned a better way of coping with my mental state and I was able to help someone else too.

Grad school is just stressful. Often times, it can be flat out overwhelming. Unfortunately that is just how it is. Learning the many ways of coping with the stress will always allow you to come out on top. Helping others with stress and anxiety management, will allow you to thrive. I have many very anxious friends that come to me, asking for helpful ways of managing anxiety. I absolutely love this because it gives me a moment to teach something as well as help my friend who is having a rough time. If you are overly anxious or stressed, you know how hard it is to deal with and you would do anything to cope with it.

Here are a few things you can do to help someone who is overwhelmed or anxious:

1)Listen to them. Just listen to everything they have to say because this may help relieve some of that stress/anxiety.

2) After listening, do not try and compare how stressful your life is to theirs. This is creating a competition and you do not want that. Just listen and be respectful.

3) Reassure them that the situation will pass. I like to say something like “you have survived 100% of the hardships in your life. You will get through this.” Often times, saying this will even calm yourself down quite a bit. It’s a win-win.

4) Introduce them to meditation. This one is pretty self explanatory. Check out my guide on how to get started (here)

5) Offer to go on a walk with them and show them how exercise is an amazing way to reduce these feelings. When nothing else works, I go for a very long walk. The more rigorous the exercise, the better you will feel afterwards.

6) If they are really struggling, support them to seek professional help. Seeking help is one of the bravest things anyone can do and it is worth it. Online-Therapy (here) and Talkspace (here) are always great choices. Betterhelp (here) is another service that is well worth it as well.

7) Help them identify triggers or identify what is causing so much stress. Let them talk through it because they may realize that it’s not as bad as their mind is making it out to be.

8) Most importantly, this is for yourself, be like a dust pan. If you listen to your friend or whoever, do not hold on to the stuff they tell you. Listen but learn to let it go afterwards. So often we hold onto what other people are going through and make it part of our life. You do not need additional stress, so learn to let it all go.

We live in a society that shuns you for reaching out for help. Luckily, mental health is becoming very important, especially now since Covid has affected so many people. This is a great time to use what works best for you to help your neighbor, or your friend, or even a family member. Everyone in the world is going through some form of bad time. No one has it easy and everything is perfect. People really struggle out their and it is up to us to help them out. Show a bit of kindness today and everyday. You will be surprised at how happy you will become. I hope you have a wonderful day and semester!

How to Eat Healthier in Grad School

Let me preface with saying that I am not a nutritionist. I am a personal trainer but I can’t really give you advice on nutrition. I will however give you great advice on fitness. Check it out on my other blogs. Anyway, giving nutrition advice is out of my scope but I can tell you tips to incorporate healthy foods into your day. Also, if you have dietary issues, see a trained nutritionist or dietician, please. For those that are living off of pizza because you can’t cook, this blog is for you lol.

You are not 19 anymore and your body might be telling you that it is time to really focus on healthier options than all you can eat at Cici’s. Man do I miss going to Cici’s. Anyway, grad school can cause you to want to just eat junk food all of the time and eat it quickly. I mean, you’re sooooooo busy, right? I find myself constantly trying to talk myself out of getting to go at least 3 to 4 times a day. The best deterrent that I have found is just looking at my bank account. If you are the kind of person that really wants to start eating healthier stuff, then I think I can help. Here are a few tips on how to eat healthier when in grad school.

  1. Start packing your lunches.
Tuna Salad on Transparent Lunch Pack

Packing your lunch is a great ways to mindfully prepare a nutritious and hopefully balanced meal. Going to get food at a restaurant is nice but you may not be fully getting all of the macro and micronutrients that you need. Packing a lunch is a great way to incorporate healthy foods into your life. Plus, it’s a great excuse to get a cool lunch box.

2. Shop Bogo deals

Red Sale Tag

In Florida, we have Publix. One of the greatest grocery stores to shop at and some of the most friendly employees. It’s a great place to shop. They often have buy one get one deals on healthy items that you get add to your lunches. I often just walk into a publix and shop only bogo deals. Since they change up each week, you will always have a different variety of food to choose from. This is a great way to try healthy food items and get a ton of them for cheap.

3. Get a crock pot and use it.

Cooked Food on White Ceramic Plate

One way to make healthy meals is to just throw a bunch of veggies and some meat and spices into a crock pot and let that baby cook. It is so easy to chop up a few onions, peppers, and really any other vegetable to a crockpot and let it stew. I bought a fairly large one because I like to make a ton of shredded chicken all at once. I usually go to Walmart and get the packs of like 5 pounds of chicken and let it cook for 8 hours in the crockpot. Add some vegetables and you have an amazing meal to put over rice.

4. Ask yourself “What kind of food would I feed my pet?”

Black and White Dalmatian Dog Eating Fruits

I do this all of the time. I try and feed Sirius the best quality food that I can get, so why do I have to eat terrible quality food? You want what’s best for your pet so you should take care of yourself too. That means not eating junk food, or extremely low quality food. Unfortunately, good quality food can sometimes be expensive. This is why I shop those bogo deals!

5. Incorporate fruits and veggies in every meal

Variety of Fruits and Vegetables

This is a no brainer. Fruits and vegetables are so important t and you need them to stay healthy. I incorporate a salad into my lunch each day and eat an orange or an apple. What’s good about fruit is, the more you eat them, the more you start to crave them. I find myself after about a week craving fruit more than anything sugary.

6. Buy a rice maker

Photo Of Assorted Rice Grain On Wooden Spoon

Do you love rice because I sure do. Making brown rice is almost an everyday occurrence now. In undergrad, I was in the best shape of my life because I ate brown rice, protein, and veggies. I actually craved that meal during the day which was awesome. The rice maker helped out so much. Like a crockpot, you just set it and forget it. It makes the best rice in the world and I always tell my friends and family to get one if they don’t have one already. Also, rice is super cheap and a great addition to meals, especially brown rice. Check out this study basically saying that brown rice is superior (here).

7.Meal Prep

Flat Lay Photography of Three Tray of Foods

If you aren’t into the whole crockpot thing, you can always meal prep. There are literally thousands of books on how to meal prep. Here‘s a whole page on amazon about them. Meal prepping takes a bit of time but only one day a week. It’s a great way to make sure you eat healthy foods each day. I tried it for a week and thought it was great. Unfortunately I travel quite often so I was not able to stay on top of it. This is also great if you are very busy and don’t really have to time to cook. Just heat up a premade meal and you’re ready to go.

Hopefully you are not too busy to actually sit down and have a meal. I understand that life can be hectic at times but taking a moment to sit down, have a meal, and relax is almost as important as eating healthy. I said this in my last post but I want to say it again. Why do people glorify being busy? I can see that it may give them a sense of being important but it’s just hurting you in the long run. If you are truly trying to be more mindful and have a healthy mental state, take some time to make a healthy meal and just eat it in peace. I guarantee this will help make you way more productive than staying busy ever will.

Always Take Vacations in Grad School

Selective Focus Photography of Yellow School Bus Die-cast

I’m writing this because I am in desperate need of a vacation, and you probably are too. I am finishing my qualifying exams next week. The exam consisted of writing a proposal, defending the proposal, and taking 5 written exams, one from each committee member. I will have a post on how to pass (hopefully not fail) your qualifying exam very soon. I wrote about preparing for your qualifying exam. Check it out here.

Anyway, let’s get back to why we are here, vacations. Now, school just started for many individuals this week. But for the majority of grad students, this week is just the same as any other week. There is an influx of students but that’s the only difference. Summer is the time to get work done for many grad students. In fact, it could be the only time of the year where you get research done at all (looking at you people who teach each semester). With the constant stress and pressure of having to do a lot of work at once, it can really lead to burnout, or worse…getting kicked out!!!

This is why taking a vacation is so important. This also pertains to those who work for a living too. I’ve been in your shoes and know that about half the day is day dreaming about being somewhere else. So this post is for all of you. Vacations are a time where you can relax and not be bogged down with the stressed of work. We live in a society that thrives off of telling people how busy they are? Why is this a thing? Anyway, this is extremely toxic and can really cause problems mentally. A vacation is a good time to get away from this.

Look into vacation days for grad students. Usually, they allow 5 days of paid vacation each semester, sometimes more. These days are separate from holidays so I would suggest taking time off around holidays so you can spend more time away from work. I tend to go places or take time off around Christmas and at the end of summer. My spring semester tends to be really chill towards the end so I may take a few days off then, but more-so during winter break.

The main reason to take vacations is so you do not burn out. I believe I wrote a very long time ago that attrition rates for PhDs was roughly 50%. Like holy cow. Many of these students leave for various reasons, but a great deal of them leave due to burnout. Here’s a good article to read about burnout and drop outs (here). It’s sad that some professors don’t see that this is a problem. I had one professor tell me that, because they had to work all the time, their student had to as well. This is flat out wrong. One needs time to rest, because if they are constantly working 1) they will not be productive and 2) they will snap.

When you start grad school, remember that it is a very long process. In fact, it can be much longer than your undergrad. I am finishing up year 4 and could potentially go well into year 5 without finishing. 5 years is a long time to just continuously work and be miserable. Plan to go one trip. Go see friends that you haven’t seen in a while. Go to a new country and explore all of the food places there. But most importantly, just go do something that is not work. Life is so much more than spending your day working on something you probably hate. Life is a gift that was given to you and you need to go out and make the most of it. Grad school is a great way to make your life better, but the journey through grad school needs to also be good.

Most of your best ideas that you will have will come when you are not working. In fact, all of the ideas that I have come up with have been while walking, going to Miami to see my girlfriend, or on a boat, fishing. You give your brain to actually focus on problems subconsciously, and you get the best ideas this way. If you are struggling with a problem, I would suggest you go on a miniature trip somewhere and try and forget about school and that problem. I will bet money that some form of solution will arise. Just make sure to write it down when it does pop up lol.

It’s a great time to start planning your next vacation. First, get vaccinated for covid so you don’t risk spreading that to places you go. Next, plan your trip wisely. It’s not a good time to travel to other countries, but going to see your family, that can be an awesome vacation, as well as a cheap one. My next vacation will hopefully be to Canada. I absolutely love going up there during winter and it isn’t that expensive either. Whatever you do, make sure that you commit to it. It is so easy to work all of the time, but that’s not healthy. Live life and I guarantee that you will not regret it.

Make Your Workday More Joyous

I spend a great amount of time in my office. This is quite a common thing to do for about 99% of the population, it seems. Office jobs are extremely common, and , well, quite boring. There are a significant amount of people out there that love spending time at their desk, but I am not one of them. For grad students, desk work will take up about 75% of their week. The rest of the time is in the lab, or crying in the bathroom. The hours spent at a desk are quite long and can often be boring if you are waiting on experiments to finish or your adviser to email you back. People do not realize that practically 1/3 of your life is spent at work, so have fun while you are there . I have written about the things that make me happy (check it out here), but not about what makes me happy while sitting in my office lol. Here are a few things that I incorporate into my work day that makes it quite fun.

  1. Random dancing.
3 Men Jumping on Top of Building

Random dancing. Now don’t laugh at this one but it really does bring excitement to my work day. No one is so busy that they can’t spare like 5 minutes to just dance it out in their office, or if you are really gutsy, your lab. Play really uplifting music and just dance away. Heck, if you have office mates, get them to dance with you too. It’s good exercise and will just give you that boost of happiness to make your day that much better.

2. Desk games

Laughing male constructor showing thumb up at working desk

Now this one is good if you have a desk. If you are working at like a restaurant, you can’t really do this. I would suggest going to amazon and just typing in “desk games” (here, I did it for you) and pick out a few that you would find fun. The desktop tiki toss is my favorite. I absolutely love the ring game, but there are so many to choose from. It is also fun to have your office mates come by and play when they can. You’ll be the most popular and fun person at your job in no time.

3. Get a standing desk

Contemporary computer with headphones hanging on monitor placed on table with laptop keyboard and mouse at convenient workplace in room

When I was doing civil engineering work, I spent all of my time at my desk. People don’t realize how exhausting sitting all day is, and when I got home, the last thing I wanted to do was go workout. So, I bought a standing desk so I didn’t get stuck sitting all of the time. I was gaining weight fairly quickly and needed a way to burn a bit more calories during the day. I bought this one and a comfy mat to stand on as well. Standing desks are amazing and they keep you moving. The fun aspect comes when you realize you can dance literally all parts of the day. In fact, that’s exactly what I did. And if you are not having fun, you’re already standing up so you can walk right out of the door and go somewhere to have fun!

4. Play music

Photography of Woman Listening to Music

Listen to your favorite music. Try and see if you can name off the name of the song as well as the artist. If you have a job where you can play music out loud, see if you can quiz your office mates. I do this all of the time and it helps bring happiness to the office, as well as some competitiveness.

5. Wear funny socks

I did this everyday when working in an office. We had to dress up professionally except for our socks. Everyone had super funky socks too, which was awesome. I would go online and order the craziest designs as well as some humorous ones too. I have a pair of socks with sharks on them, a pair with Bob Ross, and one that has Bigfoot. You would be surprised how just something as simple as socks can bring you so much joy throughout the day.

Person in Blue and Red Socks Lying on Hammock

What are some things that you incorporate into your day that bring you joy? This is just a small list as I try and find as many things as possible to make my office time a little less, boring. I’d love to know how you guys spark joy in your day. Post those in the comments!

Wood Carving Reduced My Anxiety

I took up wood carving when the pandemic first started last year. While most people were enjoying making bread in their new bread maker, I was learning how to hold a knife and not cut myself (spoiler alert: I cut myself). I don’t really know what caused me to start making wood carvings. It just piqued my interest.

The start of quarantine was quite an amazing time since we spent more time inside with loved ones. We made bread like crazy. The Tiger King was…well king. And, it gave us more time to try out new things. I remember that after buying a wood carving set, some chisels, and gloves (make sure to get gloves). If you are interested, these are the ones I bought (here and here). I then started watching Doug Linker’s Youtube channel, and basically followed step by step with what he was doing. Even if you aren’t into wood carving, I suggest watching some of his videos.

It only took maybe a week of practice to understand the basics. I bought a whole bunch of basswood (like this) and just carved as much as I could. I eventually got good enough and made a few little figurines for my parents and my girlfriend.

Here are some of the figurines that I made. Each took about 4 hours to make but four hours flies by when you are carving. Each one is about 3 to 4 inches tall, so they are relatively small, but super cute lol.

As the days turned into weeks, I started kind of getting bored with just carving small figurines. So, like any reasonable wood carver, I got bigger tools and started making even bigger carvings.

This was a chunk of wood that I found, about one foot tall, that I carved an owl into. I wanted a bigger project to work on, since I really didn’t have anything else going on, especially in my PhD program. This carving was done with a dremel and then I painted the inside to really make the owl POP!

Well, after getting a taste of something bigger, I wanted to go even bigger. My goal was to learn how to carve with a chainsaw. Now, I am not trained in using a chainsaw so I had to watch a ton of videos on how to do it. The people made it look so simple on Youtube, but looks are deceiving. I bought myself an electric chainsaw (I am a college kid and poor, please remember that), and set out to carve a tiki. The tiki was a Christmas present so I wanted it to be amazing.

It turned out pretty awesome, though, taking pictures of it didn’t really show all of the contours and shadowing that made it really stand out. I will update this post the next time I go to my girlfriend’s dad’s house, where it currently resides.

Through this whole experience, I was also doing therapy. I brought up wood carving almost every session and my therapist kept encouraging me to make more carvings. She told me that having a hobby such as this was an excellent way to calm an anxious mind. I totally agree with that statement because:

  1. Carving allows you to focus on one specific task at a time. If you get distracted, you may cut yourself pretty easily.
  2. It keeps you off social media
  3. If you carve outside, there is a sense of peace that comes over you and you become “one with nature”
  4. IT KEEPS YOU OFF SOCIAL MEDIA!!!

I found that the more I carved, the less anxious I was in that moment. Carving is like meditation, you focus on one thing and stay in the present moment. Instead of focusing on the breathe, like in meditation, you are focusing on the cutting and not getting cut aspect of carving. Soon, you get in almost a trance like state, and all outside distractions tend to disappear. I feel like you can almost use wood carving as an alternative to meditation, that is, wood carving that doesn’t require a chainsaw lol.

College, especially grad school, can be a very overwhelming time and cause a ton of stress. I found that doing a simple task can help significantly. I wrote about how hobbies are great to take up in grad school. If you are looking for a way to pass time, be creative, and get some much needed anxiety relief in, then I suggest checking wood carving out. It is super easy, fun, and inexpensive, which is always a plus. It has done wonders to my mental health and I know it can help with yours.

What to Expect On the First Day of Grad School

Today is the first day of the fall semester which means multiple things. 1) Freshman and sophomores will be lost. 2) There will be a new influx of grad students. I want to focus on the second point lol. For incoming grad students, the first day of your grad school journey can be quite daunting. In fact, the first day for me was one of the scariest. But have no fear, because it really isn’t as bad as you think. Here are a few things to expect on the first day of grad school.

If you are a PhD student, you might be looking for where your adviser’s office is. This is assuming that you haven’t already visited them prior to the first day. This should be the first thing that you do, unless you have class, then go to class. After class, though, go to your adviser and say hello. They will probably show you your new office, introduce you to the other grad students, and get you set up.

If you are a master’s student, you will most likely be just going to class. Depending on the type of master’s you are getting, you might be doing some research as well. In this case, do the same thing as PhD students and go see your adviser. If you are just doing class work, go to class first.

On your first day, there are going to be the most people that you have seen on a campus, ever. This can be pretty overwhelming, but just know that it will thin out soon since people just stop going to class after the first week. You may run into people on the way to class or potentially come close to getting hit by a bus (This happens alot). This may all happen within the first few hours of the day.

People on Sidewalk Selective Focal Photo

I would suggest taking the time after your class to walk around campus. Maybe scope out where your other classes are located so you don’t feel so lost. Take this time to really get to know the campus as well as the dynamics of the campus as well. Find out the most congested areas, find out where there are a ton of obnoxious flier people, and find out cool spots to go to have lunch.

For those of you doing research, the first day is a great time to get to know the other students in your research group as well as taking a peak at the labs you will be working in. Since the majority of the next 3 to 8 years will be in a lab, you might as well get familiar with it. The first day is a great time to just pop in and check out where your lab is located and the stuff inside of it. This will help later when you start to do experiments.

Chemical Engineers in Laboratory

No matter what you do, the first day of grad school is going to be a blur. The amount of information given is quite overwhelming. Fortunately, you can prepare for this. Get a planner and just write everything that you need to know down. Check out my blog about all the must haves when starting or going back to grad school. Congrats once again on starting this journey! It’s a tough one but so worth it.

Is Grad School Hard?

I typed this exact question into google maybe a hundred times prior to accepting my offer from UF. I had come from an engineering background and knew how hard that was, but I always assumed that grad school was way out of my league with difficulty. Boy was I right and wrong at the same time.

If you are just starting or thinking about grad school then you are one to value a higher learning experience. You either want to continue learning more complex problems or maybe you just want to further your career and force your friends to call you Dr. (That’s my plan). Either way, you are starting an amazing journey, that few have done before.

Grad school can best be described by the cartoon below:

Rachel - ppt download

At the beginning, you think you have it all planned out. You start your classes, you get good grades, you move on. Then things get a bit more tricky and more complicated. No matter how much you plan something out, it will always be different. That is especially true in grad school. You may think the project you are working on is easy or the classes seem fair but then things go all over the place and it becomes a bit more difficult. But have no fear, this is how life works and you are resilient.

Grad school is hard but there are far more difficult things in life. You may moan and groan about the difficulties of grad school (being poor, eating ramen for the 10th time this week, lots of work, etc.) but know that those don’t compare to hardships that people actually face in life. I know way too many people that come from pretty tough backgrounds and don’t complain one bit. They have had it so rough but manage to stay kind and keep going. I also know people that complain how hard life is after they just got their second car, paid for by daddy.

In the end, you will face difficulties that will push you to a breaking point. You may not as well. I am finding grad school to be challenging but not enough to where I am miserable. I hope you find it that way as well. The most difficult thing that I face is mental health. This is why I write these blogs, to help you cope with the issues that will arise.

In conclusion, grad school is however hard you make it. It can be quite easy or it could be hell. If you have a good mindset going in, and keep that mindset, you will find much more joy in grad school than you could imagine. On the other hand, if you go in thinking the worst and being negative about things, you will find it quite difficult. Believe in yourself and you will do just fine. If you are having a rough time, check out my other blogs on ways to make it better.

Also, if you need a laugh, check out lovephdmemes on Instagram. Here’s a link.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Here Come the Freshman! How to Handle New Students

Whether you want to admit it or not, you are old. Being in grad school, you are probably 23 at the youngest, which is kind of old compared to the 18-19 year old’s that have just taken over your campus. I am 28, so the incoming class are 10 years younger than me. Holy Cow!!!! Since, apparently Covid is over, there are much more students on campus compared to the past three semesters. With the amount of new people, there are bound to be some things that will annoy you. I want to list off a few of those and give ways to put your mind at ease, as well as, enjoy the new transition. If you haven’t read it yet, check out my blog about coming back to campus and how to transition back to an on campus setting after zoom.

With an influx of freshman, you will notice quite a few things.

1) They look tiny. I saw a kid during summer that could have passed as a 12 year old. I honestly think all of these kids are looking younger and younger, but maybe that’s just how it is? This always happens though. The older I get, the more I notice how young the new students are. Trust me when I say, you probably looked just as young. Heck, they look at me and probably think I am old a dirt.

2) They will get in your way, especially during the first few days when they are trying to get used to their new life on campus. This is completely normal. Some of the new students are completely lost. Assuming you did not just start grad school, you probably know the campus inside and out. After a while, things tend to lose their “shimmer” such as the campus. This may be the first time that these students see the campus so they are trying to take it all in. Be nice to them and remember what it was like to be in their shoes.

3)You will start feeling quite nostalgic, thinking about when you first started school and how that was like 5, or for me, 10 years ago. I remember my first day in college. I had no clue where anything was and I didn’t have any friends to help me out. This is probably true for the freshman. You will look at them and be brought back to the first week of school. You may even have feelings that you haven’t felt in a long time. This is natural and wonderful all at the same time. If the feelings are good, try and hold onto them. If the feelings are bad, it’s time to let them go.

4) They will hover over every bench and squat rack in the gym. If you are an avid gym goer, you know this is the worst time of the year. The gyms are packed, the benches have a crowd of 5 freshman at them, and every squat rack has a line. This is frustration at its peak. Time to head over to my blog about exercising at the stadium or exercising outside.

5) They may come up to you and ask you a ton of questions. Remember that you probably did the same thing. They don’t really know too much about the campus and may have questions. This is something I always look forward to because I like helping people out. It makes you feel good. So, be nice and help them out and answer their questions!

6) The one’s in your department will look at you as a god or goddess. All the freshman that come in will likely peak in my office. I am a grad student and am superior lol. As a grad student, you went through all the stuff that they are about to go through and survived! Engineering was so difficult so the freshman really look at you like some form of genius. Bask in it but do not let it inflate your ego.

These are a few things that I notice each year that I spend in grad school. For me, this will be the last incoming freshman class that I will get to experience. If all goes to plan, and I pass my quals (currently taking), then I will be done by next May. For those of you just starting, or maybe a year into the program, be kind to these freshman. One day, you may be the one teaching them or being an adviser to them. You know how hard college is. You know the struggles that you will face in undergrad. These kids may not know those struggles yet, so don’t make it harder for them.

6 Hobbies to Take Up in Grad School

Grad school is an amazing experience that many people will go through. Yes, it is tough and you may experience some dark times, but that is part of the journey. I mean, look back at every adventure movie that you’ve seen. There is always a moment where the protagonist is having a very rough time. Think of grad school as an adventure. I often pretend like I am in Lord of the Rings and each hardship is just one step closer to getting to Mordor.

With these journeys, you will need helpful tools to keep you motivated. Unless you really love your research and school, you probably won’t be spending your whole existence doing grad assignments and work. You need other things to preoccupy your time as well as spark joy in your life. Hobbies are the answer. Everyone has a hobby, whether they know it or not. Some people really enjoy cooking ( I am included in this). Other’s may love to do sports related activities. Hobbies can be anything that brings enjoyment.

It is essential to pick up a hobby while in grad school, heck, even just in life, period. It brings a ton of joy and allows you time to relax, which is extremely important. I want to share a list of hobbies that you can take up in grad school which I believe are extremely beneficial to keeping you sane, as well as spark happiness in your life since these are pretty dark times for all of us.

  1. Cooking
Woman In The Kitchen Preparing To Cook

Everyone by now understands the importance of eating healthy foods. It is extremely important for your overall well being to eat stuff other than pizza. Cooking allows you to make those things as well as learn a very valuable skill. I find cooking to be quite therapeutic as well, as long as you aren’t in a restaurant or on Iron Chef lol. It gives you about an hour out of your busy day to just focus on one task. Also, cooking is a great way to impress your friends as well as a date!

2. Wood Carving

Gray and White Penguin Decoration

This hobby is one of my favorites that I took up when Covid first started. I make small figurines just from a piece of wood and a knife. It is a fairly cheap hobby to take up and you will spend hours and hours creating some really cook figurines. All you need to get started are a few tools which I will link to here. If you are interested in this hobby, I highly suggest watching Doug Linker. Here is a link to his YouTube channel. He makes some of the coolest figures ever and shows you how to, step-by-step.

3.Weight Lifting

Man Carrying Barbel

If you know me, you know I absolutely love orking out. I do stadium workouts, gym workouts, and I walk everywhere. Check out those links to my other blog posts. Exercise is just like cooking and eating healthy, it allows you to take time out of your day and focus on your mid and body. You need to get moving to stay healthy, mentally and physically. This hobby is pretty easy to take up because you only need to workout an hour a day. I suggest going in the morning because it will wake you up, you’ll feel amazing afterwards, and you can start the day on a good note. Also, going to the gym after a day in the office is very difficult and it’s often crowded.

4.Learning a new language

Dictionary Text in Bokeh Effect

Being bilingual has so many benefits. Learning more than two languages will get you a career literally anywhere. Learning a new language is fairly tricky and needs a ton of work, but the benefits are amazing. This is a hobby that I just recently took up. I want to learn French because my adviser knows French and it would be cool to talk to him in his native language. I highly suggest taking up some new language such as French or Spanish. You neve know when it will come in handy.

5. Take up a sport

Man Dunking the Ball

Take up a sport while you are in school. This can include club sports, intramural sports, heck, I joined an adult kickball league. Talk about making a ton of friends, and fast. It’s great exercise and you can talk to people outside of your department. If you are not super athletic then I suggest joining intramural sports. They are a bit less competitive and you don’t have to worry about being the best. I did flag football with a ton of grad students right before Covid ruined everything. We never won a game but had the best time of our lives. I made a ton of friends and lasting memories. Currently, I play co-ed kickball. We start our next season in a month so I am excited to play again.

6. Blog

Person Holding Turned-on Silver Laptop Computer

Blogging has become my newest, and most favorite, hobby. I am starting to see how my blogging is helping others, not just in the US, but all around the world. Blogging is extremely therapeutic, see my post about it here, and has been so helpful in my journey to cope with anxiety. Blogging is a great way to just lay out all of your thoughts from the day and let them go. If you are interested in blogging as a hobby or as a way to earn a side income, I highly suggest watching Income School on YouTube, here’s a link to their channel. You may be very specialized in a field, and by blogging, you can help thousands of people with their problems. I help with mental health in grad school. Other people help by putting up reviews for campers. Both are valid blog niches lol.

These are 6 hobbies that I truly believe are helpful in grad school. What types of hobbies do you do? I am always looking for things to try and I know people reading these blogs are also looking for hobby ideas. Post them in the comments!

As always, thank you so much for reading my blog posts. You guys are just amazing and supportive. Until the next one, peace!!!

New Beginnings: Moving in Grad School

Cheerful modern male and female in comfortable casual clothes unpacking car trunk in green garden of new house while moving in together

I just wanted to post a blog about the new stuff that is happening in my life and how I am reacting to these changes. Many grad students will be going through some really crazy changes right now such as actually going back to school, moving to new places, or even deciding what pizza to get because the pizza place you love closed down :(. My new beginning comes in the shape of moving to an apartment for the first time in 6 years.

I moved into a new apartment today and met my roommate for the first time. He seems like a very nice guy. He just moved here and is going to school to be a lawyer. That’s awesome for me because I don’t have roommates that party all the time anymore. I moved in pretty early this morning and had my friend, my dad and my girlfriend all help me move in. I had enough stuff to where moving with more than myself was much needed. It was great to be able to start a new chapter, which will be the last chapter of my grad school experience.

Moving, as well as starting my qualifying exam has me quite irritated as well as feeling many different things. I feel lonely, sad, happy, anxious, excited, nervous, etc. I wanted to write this blog to let you know, if you are experiencing these feelings today, or any day, you are not alone. Most importantly, you are human and these things are natural. Sometimes they aren’t completely natural and you may need help, but if you are feeling this way after moving or starting a new chapter in your life, then it’s totally fine.

This chapter of my life has been stressful as well as the best thing I have ever done. For those just starting a grad program for the first time, know that you will have quite interesting and possibly new feelings. This is normal, and you are not alone. Anyway, I will try and update my blog ever few days. My qualifying exam is two weeks long and I’m on day 1 tomorrow. Light a candle, say a prayer, sacrifice a goat, do something for me lol. I want to leave you with a quote from Robin Williams “You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

How to Prepare for Your Qualifying Exam

The two words that cause so much anxiety for grad students, “qualifying exam”. This is also known as the entrance exam to candidacy. Basically, it’s an exam, created by a committee of professors, that tests your knowledge and skills. After passing, you become a PhD Candidate! Exciting but also the most stressful few weeks/months of your grad school experience.

See, Master’s students have it easy(I kid, getting a masters is difficult). They just present their thesis at the end of 2 years and that’s it. For PhD students, you have to take the candidacy entrance exam and more than likely present your proposal to your committee too. So if you read my post Oral Qualifying Presentation :Grad School Stress (here), I go in depth in how to prepare for the presentation. That is probably the most stressful portion due to actually getting in front of your committee and presenting your research.

For my qualifying exam, each committee member will submit questions to my adviser along with time requirements. My adviser will then give the questions to me, one exam at a time, not all together. I will then need to finish the exam in the allotted time frame and submit directly to my committee members.

Some exams are closed book. These exams cover classwork that you have done and you have to pass each section in order to go on. I believe other engineering departments do it this way, which I find terrible because you can immediately be kicked out just from not passing one section of an exam. That’s my opinion though.

Now, I want to go over how to prepare for the written part. Most of this can be used for both formats of the exams, testing you knowledge on classwork or my type of exam.

Two Pencils Near Book

Before the Exam

  1. Make sure you know everything that is in your proposal.

This one is super important because the committee uses this to understand what your area of expertise is. Read papers on the different aspects of your research. Learn the methodology of the experiments and be prepared to defend why you did your experiments a certain way.

2. 2 hours before the exam, stop everything and relax

You may want to read more and cram as much into your brain as possible, but you need to rest. By working more, you are just tiring yourself out and you need the mental strength to continue this marathon of an exam. Spend this time doing something you like or watching a movie. If you want to, I say meditate sometime during his time frame. You will be way less stressed and more focused to tackle whatever is thrown at you.If the exam is open book, expect that the exam is going to be harder, not easier.

3. Remind yourself that you belong here and that you are ready.

Self talk is so important. Often, you will have doubts and imposter syndrome will slide in. You will experience imposter syndrome but don’t let it overtake you. You belong in this program and you will be a doctorate one day.

4. Remind yourself that you will pass

Your adviser would not let you do the exam unless the felt that you are ready and that you will pass. Remind yourself of this. It comes back to that stupid imposter syndrome and our anxiety. You will have the “what if thoughts” such as “what if I fail?” or “what if the exam is so hard, I die?”. Replace the negative what ifs with positive ones like, “what if I pass?” or “what if I do so well that they just hand me a Nobel Prize?” Train your brain to think of positive situations, especially when you are in a stressful situation.

Close-up of Hands

During the qualifying exam

  1. Do some breathing exercises after you finish a question or one of the exams

After you finish a question, or one of your committees exam, take a 3 minute break to just focus on the breathe. This will relax you and reduce any anxiety that comes from preparing for the next exam.

2.Try not to drink too much coffee

I think we all know why you shouldn’t drink too much caffeine during an exam. There are actually quite a few reasons not to go overboard. I am not saying to cut caffeine out. That’s a bad idea, especially if you are a coffee drinker. Just don’t overdo it. Drink enough to wake you up and get your brain functions running. It will definitely help. Just make sure it’s in moderation.

3.Tell yourself that you will be fine

You will be fine regardless of the outcome. My friend didn’t pass his qualifying exam and now he’s building satellites and launching them in space. Look at both sides, if you pass, you go on to get your doctorate. If you fail, you get your masters and you can start making a difference in the world sooner. You will be fine in the end, I promise you that. Plus, you are ready for this exam so you’ll pass regardless.

4.Write until your hand falls off.

If you think you answered the question, keep writing. Over answer ever single question that you have. Write until your hand hurts and you form blisters. This will guarantee that you pass! that came directly from my adviser who has been doing this for longer than I’ve been on earth. When in doubt, just keep throwing out information. Committee members want to see that you are willing to go above and beyond and this is one way to show that just that.

People Running Near Seashore at Daytime Photo

After the Qualifying Exam

  1. Relax

Go do something that does not involve reading or writing. Go to the movies or go swim in the ocean. Do anything else and get your mind off of thinking about the exam. You may not feel good about the exam afterwards, and that’s normal. Find things that give you joy. You deserve it.

2. Prepare to hear back from your committee

You may hear back from them right away, or maybe not for a bit. They will tell you if you passed or failed and hopefully it’s a pass. Once you hear back from them and you passed, congrats you can finally put “PhD Candidate” after you name in your emails! If you failed, you have a second shot at passing. If this is the case, start back at the first set of advice, and we will see you relaxing on a beach somewhere in no time.

Good luck to all of those preparing for your qualifying exams. You will do amazing! I have mine next week so I will let you guys know how it goes when I am done.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

5 Things I Wish I Was Told Before Starting Grad School

You have probably seen quite a few of these articles where they tell you the # number of things that they wish they knew before (blank). This is going to be one of those posts but with information that those blogs don’t really cover. There are so many things I wish I new before coming to grad school that has affected my mental state. I will go into those in a second because they are real and you will face these challenges. If you are thinking of grad school, make sure you are prepared for what will come up. I find that the work is easy but the mental strain is the hardest part. 1 in 3 PhD students will be at risk of developing a mental health issue. That’s nuts!

Helping to prepare students for grad school has been a goal of mine for quite some time. That is why I started this blog. I was not seeing the right information online to help me get through these years. I have had some pretty dark times while on this journey and I don’t want others to go through that. Here are 5 things I wish I was told before I started grad school.

  1. You will experience imposter syndrome

More than likely, you will experience this in grad school. You will feel like a fraud. You may even question how you got into a school as good as the one you are in. Looking around your class, you are bound to compare yourself to others and that leads to a feeling of inadequacy. I am here to tell you that you are exactly where you need to be. Grad school classes can be quite difficult and you may struggle. That is why you are here though! You are a student, not the professor, so you are learning the material and training yourself to one day be an expert. You are also surrounded by very intelligent individuals which is intimidating. Have you ever though that they may be intimidated by you and your accomplishments? You are not a fraud and you most definitely belong in your program. Keep going!

2. No one will really care about your work

This one makes me sad because I want everyone to be as interested in lead pipes as I am. You will find that no one really cares what you are doing other than the people working on the project with you. This is totally and completely normal. You are hear to contribute a tiny sliver of knowledge to the world then move on to bigger and better things. Just keep at what you are doing now and eventually you will work on stuff that is extremely meaningful and exciting, not just to you, but to others as well.

3. You will say goodbye to a ton of friends

Persons Left Hand on Airplane Window

This time in your life is a hard one because people are just starting to branch out and start their own lives. You may have to say goodbye to them. I like to say “see you later” because goodbye implies some form of end, in my mind at least. I have said “see you later” more times than I would like. My friend group has been on the decline since undergrad, but that doesn’t mean that I am super sad about it. The people that mean the most to you will be there and you will have lasting relationships with them no matter where you end up. The friendships that you get in grad school may end though, and frequently. I have had many friends come and go while I slave away at the computer, writing all day. It happens and that’s life, but be prepared to say goodbye.

4. You do not have the metabolism like you did in undergrad.

Assorted Sliced Fruits in White Ceramic Bowl

I am a pretty active guy. On average, I think I burn about 2800 to 3400 calories a day. This is including basal metabolic rate (BMR) of course. But for some reason, I gain weight so easily now. In undergrad, I could eat 2 pizzas and then lose weight lol. It was crazy. You are older now and you may find it harder to lose weight or maintain weight. This is normal. Prioritize exercise and eating right and you will go good to go. That can often be difficult because of how busy you are, though. To combat overeating or to track calories, I have used a Fitbit in the past. Lately, I use my Samsung Galaxy Active Watch 2. Both have been amazing.

5. You are not in undergrad anymore

Person in White Shirt With Brown Wooden Frame

You will have way more responsibilities in grad school. Going to bars every night then waking up at 12 to go to class is harder now. You have things to do such as early morning experiments, grant writing, being a TA, writing blogs, taking care of lab rats, etc. I am not saying you can’t party, what I am saying is partying will change. I was the one to go out on a night right before an exam. Don’t do this! That was my form of partying, though. Now, that has changed. Having friends over, talking about ideas, having a few drinks, then being in bed by 10 is the best partying that I can think of lol. It takes a bit to transition, especially if you are fresh out of undergrad, but you will change. That’s the beauty of life. You will change whether you like it or not.

These are 5 (very harsh) things that I wish I knew prior to grad school. It’s hard for everyone and you are not alone if you struggled with these like I did. That is why I write these posts. Let me know if you have anything else to add to this list in the comments. The grad school experience is difficult and different for everyone so it’s interesting to see what else people deal/dealt with. Thanks for reading!

Things That make YOU Happy

There are many things in my life that make me happy and I want to share them with you. For this blog post, I want some audience participation. One of the best ways to brighten your day is to think of the things in your life that bring the most joy. This can literally be anything in your life from food, to clothes, to something like the smell of rain. I want you to focus on the feelings that you get when you think about them. When you are done enjoying the moment of happiness, comment all of the things that you thought about. Let us create a happiness comment train with all of the amazing and happy things in our lives.

Let me share with you a list of things that make me happy.

  • Being able to doing meaningful research
  • Really good music
  • Long walks in the Florida heat (I know, I’m weird)
  • Going to the gym
  • Fishing
  • Writing blogs that people actually read!!!!
  • Reading other people’s blogs
  • My girlfriend
  • My family
  • Wood carving (Hmmm maybe I’ll make a post about this next)
No photo description available.
  • Getting data back from experiments that actually makes sense
  • Drinking a really good cup of coffee
  • The smell of fall
  • Going on trips to Canada in the Winter
  • Taking my boat down to the Keys
No photo description available.
  • My friends
  • A cold glass of tea with lemon in it
  • Pizza
  • Ice cream
  • Chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick from Blonde Giraffe
  • Monkey Forest in Bali
May be an image of Ben Swaringen and smiling

This was just a short list of the things in my life that make me happy. What things in your life make you the happiest? I hope we can continue the list of things that bring us joy in our lives. Post them in the comments! I am sure that everyone reading wants to know some more awesome things to be happy about.

How to Survive the First Year of Grad School

I am currently in my 4th? 5th year of graduate school, I think. Honestly I have been in school for so long that I really don’t know what year I am in, but that’s fine. Today, we are going to talk about your very first year of grad school. First off, congratulations on getting into a program and taking this wonderful and exciting journey. You will have a ton of questions and I implore you to check out the rest of my blog posts to answer hopefully some of those questions.

The first year is the most exciting and probably the scariest. If you are just doing a masters, you will just focus on school and possibly some research, if that’s the path you want. If you are going into a doctorate program, well then it’s just a year of confusion lol. I kid on the last one, a little, but either way, the first year of any program can be a bit of a tizzy.

Here is a list of things that I believe will help you get through that first year. This list will incorporate stuff for a masters as well as a doctorate. I use many of the suggestions below even today so I know these tend to work.

  1. Meet with your adviser often. I would say at least once a week. If not that then at least twice a month. This is important because they will help you keep on track as well as help you when you hit a snag. This is number 1 because it is the most important thing to do.
  2. Keep to a schedule. You will have classes at different times of day and homework galore. Make sure to try and keep a schedule. Try not to stay up until 3 am every night doing work unless you work best at that hour. Establishing a work time and a play time is essential for your mental wellbeing. I aim for the 8-5 schedule then just do other things afterwards. This allows me to have a life and I am more productive, since I have to be to get work done before 5.
  3. Write every day. It doesn’t matter what it is on, just write. This will help at the end of semesters when you have multiple 10-15 page papers to write as well as when you write your proposal or thesis. I blog and have noticed that it makes me motivated to continue to write, which was great because my dissertation is coming together nicely.
  4. Reach out to fellow classmates and study with them. You will make friends this way, and if you are lucky, you may make friends with the genius of the class that has all of the answers :p. Studying with someone always helps because that other person may be able to help you learn complex material or you may help them learn that material. It’s a win-win.
  5. Exercise each day and don’t get into the eating habits you had as an undergrad. No need to dive further into this one lol.
  6. Go to as many free events as you possibly can. Have fun while you are in grad school. You have worked really hard to get here and you might as well make the most of it. There are a million events happening all of the time on campuses. Go to these events. Here you will meet other people and you may make some really good friends this way.
  7. Stick to a budget. This may be the first time in your life where you see a paycheck that is more than $300. This does not mean you need to go crazy and start buying a ton of things. Figure out what you need, spending wise, and how much you want to save. Your future, not broke, self will thank you.
  8. Remember that you are never alone. You may feel lonely, isolates, removed from the world, but know that you are not alone. This is why the best thing to do is connect with other grad students. They know what you are going through and you might just be their saving grace. This is a very important thing to get you through your first year.

Good luck to all of those that are just starting grad school. I find this experience so much better than undergrad. You will learn so much about yourself and about the world in just a few years. Plus, you will be an expert in something, which is super exiting. If you have any questions about grad school, please reach out to me at benswaringen@yahoo.com. If you are feeling anxious about going back due to covid, check out my last blog here. See you next time!!!

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Zoom to Classroom: The Great Transition

Every single news outlet has something saying how a different variant of Covid is spreading all over the world. You have some news channels saying that it’s “just like the flu” while others say that you are guaranteed to get really sick and die. Seriously? How am I supposed to function with everyone telling me that I am going to get really sick and cause others to get sick? Unfortunately, this is where we are at currently. On top of knowing that different variants are present, we are being forced to go back to school and have in person classes. Talk about stressful times.

Most universities in the US are going back to in person classes which really has many people concerned. I have been back on campus for a year now but I am still extremely concerned when 50,000 students come back to occupy the halls once again. That is quite a good chunk of people coming from all over Florida as well as the rest of the US. On top of that, Florida is the hotspot for Covid cases. Great! Just writing this blog is making me mad as well as a tad bit more concerned.

If you are feel the same way, well, you are definitely not alone. Most of the grad students that I talk to on a daily basis are just as concerned as I am. We are more concerned to get the virus from an individual that just doesn’t care and goes to bars, concerts, and anywhere else where a ton of people are. I get it, those things are extremely fun and I miss going to them, but I also want to be able to see my parents and family without exposing them to something that could potentially kill them.

Like me, you are probably scouring the internet, looking for some way to prepare for the transition back to in person classes. I hope you are finding some really good information that you can share in the comments. These are a few of the best ways to prepare that I have found. I hope that they help you and bring some peace of mind.

  1. Get Vaccinated

The vaccines on the market have all been thoroughly tested and are safe. Please, if you haven’t been vaccinated, go and get one. They are free. This is the best way to prevent going to the hospital. One thing that I don’t understand is why people would rather go to the hospital than get a vaccine. Have you ever been to the hospital in the US? It’s expensive! So, if you want to spend the rest of your life paying off bills, then go right ahead. However, if you are like me, you’ll see that getting a free vaccine is way better than paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay off a visit that was preventable. Also, the vaccine’s side effect is that it prevents you from going to the hospital. That’s it. There are some cases where there might be a case of some other serious side effect, but those are so rare. Hopefully you have taken statistics and can see that the chances of getting a serious illness from a vaccine is slim to none. Trust the science.

2. Talk to someone about your fears

Woman Wearing Teal Dress Sitting on Chair Talking to Man

Talking with others about your concerns is a great way to easy your worried mind. This is a common fear among grad students and you may find peace in knowing you are not alone. Virtually every grad student that I have talked to has looked for many ways to prepare for this transition. They have talked to their advisers and brought up their concerns. By talking to other people, you may find that there are options that you can take to reduce exposure to Covid. Also, with enough people, you can bring up your concern to the school and they may change in person classes to online for grad students. You never know until you try.

3. Move to the front of the classroom

Brown and Black Wooden Chairs Inside Room

This is one that many people don’t really think of. Where is the least populated area in a classroom? The front row. No one wants to sit right in front of the professor because they think they will get called on constantly, and that’s super anxiety inducing. By sitting in the front row, you will be away from everyone else and have less of a chance of getting Covid. This is what I will be doing. Also, it forces you to pay attention, so you will definitely do better in these classes. There was actually a study done on seat location and performance. Read it here.

4. Learn to meditate to ease your mind

Woman Meditating in the Outdoors

I practically right every article with meditation in mind. This is by far the best reducer of stress and anxiety that I have found. Covid brings a ton of uncertainty which brings anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle, so you need a way to cope. Meditation will allow you to relax and almost troubleshoot your mind. Think of anxiety as a virus in your computer. You need a way to eliminate that virus without paying $100 for virus removal software lol. Mediation is what allows you to go into safe mode, find the virus (anxiety) and eliminate it. I hope this makes sense. I am an environmental engineer, not a computer science major lol. If you haven’t read my blogs about mediation, you can find them here. Please check them out.

5. Wear your mask

White Ceramic Sculpture With Black Face Mask

Other than getting the vaccine, wear your mask!!! These two simple things will prevent you from getting Covid, or seriously reduce the chance of getting it. Listen to the medical experts and stop listening to some person on YouTube that “Did their Research.” No, they did not. There research was reading blog posts from anti-vaxxers that have no clue how to do research. You are an intellegent person and know what good science is. They don’t. If you happen to meet one of these people, ask them if you can see their lab where they test their hypotheses. They probably won’t even know what the word “hypothesis” is. Don’t listen to them. Wear your mask.

6. Exercise outside

Woman Running On Pathway

Gyms will be packed in the fall. New freshman love to congregate in large groups around the machines which will mean that a ton of people may be exposed to Covid. If you are concerned, exercise outside. I have great exercises that you can do that are just as good as going to the gym. Check them out here. Also, if you have an office, spend some time each day and maybe do some yoga. Get your office mates to join you as well. If you don’t have an office, exercise outside is a great alternative. This will keep you far away from crowds as well as increase your mental health. Your mental health is as important, if not more important, than your physical health. Studies have shown that spending time outside increases mental health. Strengthening physical and mental health are essential to getting through this pandemic.

7. Be Smart

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If you feel unsafe in any setting, get out of there. Some things may make you feel extremely uncomfortable such as lab meetings, grad school events, etc. If you feel very uncomfortable, please don’t feel like you have to go. For lab meetings, reach out to your adviser. They will understand and probably will make the meeting online anyway. I don’t know a single professor that isn’t concerned about Covid. If you are going back to the lab, be smart by cleaning everything. Wear a mask if you are with someone else. We have been doing this for over a year now so we are all aware of the procedures.

This will be quite the experience for all of us, especially those in states where Covid cases are through the roof **cough, cough, Florida**. We need to work together and do our part to reduce any chance of getting this persistent virus. If you are concerned with going back, you are not alone. ‘ve been back for a year now and I am deeply concerned. But, I do everything that I possibly can to reduce the chance I get sick. I wear a mask, I clean, and most importantly, I practice mindfulness to mentally prepare. Get vaccinated first. Trust me, there’s plenty of evidence that shows the vaccines are safe. Don’t listen to anecdotal evidence because that’s not science based. Trust the experts. Practice mindfulness and mediation to strengthen your mental health and I guarantee things will be fine.

If you happen to get sick, stay away from people. Let your adviser know so they can take the appropriate measures that your college has laid out. Get plenty of rest, and if you feel good enough as well as lost your sense of taste, try a new food that you find disgusting lol. If I lose my taste, I might try mayonnaise…well maybe not. If you have made it this far on my blog, please share with us how you are preparing for this upcoming semester. I would love to know and I know a thousand grad students would also love to know as well. Stay safe friends! And remember, This too shall pass.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

How Writing a Blog Can Help With Mental Health

Today is an important day for me. Today, I will have written 50 blog posts. That may not seem like many, but trust me, it’s a ton for someone like me. I started writing blogs as a form of outlet, almost like journaling. My anxiety was creeping back, even though I had a significant arsenal of coping mechanisms. Journaling was not one of those methods that I had tried before. Also, I wanted to give back to the world somehow. There is already too much suffering in the world and I wanted to add a contribution to help, even just one person, suffer a little less.

I received an email today about my blogs. I was so overwhelmed because it was an appreciation email. They loved my writing and wanted to let me know that they loved it so much, they couldn’t stop reading. This is what it is all about, my friends. Blogging is more than just writing about my problems, it’s finding solutions and helping those with the same problems, solve their problems. So many people in this world just care about themselves. I completely understand that mentality because life had me feeling this way for a very long time. I found this was helpful to get what you wanted in life, but you aren’t really contributing in the best way you can.

Two months ago, I decided to take a journey to help people, rather than just help myself. I wanted to help graduate students that were experiencing mental health and giving helpful ways to cope. I also wanted to help with their fitness, but soon found that focusing on mental health needed more of my attention. Don’t worry though, more fitness blogs will surely follow. I found that the more I wrote, the more feedback I received, the less anxious I became. Journaling is a good coping mechanism, but mixing it with giving helpful advice, well that’s a recipe for success.

I have found a little place in this world of blogging, my niche. And in so, I have found that my anxiety, my stress, my depression, have been reduced to levels I haven’t seen in years. I wish I could go back in time and just tell myself that it will be a long journey, but one where you find yourself, at least I have found 28 year old Ben. I may be a lot different in 5 years ;P.

If you are suffering from anxiety, depression, any form of mental health, I want to add one more coping mechanism to your toolbox, and of course that is blogging. It has helped me to express myself and openly to other people. There are so many people in the writing community that have been so supportive. Honestly, the blogging is a way to cope with my anxiety, but, you, the reader, have helped to significantly reduce my anxiety. Thank you so much, blogging community! I owe you more than you know.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Things Not to Tell an Anxious Person

Anxiety comes and goes in waves. Some days you feel amazing, you’re extremely motivated, and nothing seems to bother you at all. Other days, just answering an email causes your hands to get all sweaty, your heart races, and every “what if” situation pops in your head. If this has happened to you, you are not alone. It seems like I know more people that suffer from anxiety than people that don’t. If you manage to get through Grad school without having anxiety then you deserve some form of medal because that is impressive.

I want to share a few things that you should never tell an anxious person. I will offer some alternatives that you can say instead that are more appropriate.

  1. Calm Down“. Instead say something along the lines of “I am here for you”. Let them know they are not alone and that they can talk to you about anything, especially their feelings.
  2. Why are you anxious?” I get this one all of the time. When I am truly anxious, I don’t know why. That’s why it can be scary for people because they don’t necessarily always know why they are anxious. Instead just be there to listen to them. Sometimes when the anxious person starts talking, they figure out why they are so anxious on their own. Just sit with them, listen to what they have to say, and most of all do not try and tell them why they are anxious. You don’t know what they are going through.
  3. I know how you feel.” Don’t say this because you probably don’t know how they feel. This almost creates a competition. Instead, like in the tips above, let them know that you are here for them.
  4. Oooo this is a good one, “Stop worrying!” Ok, let me just stop something that I have been trying to stop my whole life. Man, it’s just so easy. I get this a lot when I worry about big presentations. In fact, I recently did my qualifying presentation for my PhD and was anxious beyond belief. I heard “Stop worrying” from too many people. They usually follow up by “You are prepared.” I understand that I am prepared but that doesn’t reduce the anxiety at all. Instead, help the individual to calm down. Ask them to go on a walk with them, just a short one, and talk to them normally. This works well with my friends. When they are anxious, I suggest we walk to the store and get kombucha. By the time that we get there, they completely forgot about what they were worrying about in the first place.
  5. I think you should see a therapist.” Don’t say that. Yes, therapy is amazing and everyone would benefit from it, but telling someone who is anxious to go see a therapist may cause even more anxiety. Therapy is a major stressor at first for individuals that haven’t done it before. I was one of those individuals. I was so anxious the first time meeting with my therapist that I threw up. Instead of telling them they need to see a therapist, wait until the individual is calmed down and then bring up different ways of coping with anxiety. Therapy will more than likely be brought up by the anxious individual and you don’t have to bring it up. Most people with anxiety have thought about therapy already and some are just too anxious to try it. Be supportive and say that no matter what, you’ll be there for them.
  6. Get over it.” This makes my blood boil when I hear it. I don’t choose to have anxiety. By saying this, you are pretty much telling them that you aren’t there to support them in their time of need. Instead of saying “get over it”, say “This is tough, be WE will get through this TOGETHER.” I wish more people were supportive and helped me get to where I am today. If I had as many people say something like “We will get through it together” then I would have been way better with my anxiety sooner.

Be kind to these individuals. You may have been in their place at one time, looking for help and possibly not finding it. We all have our struggles and we need to look out for each other. Covid had not helped at all, I wrote about it here. Anxiety is on the rise and we need to do everything we can to stop it. Show some love for us that are fighting silent battles, you may just need our help to fight yours.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

How to Deal With Anxiety Caused by Covid: My Grad School Experience

We are in the worst pandemic that probably any of us will see in our lifetime. It has been a year and a half since states started to shut down and that’s so crazy to realize. Honestly, the beginning of quarantine was amazing. People started actually spending time with their families. We had Tiger King to binge watch. Bread making was at an all-time high, and toilet paper production was at an all-time low. Those were simpler times. After a while, though, isolation started to take its toll on our mental health. I remember talking to my therapist and she asked how Covid affected my mental state. I hadn’t even considered that was a major issue until she asked. She then told me something that really surprised me. Most of her clients were coming to her because of anxiety due to isolation and just constant worry.

We are all struggling with something in our lives. Now having a deadly virus, mutating, and causing hospitals to hit max capacity just adds even more anxiety to our lives. The media does not help at all. In fact, one of the best things to do is turn off your TV during this time. Just a helpful tip. But seriously, these past months have been some of the darkest for many people. People that had never experienced severe anxiety and depression are not having panic attacks because of quarantine. Grad students, especially me, are being faced with extreme uncertainty about when they will graduate or even if they will. Children are seeing their parents stress which is leading to the child to experience emotions that they shouldn’t at their age. These times are hard.

I want to urge you to get help if you are feeling any form of anxiety or depression due to Covid. Getting help and understanding the main causes as well as gaining the skills to cope will help you significantly. We will see many more individuals experience mental health issues because of Covid. That’s a fact that we are starting to see. The CDC even has a page on learning how to cope with stress from Covid. Some of their recommendations, which I will share here, are as follows: Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, Meditate, Eat Healthy Food, Get Sleep, Get Vaccinated, Connect With Other (Therapy), and Help Others Cope.

I want to expound upon that last point “Help Others Cope.” We are all facing these hardships. You are not suffering alone and there are thousand, even millions, possibly billions of people that are not doing well mentally. If you have a method of coping, share that with the world. Share those methods with your neighbor who just lost their wife or husband to Covid. Share your coping methods with the child whose friends are all sick because they were forced back to school. Share these coping methods with one of your classmates who is so scared to go back to school but has to in order to graduate. Helping others is what we need to be doing. We need to share love and compassion, rather than hate.

There are so many different ways that we can get help. We need help during this time. Don’t be stubborn and think you can handle it alone. That’s when mental problems occur the most. I hope that you, the reader and my friend, will look out for yourself and others during these pretty dark times. Mental issues will be on the rise in the next few years but we can reduce the chance that will occur to us or a loved one by finding methods of coping. I started this blog to help bring peace to grad student’s anxious minds but I also want to help others who may just need a way to deal with mental pain. Please, if you are having a time, seek therapy. I can’t express this enough. Getting the help you need is such a priority. Please take care of yourselves. I love you all.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Habits of a Successful Graduate Student

Surviving grad school can be a tricky thing to do. You will be faced with a significant amount of road blocks in the 2-8 years that you are in school for. Some of these roadblocks are easy to traverse around while others may be a bit more difficult. But, with a few good habits, you can train yourself to take these head on and be quite successful, or at least survive. Here are 8 Habits that I have found quite useful to have when in grad school.

  1. Stay consistent. Stick to a schedule and try and keep that such as getting to the lab every day at 9 am and staying until 5 pm. By having a routine and sticking with it, you will find getting things done way easier. I stick to being in the lab from 8 am to 6 pm. This gives me enough time to get stuff done and doesn’t have me doing extra work in the evening.
  2. Make time for joy. Remember that life is so much more than your work. Why people say differently is so mind boggling. What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Figure that out and do it after your work day is up. Or, doing it during the work day when your experience are running lol. A grad program can be long but that doesn’t mean that your life stops. Finding joy in your life with increase productivity, I guarantee that,
  3. Exercise. I have a ton of blogs on exercising and how it helps. Stay consistent and exercise often. You will be happier, more energetic, and a much better grad student.
  4. Sleep at a reasonable time. Sleep is as important, if not more, than anything on this list. There are many effects that can occur if you do not sleep enough. Read more about it here.
  5. Learn to motivate yourself and don’t wait to be motivated. There is a great video by Therapy in a Nutshell about motivation. I suggest watching it. Here it is.
  6. Make your bed. You have probably seen this all over the internet. It’s true, making your bed is a great habit to have. Here is a great video to watch that is also extremely motivating. I hope it helps.
  7. Stay off social media. Social media is such a distraction, especially when you don’t want to do work. By learning to stay off of it, you will be more productive, and, to be honest, happier. You can get way more done in a shorter amount of time so you can leave and go do things that bring you joy. This is a habit that I am currently trying to get. It is hard but worth it.
  8. Meditate. Mental health is as important or even more important than physical health. Making this a habit can be the difference between finishing your doctorate/ masters or not. Trust me when I say, meditation is a life saver. Read about how to start here.

These are a few habits that I think will help you finish this journey. Grad school is tough, but with help, you can survive and thrive. I hope you already have some of these habits down or you are willing to try and create these habits. I know they will help you significantly. If you are having trouble getting motivated, I highly suggest taking a look at some of the courses at INeedmotivation.com. Here’s a link to those courses.

Oral Qualifying Presentation: Grad School Stress

Today, I had my proposal presentation. Forty minutes of presenting, followed by an hour and a half of questions from my committee members. I am honestly surprised that I even slept last night due to the crippling anxiety from the past week. This was stressful and may be one of the most stressful things you will face in grad school. I have heard and read horror stories about this presentation as well as the following exam that my committee members will craft up. But you know what, I am ready and I expected this stress. If you are a grad student, here is some advice that will help you: 1) reduce anxiety and stress and 2) allow you to own your quals.

  1. Make sure to get to know your committee members early on. I am fortunate enough to work with all of them and see them quite often. If you have committee members that you don’t know well, familiarize yourself with what they do and maybe even reach out to them.
  2. Prepare your proposal and send it to your adviser. DO this early on so you can make corrections prior to your committee presentation. I made sure to have my proposal ready for my committee members to read over, and honestly, they didn’t have too many questions or concerns about it. I was ready and you can be as well.
  3. Follow my sets on how to make a presentation found here. Making an amazing presentation will score you more points with your committee. They have to spend a decent amount of time watching your presentation and the last thing you want is for them to fall asleep lol.
  4. Do not drink too much caffeine prior to the presentation or you’ll either talk too fast or just have to use the bathroom the whole time. This is a terrible idea. But if you must have caffeine, stick to coffee. I have a great post about coffee, here.
  5. Meditate prior to presenting. Schedule your presentation in the morning to early afternoon so you can relax and meditate prior to the meeting. Your stress level will decrease significantly and you will have clarity. The last thing you want is brain fog. Check out my blog about getting started with meditation as well as my blog about how to cope with stress.
  6. Make sure your cat is in a different room! Sirius woke up and decided that the best time to make an appearance to my committee was during my presentation. It was funny.
  7. Relax and trust yourself. You are the expert and your committee is there to help you, not hurt your chance of passing. They will ask you questions that might not make sense to you or something you are not too familiar with. This is totally ok because they want to know the extent of your knowledge and steer you in the right direction. Present what you have and own it. Every graph, every statement, every bit of information, be confident with. They will admire that.

The pass rate for qualifying exams are fairly close to 100% if you are prepared. Your adviser will not allow you to present until you are ready. Some colleges force you to do other exams. I am not familiar with those so I am going off of my experience. You are worthy of a PhD, and if you don’t pass, at least you get a masters and you don’t have to worry about the headache of a PhD ever again. You can only win. I believe in you and so does everyone else. You got this.

Having a Part-Time Job in Grad School:6 Jobs for Busy Grad Students

You started grad school and realized that you are poor, but you have the hopes of not being poor one day! Your stipend is the only income that you will unless you work another job. Now, I want to say that school is your main priority. Please keep this in mind when getting a job on the side. Also, some grad program prohibit having a job on the side. If this is the case then this blog won’t really help you too much, but I will try and include something for you. Here’s a list of 6 jobs that I believe are perfect to have in grad school, if you are able to find the time and energy.

1.Waiting tables or bartending. This is a great job to have that will get you quite a ton of money on the side, especially in a college town. You get to meet quite a few people and working in a restaurant is definitely an interesting experience, one that everyone needs to do at least once in their life. This job can be extremely part-time so you can spend your day working on your studies.

Person Holding Pastry Dishes on White Ceramic Plates

2. Tutoring. This is a perfect job because you know the material and can really tutor any subject. Tutoring is also a great way to hone your teaching skills in case you need that for your career or if you just so happen to be teaching a course that semester to get a stipend.

Serious female teacher wearing old fashioned dress and eyeglasses standing with book while pointing at chalkboard with schemes and looking at camera

3. Grade Papers. I get emails every semester of professors looking for graders for their classes. They usually pay a decent amount and you only have to put in about 10 hours a week, max. One professor was advertising 10 hours at a rate of $15 per hour. $150 a week or and extra $600 a month is rent money right there. You can also do this work any time of the day. Say you are waiting on lab results, grade some papers instead of just sitting, scrolling on Reddit. Get paid and feel more relieved that you have enough money to eat this month.

Student with documents and laptop happy about getting into university

4. Work as a Personal Trainer. I added this one because this is a side gig that you can do and you do not have to tell your adviser that you are doing it. One hour a day, 3 times a week and you can make about $60 extra. $20 a session per person is not bad at all and people are willing to pay that. All it takes is getting a certification and then insurance. Afterwards, you are good to go. Just find a client by posting fliers around campus and the clients will come.

Woman Doing Exercise

5. Teaching Assistant. For my program, to be a TA, you must be a masters student. They do not allow PhD students to do this since we already work for our funding. This is a great opportunity to gain experience in the classroom as well as meet people. Often times, being a TA will pay for your tuition as well as give you a bit of a stipend too. Grad school is super expensive so working for free education is ideal.

Cheerful young female home tutor with sketchpad in hands

6. Blog. I highly recommend blogging your journey through grad school. First off, writing is essential to be a good/decent grad student. By blogging, you will be writing each day which will make your thesis writing a piece of cake. You can make some money by ads and affiliated marketing. You won’t see a ton of money at first, but by the end of your first year, you may have another couple of dollars in the bank. Plus, blogging gives you freedom to express yourself and that’s what college is here for, right?

Person Holding Turned-on Silver Laptop Computer

I hope this list was inciteful. I recommend trying to find an easy way of making money that doesn’t rob you of the grad school experience. Let me know if you have a part-time job and what it is. Until next time, peace!

Learning to Meditate in Grad School. A Guide for Beginners

So you are stress beyond belief in your studies and you need a way to relax. I guarantee that someone that has noticed your stress has said that you need to exercise and meditate. There’s good reason to bring both of these up because they work. I want to share how I got started with meditation and hopefully it can help you start as well. Here are a 5 pieces of advice will get you started on your journey to enlightenment, or at least stress reduction 🙂

  1. Download the app Headspace. In my last post, I talked about how it is one of the essential apps that I have on my phone. There is a reason for this. I use it everyday to meditate for at least 10 minutes. They have a step by step approach that you will catch on to very quickly. It is a great tool especially when starting off.
  2. Find a quiet place to sit and meditate. Once you have Headspace or if you are using YouTube, Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. This is essential because you need to be as relaxed as you can get. Once you find a place, I recommend sitting or laying down. I find laying down easier, but you are prone to falling asleep, so you can pick whichever way you want to meditate lol.
Meditation, a simple guide for beginners. | by Imed El Mokhtar | Medium

3. Follow the instructions for beginner meditation in Headspace or on YouTube, or really on any meditation app. Here are a few good YouTube meditations that I have used in the past. Meditation 1,2,3,4.

4. Focus on your breathe. This will help to clear out the thoughts that will populate your mind. Focus on your breathe going in and out of your lungs. After a while, you’ll notice that you will go into a very relaxed state. This is where the magic happens. I have experienced all types of weird things at this stage, from colors, to faces popping up, even hearing weird sounds. Just keep in this relaxed state as long as you can.

5. Dedicate at least 20 minutes a day to mediation if you can. I feel that right before lunch is a great time to meditate because after lunch, I know I will fall asleep. Stay consistent and I guarantee you will be a more relaxed person.

Meditation is extremely easy and has amazing benefits. Benefits include:

  1. Reduction of Stress
  2. Anxiety Control
  3. Stronger Emotional Health
  4. Increased Attention Span
  5. Generates Kindness!!!!
  6. Improves Sleep
  7. Reduce Blood Pressure
  8. May Help Control Pain

These are all reasons to start meditation in grad school. You may experience a ton of problems that meditation can help fight against. I took up meditation for anxiety but now I do it to help emotional health. I am a stronger person because of it and way better mentally. If you have any questions about getting started, send an email my way. I can send more information.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Top 7 Phone Apps That All Grad Students Need Right Now

We are a society that is obsessed with our phones. Everyday I walk across campus to my office and every single person I see is on their phone, doing something that seems to be the most important thing in their lives. (Probably just texting someone or scrolling through TikTok) It is almost sad to see but that is life now. So, if you can’t fight it, join it, right? Here is a list of 7 phone apps that have helped me through grad school These are apps that I will probably delete after graduation, but some I will probably keep on for as long as I have a smart phone. I recommend getting google rewards first. Many of these apps have premium versions that you can pay for by taking quick surveys on Rewards. That is how I pay for most of the premium services on my phone. This This post will have pictures too!!! HURRAYYY. I am learning to make blogs better 🙂

  1. Headspace
Headspace: Meditation & Sleep - Apps on Google Play

This is a mediation app that has helped so much. I have blogged about it before and I will blog about it again lol. Trust me when I say, this is the best mediation app that is out there. You do have to pay for most of the features but it is discounted if you are a student. I believe it was around $5-$6 a year for students. Take advantage of this please.

2. Audible

Amazon.com: Audible for Fire TV: Appstore for Android

You will have a ton of time where you are waiting on experiments to finish up, data to be ran through different simulations, or even time where you should be writing but instead you would rather do anything else in the world. This is a good time to pop in your headphones and listen to a good book. I wrote about my favorite audible books here. It is $14.99 a month with membership and you get one book. I suggest going for longer books because you will definitely get your money’s worth.

3. MyRadar

How many times have you been stuck inside because of rain? Here in Florida, it happens daily so I need a good weather app to tell me when I can leave my office and not get drenched. This is my favorite weather app of all time. It has everything that you wanted and more. I use it to see when it will be the hottest during the day so I can stay inside and I also use it to see where hurricanes are moving towards so I don’t die lol.

4.Spotify with Hulu

As a student, you get many discounts and perks. One that you definitely need to jump on is the Spotify discount. I believe I pay $6 a month and I get Spotify premium as well as Hulu. You get two amazing services for really cheap and it’s totally worth it. I listen to Spotify at the gym and watch Hulu during the 30 minute time frame where my experiments are going on. This is a great deal for sure and I am glad I got it.

5.ColorNote or some other notepad app

Get yourself a note pad app. I use ColorNote because it got the best reviews, but honestly, any of them will be fine. You will have thoughts that just pop in your head all of a sudden that can help your research or maybe you just need to write something down. Do it in the note pad app. It saved my butt so many times. I walk a ton and on the walks ideas tend to just pop in my head. The app is filled with these ideas because I just write them down.

6. Alarm Clock

PSA: Oreo is causing Google Alarm Clock app to fail for some - GSMArena.com  news

This one is self explanatory. Having a good alarm clock can save your butt. I also have an Echo Dot that I tell to wake me up but having an alarm on my phone is just as helpful.

7.YouTube Vanced

I hate ads when I am watching YouTube videos. This is why I downloaded YouTube Vanced. Trust me when I say, this is the best app on this list. Ads are gone and you can listen to videos in the background. If you have unlimited internet on your phone, you can watch videos anywhere without worrying about ads. Check this one out for sure.

I hope you consider getting some or all of these apps for your phone. They truly make my life easier and I know that they will make yours easier too. If you happen to have any more suggestions, please comment them. In a few weeks, I am going to update all of my blog posts to include stuff that people have commented. I hope your day is awesome and I hope your week is even better. See you in the next one.

Moving While in Grad School: The Art of Not Going Insane

I have had to move every single year that I have been in grad school. Most of the time it was not my choice but due to some outside factor. This year is the exact same thing. Yesterday was my final day at one of the coolest places that I have lived. To say that I will miss living there is an understatement. Moving is not fun at all and can be quite stressful, especially for those in graduate school that might not be able to take time off work to move out.

This blog is for those people/students that are required to move out while doing experiments or continuously work through the process. I am under the experiment category as well as the “my qualifying exam is next week” category. If you are unfamiliar with what a qualifying exam is, it is basically an oral presentation and written exam to qualify to be a PhD candidate. It is also referred to as a candidacy exam. So moving out is not the best thing to do right now. Oh well, that’s life and I am trying to enjoy it the whole way through. But, if you find yourself in a situation like mine, here are a few tips that can help with the move out.

  1. Plan ahead. Start cleaning up and boxing up things way in advance so you are not scrambling at the last minute. This will reduce stress and probably save you hours of valuable experimentation time. I promise you, start early.
  2. When looking at your stuff, purge the things you don’t use. This will help with overall stress and anxiety, plus getting rid of stuff is really good for your mental health. If you haven’t used it in the last year, get rid of it. By get rid of it, either sell or donate the items. Someone probably needs it more than you.
  3. Ask for help. My roommates helped a ton and so did my friends. DO not do the move alone. This can be pretty bad plus it is not as fun as moving with the help of someone else. Always make sure to feed them and maybe pay them some money, though. Moving is difficult and their help is quite valuable. Pizza is always a good option!!
  4. Buy a ton of cleaning products. You will need to clean, and clean a lot. Make sure to get paper towels and good cleaning sprays. Do not mix them!!!!! I got bleach for the bathroom and then fabuloso for the kitchen and bedroom. You need to clean everything pretty well because you want that security deposit back $$$.
  5. Take time to relax too. Moving is super stressful and quite exhausting, mentally and physically. Make sure to take breaks and take them often. You need the energy and mental focus to be able to finish the job before the landlord comes and kicks you out.
  6. While working, play some good music. I tend to put on fast paced music which really gets me moving. Moving stuff is almost like going to the gym. You’ll be lifting stuff, running around, grunting, swearing, and sweating like a pig. Yep, practically a gym workout.
  7. Pack everything into boxes and label them. This is so important because you will lose items in the process of moving. Get organized and use boxes to stay organized. When you unpack, you’ll know exactly what is where and that will cause less stress later.
  8. If you are going to get a storage unit or U-Haul, book them early. My roommate made this mistake and waited until 3 days before moveout to see if there were storage units available or U-hauls. NOPE. All gone. Luckily our landlord is letting him keep his stuff at the current house until he moves to the next house. Some landlords are just awesome.
  9. Make sure to cancel the utilities. You don’t want to have to keep paying even after you are gone. Trust me, it’s not fun getting extra bills.
  10. Make sure to save up money prior to moving. It can get expensive for sure. Save money from your last few paychecks specifically for moving out. It is a must.

Bonus: Have Fun! I can’t stress this enough. Have fun with moving. You will associate moving with a good time later down when you have to do it again and it will make things way easier for you. Honestly, have fun with everything you do in life. Being stressed out all of the time is terrible and you don’t need that in your life.

Anyway, I hope that your move-out is easy and stress free. Mine was easy because I did exactly what I wrote about. If it worked for me, it will work for you. See ya next time.

Giving Presentations in Grad School

Some say that the scariest thing you will do in life is give presentations. Something about standing in front of a ton of people and talking scares the pants off of most people. I remember talking to a few of my classmates and they brought up that Speech class was one of the only classes they needed to do to graduate, and they were putting it off until the last semester because it scared them. I, fortunately, love giving presentations. i love talking about a subject that I am passionate about to a ton of people. Yes, I feel nervous and scared, but the feeling after giving the presentation is totally worth it. You feel a weight lifted off of your shoulders, and you are almost weightless. Such an amazing feeling.

I have always been very comfortable standing in front of people and talking to them. Ironically, the most anxiety inducing thing that I refuse to do is talk to someone I don’t know on the phone. This is a common fear that I am slowly working on.

When you are in grad school, you will give a ton of presentations. Some on subjects you like, others on things you are not familiar with or just don’t care about. The biggest presentation and probably the scariest one, other than the qualifying exam presentation, is your thesis defense. This is the culmination of all of your hard work given as a presentation to people that are the best in their fields. It’s tough, but most people pass so your chances of graduating are fairly high.

I get it, giving presentations are hard, but they don’t need to be with some tips and tricks. I use these tips every time that I present, no matter how long.

  1. Create a PowerPoint presentation and practice it way beforehand. This means creating it days before, possible weeks before, and just getting so familiar with the slides that you don’t even need to look at them to know what it includes.
  2. Write notes. When you aren’t quite in the “groove” while presenting, take a look at your notes. They will help you stay on track and make you very organized and not all over the place.
  3. Make eye contact, if you are comfortable, if not, look at someone’s forehead. I like making eye contact to make sure my audience did not fall asleep. Other people prefer looking at the back of the room or someone’s forehead. That’s fine too as long as you are scanning the room. Do not just stare at one person the entire time. That’s just weird.
  4. Bring humor into the presentation. Tell a joke or bring up something funny. It will keep the audience engaged and make you more comfortable. No one wants to watch a boring presentation anyway. Have fun with it.
  5. Breathe! Deep breathes beforehand will calm your nerves and help you not sound nervous.
  6. Practice in front of friends first. You will get used to presenting in front of multiple people and you will feel comfortable. Use the feeling of comfort and try and feel that before giving the actual presentation.
  7. Bring water. When you are talking, you may lose track of where you are, on the PowerPoint as well as your notes. This is a good time to drink water because you can stall for time to get back into your groove. Also, it is good to stay hydrated.
  8. Lastly, have fun with it. It is a scary moment but a vital one. If you don’t have fun, you’ll associate all presentations with bad experiences. You do not want to do this. Have fun, learn a lot, and just be yourself. The presentation will be amazing because you are amazing.

I hope this list helps a bit. I have my qualifying presentation next week so I will be using my own advice fairly soon. I hope you have an amazing day/week/month and I will see you guys in the next blog.

Am I Doing the Right Thing? Feeling Lost in Grad School

Hey everyone! Today’s post is going to be a little shorter than usual, I think. I just wanted to write about something that I have been dealing with a lot and one method to help calm my overactive mind. Grad school has me lost. I honestly don’t know what I want to do after graduation, and you know what? I am totally alright with that. I realized that life is constantly changing and it is totally ok not to know what to do next.

One thing that really has me a bit concerned, well not now, but at first, was seeing all of my friends getting jobs, making good money. I make enough to feed my cat, and that’s good enough for me lol. But I did notice that they weren’t that happy. I was quite perplexed until i heard about a little activity you can do to kind of see if maybe you are doing what you love, or close to it. The exercise is imagining you are talking with your 10 year old self. Describe what you do for a living to them. See how your 10 year old self reacts. Are they proud of you? Are they concerned? Do they look angry? Just try and picture this.

I did this exercise and realized that what I do now, I truly believe 10 year old Ben would have thought was the coolest thing ever. I do science, math, workout, all of that. 10 year old Ben loved all of those things. This really helped me realize that I am not lost at all, I am right where I need to be at the this time in my life.

Life is constantly changing and so are you. You will find your place eventually, then one day, what you thought was the right thing for you will change and you’ll find another road to take. I find this to be the most exciting part of life, the change. I wonder what 40 year old Ben will be like!

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

YouTube Channels You Need to Subscribe to if You are a Grad Student

I am quite the visual learner. Reading things and then learning from that is quite difficult for me and sometimes impossible. I need a visual to get me going in the right direction.

Grad school has a ton of very difficult concepts to learn that some find difficult to grasp just from reading it. Math, Chemistry, Physics, you name it, it’s just downright difficult o read about it and then go off and do it. YouTube has been my best friend when trying to learn these concepts. I use it daily to figure out problems as well as just entertainment, of course. It is also very useful to give you motivation during the grad school journey as well as teach you mindfulness (I have to bring this in since my site is about mindfulness ;)). Here are a few channels that I subscribed too that are extremely helpful when going through grad school.

  1. R3ciprocity

So R3ciprocity was created by Dr. Dave Maslach to help students with peer review and grammar. It is an awesome website and I will definitely use it for my dissertation. His channel is so uplifting and he really cares about grad students and getting them through the academic process. Go check out his website and YouTube channel.

2. Andy Stapleton’s Channel

He has amazing advice for grad students and people pursuing a PhD. He has a ton of extremely helpful videos that tackle literally every aspect of grad school that you can think of. He also tells it how it is and does not sugarcoat anything. He’s also quite funny.

3. Therapy in a Nutshell

Emma McAdam is a licensed marriage and family therapist that really knows her stuff. If you are suffereing from anxiety, depression, just sadness, or if you are even happy and ready to take on the day, she has helpful advice for you. I tend to listen to her talk on my long drives to Miami from Gainesville. She gives great advice to cope with your feelings and quite a few tips that I have blogged about come from her videos.

4. Thoughty2

This channel is awesome and super entertaining. Thoughty2 talks about weird and quirky things that have happened throughout history and goes into quite a lot of detail. He is super funny and the videos are great to watch on your lunch break. There’s a ton of information that he brings up so it is a good learning experience as well.

5. Simon Clark’s Channel

Simon was a PhD student when he started vlogging. He has since graduated and is off teaching the world about his expertise in climate science. I found his videos extremely helpful when starting my PhD. He had very similar problems that I had/have and went about explaining how he overcame those obstacles. He’s a great individual and his videos are super high quality.

These are some channels that I truly believe will help you a bit more during grad school. They have helped me all the way until now and I know I will continue watching them even after my doctorate is over. Let me know in the comments some channels that you are subscribed to that are worth checking out.

Loneliness in Grad School: What I Do to Combat it

I find it funny how loneliness is such a major contributor to my anxiety, yet, I haven’t really made a post about it. I have talked about it a bit but haven’t given it its own blog post. So, let’s dive deeper into loneliness while you are in grad school, especially in a doctorate program.

Loneliness, to me, is one of the worst feelings that I get. When I feel lonely, things just appear off to me. Colors seem to change and get duller, happiness tends to go away, and an overall sense of sadness kicks in. It is very close to what my depression felt like but not nearly as bad. It is still extremely uncomforting. I used to talk to my therapist all of the time about how lonely I felt, even when I was around a ton of friends. I felt isolated from the world and there wasn’t much I could do to prevent this feeling. My therapist would always reassure me and tell me that this is a common occurrence among grad students. I wanted to know why and I eventually found out.

One obvious reason you will feel lonely is because you will be by yourself quite often. You will be in the lab by yourself, writing by yourself, and possibly even going home to be by yourself. I know many grad students that live alone so they often really feel lonely. Another reason you will experience loneliness is because the project that you are working on is not well known. Maybe it is, but more than likely people will not know what you are doing or why you are doing this. It is hard to talk about it with people because they just won’t understand what you are doing and don’t really relate to the very different struggles that grad students face. I find it extremely isolating to bring up grad school with my family because they just don’t know what questions to ask or give advice, since they have not been in my position before.

There is hope! You don’t have to feel lonely if you learn to love the time you spend by yourself. I tell myself all of the time that i might be alone, but I am not lonely. I have to truly believe it though and I have gotten to the point where I definitely am believing it. Being alone can be extremely comforting if you look at it as a positive experience. Next time you are alone, doing experiments or just in your office, say out loud (yes out loud), “Sweet, I am alone. That means I won’t have distractions and will get my work done” or “Being alone is awesome because I don’t have to deal with nasty people”. Of course you can come up with whatever you want but make sure it is positive. I often say “Great, I am alone. Now I can watch a movie without being interrupted”. I watch movies every other Tuesday, while in the lab. If someone else was here, I couldn’t enjoy that time.

Make friends with other grad students. I know this is a bit of a difficult one but you just need to do it. other grad students will know exactly what you are going through. They often feel the same way and a friend will help you feel less lonely. It will also help them feel less lonely. I have made several grad school friends and they all have moments of loneliness. I get texts from them all of the time when they are alone, just reaching out to feel less lonely. It is comforting to know you have someone to talk to.

Use the time that you have by yourself to mediate and find inner peace. Being alone is a great time to just “be”. Be in the moment, be in solitude, and really dig deep into who you are. You can find out a ton about yourself that you didn’t even know. This advice is scary because often people what to distract themselves from themselves. This will lead to problems later on. Meditation can be a great experience to reduce loneliness because you won’t be alone, you’ll be with the best person in your life, yourself. I have used meditation to figure out underlying issues in my life and am a better person for it.

I hope you don’t experience loneliness while you’re in grad school, but if you do, I hope you find this helpful. Grad school is long but it can be fun. You just need to put in some work and you can create an awesome experience for yourself.

So You Got a Cat in Grad School: Best Purchases For Them

Making decisions in the moment can be super stressful and down right anxiety inducing. One of the “spur-of-the-moment” things that I did 2 years ago was adopt my cat, Sirius. It amazes me how, at the time, well a little bit after the moment I adopted him, I thought it was a bad idea. I let fear and anxiety take over and really cause me to rethink my choice. If I could, I’d go back in time and slap my past self and tell him that getting a pet was the best thing you’ve done in grad school. Getting a cat is a big responsibility, but ultimately, an amazing choice. I would do anything for my little guy. Anyway, if you just so happened to get yourself a kitty in college, here are some toys and things that I bought him that make him happy, my furniture happy (no claw marks), as well as me happy, along with my budget.

  1. A SmartCat Pioneer Pet Scratch Post

Best investment ever! It will set you back about $50 but it’s worth 1000x’s that amount. Sirius’s claw’s are sharp and my arms, legs, chest, and face can tell you that lol. This scratch post keeps him from clawing at furniture in my house, which is a major plus since the furniture belongs to my roommates. I put this first because this is most important.

2. A cat shelf

I specifically got Sirius this one. He absolutely loves climbing onto these and hiding behind the plants. It also acts as a scratch board so he doesn’t scratch anything else. You can see that scratch boards are very important.\

3. Plush Flopping Fish

Oh man, this is a good one. It is rechargeable and he goes crazy for this toy, mostly because there is catnip in it. Sirius will spend most of the day cuddling it on his hammock too. I have some great pictures. Here’s one.

Image

4. Cat Hammock

I purrrrsonally got Sirius this one, though I believe any hammock would be just fine. He only sleeps in the hammock. I put a blanket on it to keep him warm and that’s all he needs. The window hammocks are the best because he gets to look out and see the birds and people outside from the comfort of a bed. A win-win.

5. Bird feeder

I got him a suction cup bird feeder that keeps him entertained for hours. I am usually at the office for a good amount of time so I want him entertained until I can come home and play with him. This is the perfect thing to get and you also attract a ton of cool birds as well as squirrels.

6. Cat Spiral Springs

I buy Sirius super fancy toys like feather toys, roller coaster circuit toys, as well as a cat tunnel, but his favorite toy is just a simple spring that he can hit around. Honestly, just get your cat a wire tie and they are good to go for the day. Super simple and effective.

These are things that I feel cat owners should buy. They have worked pretty well for me and my cat loves them. If you are a grad student and work long hours, I would strongly suggest getting something like what I have shown above to keep your furry friend happy until you get home. Let me know what you buy your cat to keep them entertained and happy.

Learn to Say “NO” In Grad School

You will have so many opportunities in grad school as well as life and you need to pick and choose what you do. One of the biggest lessons that I learned in the five years that I have been a graduate student is when to say “no”.

As I said, you will have soooooo many opportunities in graduate school. These will be going to conferences, writing papers, doing extra experiments, taking up part time jobs, and maybe even teaching a class. There are probably way more opportunities for you as well. These are just a few that I was offered.

The main reason you are in grad school is to learn, to become a scholar and researcher. This needs to be your main focus. I have a hard time saying no to many things that cross my path. I have a part-time job even though it may cause me to get behind on many projects. I blog, though blogging is actually extremely helpful and allows me to express myself as well as gain valuable writing experience. So blogging is a good thing that I took up. I have said yes to doing extra papers, more experiments, and even peer reviewing a whole dissertation because I could not say “no”.

Picking the right things to say yes to is almost a skill in itself. We often say yes to too much because we fear missing out on opportunities. This will cause us to take on way too many responsibilities all at once and will eventually lead to burn out. Now if you have not experienced burnout then I envy you. I experienced it pretty badly in undergrad and, for a few months, just getting out of bed was difficult. My grades suffered, my mental health and physical health suffered, and I was tired all of the time. Luckily, I was able to get back into things and continue on, but I can definitely see how people leave college after burn out.

Grad school has too many added stresses which makes this way more common. By taking on too much, you risk burn out a lot sooner.

Saying no to some things will cause your mental health to strengthen, you’ll have more energy, and you will finish on time. I wish I could go back and say “no” more often to my younger self, but if I said no, I probably wouldn’t be here, writing about it, helping others learn what I have learned. I suppose it wasn’t so bad after all, for you, the reader, not me lol. I will definitely learn when to say “yes” and when to say “no”. I am quite certain that my overall health will improve and I believe that I will finish my doctorate on time.

There is always one thing to say yes to, in my opinion, and that is anything that will help you strengthen your mental state. Say yes to therapy. Say yes to exercise. Say yes to eating right. At the same time, say no to those things that will stress you out so much that you burn out. Life is too short to be so stressed out.

I hope you guys have a great night. I will see you in the next blog.

How I Prevent Panic Attacks

One thing that I, unfortunately, deal with are panic attacks. I can remember my very first one which caused a whole progression of events that led to about 6 months of depression. That panic attack was brought on by pre-workout and way too much stress.

I get panic attacks every so often but they are no where close to the first one I had or the other few that I had prior to therapy. Let me describe to you what it felt like. People often say that it is like having a heart attack. This is 100% true. My heart was racing, I was sweating, my thoughts were going all over the place, and I had the worst anxiety of my life. I honestly thought I was dying, but at the time, I was actually learning a valuable less, how to get help and get healthy. Of course I did was not thinking about that at the moment I was having the attack. In fact, I was having thoughts that were creating more anxiety such as “Will this continue throughout my life? Will I ever recover? Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this?” All thoughts that really didn’t help.

I eventually learned that I needed help and that was one of the best things that I ever for my mental health. If you are like me, you do not want to have panic attacks. This is why I want to share a few ways that I reduce the attacks so I don’t have them nearly as bad.

  1. See a therapist

I want to start off with this because taking advice from a stranger online is not the best way to help with the anxiety you are feeling in life. See someone that is a professional and really dive deeper into why this is happening and what can be done to stop it.

2. Give your panic attack a name

Name your panic attack. Tell it that you don’t want it around and that it is not welcomed. This helps for me, though not as much as other methods that I will discuss.

3. Go outside and just breathe.

This is mindfulness and it will help. What I do is put my phone and electronics as far away from me and I go outside and just take a ton of slow, deep breathes. I will immediately feel a reduction in panic.

4. Do Not Try And Control It

By trying to control the panic attack, you can actually make it worse. I did not know this until my therapist as well as many other therapists from books and videos told me this as well. They say that your body will adjust to what is going on and make it seem less bad the next time you have a panic attack. By trying to control it, you can make the next panic attack stronger and you do not want that,

5. If you can, just go on a jog

A quick run or jog usually tires me out. The racing thoughts do go away when you are running so it helps for the moment. It will also tire yourself out so the panic attack may go away quickly. If you have trouble breathing though, do not do this. Some panic attacks will make you hyperventilate so this method of reduction is not advised

6. Go on YouTube and play lofi music. Then think of a place that you feel secure and comfortable.

Picture your “happy place” and stay there for a bit in your mind. Take a moment to really calm down in your happy place. Mine is in a boat, in the Keys. I go there often.

7. Tell yourself “This, too, shall pass”

It is a good mantra to tell yourself. This moment will pass and you will get through it. You will be a stronger person because of it and you will be ready when or if it happens again.

I use these methods when I have panic attacks. Honestly, they aren’t even panic attacks anymore, more like a bit of heightened anxiety that I have learned to cope with. I promise you that you can get through whatever you re going through, but you need a bit of time. Nothing is wrong with you, we all experience this, but sometimes people experience worse panic attacks than others. You can get through this and anything else that is thrown your way. I hope these methods reduce your panic attacks and I hope you get the help you deserve. Have an amazing day.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

How a Massage Gun Helps With My Mental State

Ok, I want to dedicate this blog post to the massage gun that I recently bought from amazon. Now, I am not one to just write a post for one particular product unless it has significantly helped me in some way.

I bought a massage gun about 2 months ago that I keep in my office. This is the one I bought.

So at first I bought it because I am terrible when it comes to stretching. I am constantly sore from workouts and needed a drastic change. I also had a discount, which I wish I had for you guys, because these can be awfully expensive :(. I think the discount was like 80% off too so I had to take full advantage of it. Anyway, I received the massage gun and immediately tried it out. It worked like a charm. I am not here to just tell you that a massage gun works on loosening muscle fibers. No, I want to tell you how it has helped with my mental state.

I want to start off by saying that I don’t know what is happening that is making me feel better, but it is working. So apparently I keep my stress in my shoulders. You can tell by the knots that are there. I was about to do a back workout one day when I decided to try the massage gun out and see if I could release those knots and activate my muscles. It did alot more than that. I worked my shoulders and lower back which caused me to relax more than I have in a very long time. In fact, I was so relaxed that I put off the gym until that night.

I tried the same thing the next day, this time before I did some meditation. Holy Cow! I immediately went into a pretty deep meditation and almost didn’t come out of it (lol). The massage gun is definitely causing an increase in serotonin or something but it has allowed me to relax, especially now when I am pretty stressed out. I will have to read some peer reviewed journal articles on massages and reduction in anxiety. I am sure that there is a reason that this is occuring.

For those that want to try something new for your anxiety, I would suggest investing in one of these massage guns. Even if it doesn’t get rid of your anxiety, at least your muscles will be relaxed and I am sure no one will complain about a nice massage.

If you happen to know why my anxiety goes away, let me know in the comments. I would prefer to know the actual mechanisms that come into play and how that affects the body. Thanks guys!

Relaxation: The First Step to a Reduction of Anxiety

One of the most important things that I learned while getting therapy was to take time to relax. This can be 10 minutes a day or a whole week, like what I am doing now. Take moments tp just be in the moment and not think about everything else that is going on in your life. By doing this, I can guarantee that a great amount of anxiety will just disappear.

Relaxation is essential for our bodies to recover. You can only drink so much coffee before you have to stop what you are doing and rest. It’s such a shame that society makes us believe that we need to be doing something every second of each day. It lies to us, tells us to work, work, work and relax later. I have quite a few friends that are almost addicted to working. I ask them, “Why don’t you take time for yourself and just relax?” Every single one of them replies with the same or similar answer. They always say that they want to work hard now so they can have a relaxing future. Now, I understand where they are coming from and had a similar mindset when I was younger, and also pre-therapy. I figured that I have a ton of energy and i should invest that energy into work so I can get a good job and relax later. One thing that I know for certain is there are no certainties in this life.

Working hard is good but it does not need to be your life, especially when you are young. You do not know if you will have money in the future. Heck, you may be poor, tired, old, and unhappy (I hope you are not). But you need to realize that the future is not certain and right now is what you need to focus on.

Life is a journey. It is long but you need to enjoy it along the way. My anxiety comes from living in the future, always thinking about the “what ifs” and never taking time to relax because “what if I don’t have money in 1 year? What if I can’t find a job? I need to start looking even though I graduate in 10 months.” I spend all of my time worrying about the “what ifs” that I don’t relax and enjoy the ride.

Relaxation is essential because it causes your body to cool down. Take time off of work. Use those vacation days and go somewhere you’ve never been. Do it while you can, while you’re young because we have “potentially” only one chance to do this thing called “life” right and I don’t want to be working all of the time, that’s for sure. Relax wherever you go and make sure to really appreciate what is going on at that moment.

Relaxation also means to get off of your phones and social media. We are addicted to distractions and this might just be the biggest distraction we have in the present moment. My therapist said that her clients were stressed out due to social media. They were constantly being bombarded with bad news as well as feelings of inadequacy. Get rid of it, get off it, and go relax! I am doing just that and you should be too.

I want to eave you guys with my current situation. This vacation is something anyone can do and all you need to do is take time off and go and do it. Here is a picture taken yesterday. I hope you enjoy.

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You Are Good Enough

Often, in grad school, you will feel inadequate. You will feel like a failure, like someone that doesn’t deserve the degree you’re going to get. This is normal. We all feel this way and that is the wonderful part of growing as an individual and becoming a researcher. You will learn that there is so much more to life than we know and it will make us feel a bit weird inside.

Feeling like you are not good enough is something that you will have to fight. I just want to let you know that you are not just good enough, but wayyyyy better than “enough”. You will face some very difficult uncertainties in the years that follow which will cause self doubt but know that no matter what anyone says, you are enough!!!

People will tell you “no”, Experiments will tell you “no”. Advisers will tell you “no”. Things in life will not go the way you wanted but that does not mean you are less than perfect. You are perfect and beautiful and smart and you will overcome whatever you face in graduate school. You make so many people proud and that is good enough to keep you going.

I often feel that I am not good enough but then realize that I am in a difficult major, with the brightest people around me, learning stuff that people spend their whole lives studying. This is so cool and of course I may feel lost but that moment is when the adventure starts getting good.

I often just pretend that I am in the Lord of the Rings. They had is quite difficult and often felt like they were not good enough for the job of taking the ring to Mordor, but they did. Grad school is that journey for you. Sure, you will face a ton of monsters along the way. Sure, you may get chewed up and spit out, but you will prevail and the end will be so amazing.

You can do it. You are good enough. And you will PREVAIL.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Enjoying Family Time

I just want to show my appreciation for my family. My family includes my parents, brother, girlfriend as well as my brother’s girlfriend and daughter. As we get older, my brother and I, we have started to go off on our own. I can see how it affects my mom as well as my dad knowing that their sons are both starting the wonderful journey that is life. But for one week out of the year, we take time away from our busy lives to spend it all together. This vacation has been a great one so far. Having the time to see and be with my family has made me understand that life is not about work, life is about the relationships you have with others, the journeys you take, the risks you make, and the love you show, wherever you end up.

We all come from different backgrounds and situations. Family may mean a lot different than a blood relative to you. It may be close friends, a neighbor, your pet, a significant other, or the guy down the street that waves to you each morning. No matter what “family” is, appreciate it. Spend time with them because you will remember these moments way more than what happened at work. Life is so much more and we are just scratching the surface.

I hope everyone is having a great week with whatever you might be doing. Today, we decided to go to Key West and go to the butterfly museum as well as take a walk through the cemetery. I was able to spend some quality time with my family as really appreciate the day. I wanted to share with you all because I know you guys really understand the importance of having quality relationships with others. It is truly one of the best things in life.

Be Kind, Be Calm

Ahhh, The Florida Keys. So amazing, so majestic, so alcoholic, so….sunny. It is quite sunny and hot today but it is amazing. It’s amazing how different it is down here than 400 mile north, where I am located. Anyway, todays fishing trip may me realize that sometimes things can get really frustrating, but you need to let those feelings go and show others kindness as well as yourself.

Vacations tend to be super stressful for some people, especially if there is travelling or confined quarters. We have a bit of both down here but my family is fairly good dealing with the stresses that come with vacations. The traveling that we do is in our boat. We love to fish and the keys trip is for just that, fishing. We also have a very small boat and that can cause issues. I was getting really frustrated on the boat and it didn’t help that it was 100 degrees out and we weren’t catching fish. Those are the moments where therapy really kicks in. I took a few deep breathes and calmed down. Without lashing out, I calmed down and showed kindness to the other occupants of the boat.

Stress can definitely cause some issues but you need to show kindness, to others and yourself. Realize that you will be frustrated but keeping your cool will make those moments pass.

I hope everyone is having a great day. I will try and post another blog post soon with the pictures of the key deer and maybe a couple of fish.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Learn to Take Time For Yourself

I am currently undergoing a very busy and stressful time in my life. I have been running around all over the state of Florida, writing and editing, blogging, moving, and getting ready to have my qualifying exams in 3 weeks. I AM TIRED. I don’t want to complain though because I was expecting this. I knew that this would happen and I was (somewhat) ready for it. So many people in this world have way busier schedules than me and they don’t complain about it, so neither will I. I do, however, want to share some advice with you guys and gals in grad school, or working full time, or just living life. The advice is to take a moment to be “in the moment”. Shut off your phone, tune out music and noise, try not to think of what needs to get done, and just BE.

This morning, I did just that. I took time for myself and focused on being in the present moment. Does this sound like something that is familiar? This is the main concept of mindfulness. Be in the present and tune out all distractions. Holy cow!!!!! By doing just that, I was able to find happiness and serenity in that moment. I listened to the birds chirping, the wind rustling through the trees, and noticed the true beauty in this life. I also had this view.

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For about an hour, my worries disappeared. I felt love, kindness, and most importantly, peace. No wonder people have been telling me to practice mindfulness. You really can notice a difference.

I want you, the reader and of course, my friend, to take a few minutes out of the day to just be in the moment. Turn off all distractions and just notice everything around you. I guarantee that you will feel emotions that you probably hadn’t felt in a long time.

Life is long and short at the same time. You’re 10 years old one moment, then 28 years old the next, about to finish your doctorate. The past 4 years have gone by so quickly because I was not in the present moment, I lived in the future, at least in my head (just kidding, I am a time traveler ;P). I was so caught up in work that I forgot that life was happening around me. This definitely did not help my mental state. For many of you, especially those in graduate school, you will face mental issue and uncertainties. Trust me when I say this, TRY MINDFULNESS. It may not make all of the anxiety go away but it probably will help. I believe in this method and I believe in you! Stay kind my friends. I will try and get a blog post out this weekend with more fun pictures. Until then, stay beautiful.

Graduate School Hacks

I am going to just have fun with this blog and see where it goes. These are a few ” grad school hacks” that I do which has made my PhD much more fun.

  1. Interreact with as many professors as possible. Get to know them on a personal level. Professors are great resources to have and it’s so nice to be able to talk with them like they are friends. Plus, some professors have really expensive lab equipment that you can use!!
  2. Drink coffee. Do not drink energy drinks because it is extremely hard to do work when you are bouncing off of the walls. Coffee will give you a great boost in the morning and help you focus. Just be careful not to overdo it or you will be jittery all day. Check out my favorite coffee here.
  3. Drink water, and drink it often. This “hack” is to keep you hydrated and healthy. Frankly, this is not a hack at all but a recommendation. Drinking water is essential to your health and a healthy student is more productive than a sickly one.
  4. Meal plan and cook at home. We do not make that much money and going out to eat is expensive. You will have time to cook food. I promise that you won’t be busy 20 hours a day. If you are, then you need to learn to say no or get out of school completely lol. That’s ridiculous. Meal planning will help you stay within a budget as well as keep you health, that’s assuming you don’t bring pizza everyday for lunch.
  5. Focus on learning the material rather than a grade. Grades do not matter in grad school as long as you receive a B and that is fairly easy to do. Focus more of understanding the material rather than getting an A on the exam. There have been several times where I have received an A but could not recall the information from the class. That information was essential to my research, also :(. That class was statistics, by the way.
  6. Get a planner and actually use it. Stay on schedule! You will forget to do stuff. It happens…we are only human. I have a to do list that I use each day. There have been so many times where I forgot what I had to do that day because I did not write it down. Seriously, this hack is important. This is my favorite planner.
  7. Workout. Studies have shown that exercise increases brain function and you just feel great. Type in to Google Scholars “Effects of exercise on the brain”. Just do it.
  8. Write. Each. Day. This is not a hack, but for some reason, people tend to want to think it is. I created this blog to help hone my writing skills as well as share information that I have learned over the years in school. I write each and every day. It honestly sucks at first. I won’t lie. After about a month of writing, you will see that 500 words is a piece of cake (Publix Ice Cream cake to be exact. YUM). Aim to write 500 words each day and see how easy it becomes. Also, if you write a bit of your thesis each day, you’ll have it mostly finished way before you defend. It’s a win-win.
  9. Take advantage of discounts and free things that are given to students. This includes food, clothes, trips to places, fitness classes, anything really. Take advantage of it now while you are a student.
  10. Lastly, find happiness in what you do. You will have days where nothing goes right. Experiments fail, your adviser yelled at you (if this happens then you may want to get a new one), maybe you left your lunch at home and have to live off of Panda Express from the student union. Bad days will happen but DO NOT let one bad incident turn a good day into a bad one. You will make mistakes. You will “fail”…I hate that word and you can read why, here, but you know what? You will thrive! You just need to find something good each day. It can be a small thing like getting pizza or seeing a friend. If you can find a bit of happiness each day, it will make grad school so much fun.

I hope you made it to the end without falling asleep. I actually fell asleep around #6 so… Anyway, I hope this list helps you on your journey through grad school. These are things that have really helped me all throughout the 5 long years I have been here. If you have questions, do not hesitate to reach out to me. I know many people are thinking about going back to school but may be a bit uncertain of what to expect. I am here to help any way I can. Let me know if you have any more “hacks” that I did not touch upon. Also, I hope you have a wonderful day doing whatever you do!

Congratulations, You Made a Mistake

Do you like making mistakes? I sure don’t, but we all do. We all make mistakes in our lives and that makes us human, that makes us amazing! I wrote about the two bad bricks in the wall. The monk cared so much about the mistakes he made that he forgot all of the good that he did. I made a mistake tonight that honestly had about 10 people calling me names and telling me how terrible I was. I was an umpire at a kickball game. I made a terrible call against the team that won and was called multiple names, cussed at, and I honestly thought one kid was going to hit me. That last one might have been a stretch, but maybe lol. You don’t understand that when you call someone names, especially those that you don’t even know, that hurts them… sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, but it hurts.

What would you have done in my situation? Would you yell back at them and tell them and told that they are terrible? Would you tear up and just take it? Or would you laugh about it, because you made a mistake and that means you are human? I chose to laugh about it.

When you make mistakes, they can always be looked at as learning experiences. My experience tonight was child’s play compared to literally any other mistake, but it hurt to be called names. I learned and laughed and tried to have a decent time after that experience, though I paid closer attention :p.

The way you handle these situations is everything. If you let it get to you emotionally then it will drag you down and keep you in a low area. My advice is to be kind to yourself, admit it was a mistake, laugh about it, and learn. Also, in probably a few days, you will forget it even happened. Please do not let a small, insignificant occurrence cause your suffering. When you have anxiety, any little thing can turn into a completely blown out of proportion event. But by changing the way you perceive it and have a little fun, you can make any mistake into a funny story or learning experience.

I admitted that I made a mistake to the team that won. I apologized and they weren’t even mad afterwards, in fact, they were so happy about going to the championship game that they didn’t even care about the call. It was insignificant and I have moved on.

Also, be kind to people, because they will make mistakes. You never know what that individual battles with each day. They may have lost a loved one, haven’t slept in days, battling a mental illness, or literally anything else. Everyone is dealing with someone and by being mean to that person because of a mistake just makes you a pretty bad individual. No one is perfect, and actually perfection is straight garbage. I want to see people make mistakes because that gives them character. Flaws are not flaws at all, they are FEATURES!. Same with mistakes.

Be kind, because this is a wild journey called life, and no one really knows what they’re doing. Have a good night everyone. I love you all.

What I Do When I am STRESSED

I wouldn’t write this blog unless I was in a stressful situation. I have quite a few things going on in my life so I thought I would share what I do to reduce the stress and become way more productive. Stress can cause all forms of problems, so reducing it is key to a happier and healthier life. Here’s a list of things I do

  1. Exercise.
  2. Meditate
  3. Put on classical music or Lofi music
  4. Drink less caffeine.
  5. Read an article with something happy in it. I know this one is weird but changing my mood definitely helps
  6. Follow my breathe. This is more mindfulness than anything
  7. Remind myself that “This too will pass”
  8. Watch the scene in Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams and Matt Damon are at the park.
  9. Watch Good Will Hunting if I have the time lol
  10. Remind myself to look for the learning experience or the good that comes from the stressful situation. This is usually if I can’t control the stress.
  11. Call up someone to just talk to. Sometimes by Talking to someone, your stress will significantly be reduced.
  12. Go on frequent, short, walks
  13. Pushups
  14. Get plenty of sleep
  15. Cook Something or bake something
  16. Lastly, I stop thinking about the work that needs to be done, and I just do what can be done at the moment. Thinking about the work is wayyyyyyyy harder than actually doing it.

This was a pretty long list of things but I know you can find something in there that will help you. Let me know what you do to reduce stress. I would love to add more to this list.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Vacations When Doing A Doctorate

It’s the best time of the year, VACATION!!!! Actually it’s one of the two best times of the years since I take two vacations each year. This year, my family and I will be going to the beautiful Florida Keys. We mostly fish, snorkel, drink heavily, and hang around, spending quality time with each other. We leave Saturday, which is making this week extra long.

Vacations are so important for you and you may not even know it. First off, it takes you away from work that is potentially killing you O.o. Also, it gives you time to relax and get back to a state of equilibrium. Vacations allow you to visit places, get away from stress, enjoy the simple or extravagant things in life, and most importantly, it brings joy into your life.

Grad school is tough. People assume that it’s just classes and studying all of the time, but it’s actually much more than that. It’s living on a very small stipend, doing experiments at extremely odd hours, running around the lab, trying to find the pipette that an undergrad was using and didn’t put away, as well as try and function as a human being. Social lives usually suffer, overall health suffers (especially mental health), and things become overwhelming. It’s tough to see people you graduated undergrad with go off and start their careers, making a ton of money, and you are left here, doing mentally taxing things, not believing that you will be successful too. It’s hard and that’s why vacations are so important.

Getting away from the hustle and bustle of lab work and school allows your brain to take a break. You will come back with more motivation, clarity, as well as possibly a tan. From my experience and about 99.99% of people I know, taking time off has given them the motivation and strive to accomplish tasks that take them weeks usually, in maybe a few days. You just feel overall better about life.

Also, your adviser will probably push for you to take a break to prevent “burn out”. Every grad student will get burnt out at one point. This is a great opportunity to just leave for a week and come back refreshed. In a doctoral program, burn out is a real thing that can lead to mental illness. No wonder 50% of PhD students do not finish, it’s insane.

Please, Please, Please just go on vacation or even just take time off for yourself. Go to a movie each day for a week, go see a friend that lives in a different town/state/country, or just chill in bed, playing video games for a week. There is more to life than work. Vacations show you just that.

Let me know where you are going for your vacation and what you are doing? That may help me choose my next trip :p. Thanks for reading my blog. I love all of you.

How I Deal With Financial Stress in Grad School

So you want to go to grad school or you are already there. That’s amazing and I hope that you have an amazing journey! If you are in grad school currently, you know what being poor and overworked is like. If you are preparing for grad school, be prepared.

Money is quite tight for me currently, mostly because I was forced to move into a new place that is way more expensive than what I currently am in. Since everyone is coming back in person to school, they are filling up all of the cheaper places that allow pets, so I was stuck with the more expensive option.

I have always been fairly good with money. I have enough saved up to be able to afford my new place with some modifications of course. I’ll share a list of things I am doing to save money as well as not have the financial stress and anxiety that comes with grad school finances.

  1. I am shopping at Walmart now. I used to shop at Publix but they are quite expensive. You can get the same food at a cheaper price from Walmart, so I shop there now.
  2. I do not go to Starbucks or buy coffee from anywhere. I make my own coffee, see my coffee blog. People spend as much on a cup of coffee as I do on a whole bag of coffee grounds. They do have good coffee though.
  3. I gave up spending money on vending machine food. This is self explanatory.
  4. I walk to my office, or take a bus. You will most likely be paying for a form of transportation to and from school. Take full advantage of that because gas is getting expensive.
  5. I DON’T BUY THINGS ON AMAZON THAT I DON’T NEED. This has taken so much strength to do but I think I am finally free from the Amazon addiction. I was buying everything on there and would have a package almost every other day. This led to more anxiety surprisingly. I quit buying things and I have saved a ton of money and my anxiety is not as bad.
  6. Cook your own food. I think cooking is one of the coolest things you can learn. Creating dishes that are healthy, delicious, and good looking is quite a talent. In fact, I was on a competition team that won third place in 2011. I love to cook and I have saved so much money by cooking at home. You may spend like $8 at chipotle when you can literally make the same meal for like $3 at home.
  7. I don’t drink alcohol as much. I still go to bars with friends but I order soda or iced tea. This reduces my spending significantly and doesn’t make me want to go out and get pizza afterwards and spend even more money lol. Plus, alcohol is one of my anxiety triggers, so staying clear of it is beneficial for me.
  8. I build my own stuff. This one is a hit or miss because prices for wood and other materials are going to outer space. I also found out that something I made was about half the price online than I spend on supplies. But, I am sure there’s stuff around the house you can use to build something you need. I use old rugs to make scratching posts for my cat. I also wood carve and make figurines that are cool so I don’t jump online to buy things to make my room look fancier.

These are the things I do on a regular basis to reduce my spending because grad school is expensive. Life is expensive. I hope you consider trying some of this stuff out as well as adding some trick of your own in the comment section. I love learning clever ways of saving money. Thank you for reading my blog!

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

How the Heck Do You Make Friends in Grad School, or, Well, in General?

“How the heck does everyone around me have a million friends?” I see it all of the time in school. Literally pods of students all together, seemingly having a great time with their friends. In undergrad, I wanted that so much. In grad school, I just want to be able to talk with a few people, not a whole group. But how are these people making so many friends? That I cannot answer, but I can give tips on how to make really great friends, something I will cherish way more than having a bunch of people that you aren’t that close with.

It has taken me about three years to establish a really good friends group. It mostly consists of max five people, but they are all people that I genuinely like and know on a deeper level. Grad school can be extremely tough to make friends. If you are a PhD candidate, like me, it can me almost impossible since you will spend a great amount of time alone. But with a little persistence and some courage, I guarantee that you will find friends.

  1. Join a club or sports league

Clubs are super easy to join and frankly you don’t have to put that much effort into it. If you join a club that really falls in line with your interest, you will find friends. People just like you, with similar interests will be there and you’ll get to know each one of them pretty well. sports leagues/intermural leagues are also a great way to make friends. I am currently on a kickball team with people that are my age, drinking, and having fun. We go to get drinks after games each week and they have even invited me to parties.

2. Get a part-time job

This is a bit tricky in grad school because your adviser may say it breaches contract or you may not graduate on time. Luckily for me, my adviser doesn’t care unless it’s between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm. As I have stated, I am a personal trainer so my hours of work are later. Jobs are great because you will spend a ton of time with people, mostly students in a college town, but also some older people too. Some of my closest friends that I have are from a job I had in undergrad.

3. Meetup.com

I don’t have a lot of experience using this but I know people that swear by it. This one takes a bit of courage because you may be meeting a ton of people for the first time and that can cause a great amount of anxiety. Heck, my anxiety is the reason I don’t use this. Meetup does a great job of bringing people with similar interests together, and honestly, that’s what you want in friends.

4. Blog

Blogging can introduce you to so many people in the world. I have just started but I can definitely see how I can make a ton of friends with what I am doing. The interactions that I have with people are just truly amazing and I think this is a fantastic way to make friends.

5. Having a roommate

This one may require some luck if you have roommate matching. If not, and you can pick your roommate, then this is way easier to make a friend. I have friends all over the world that used to live with me that I call friends. By being forced to live with someone, you see how they actually are, all the time. You develop a deeper relationship with the person and that can be a good or bad thing lol. I have had some amazing roommates that are close friends. But be warned…friends might not always make good roommates!!!

Anyway, this was a short list of ways that I have been successful at making friends. It’s hard, but with a bit of work and luck, you can have amazing relationships with people. Let me know how you make friends or if you want too be my friend!

5 Stadium Exercises That You Need to Do

I haven’t written about fitness in a few days, so I wanted to write something to help motivate you to do stadium workouts. I currently do a stadium workout twice a week, personal training two people at the same time. We went yesterday and definitely put in a ton of effort. So, I wanted to share the exercises that I think would benefit you and make you much better at running stadiums/working out there.

  1. Stadium Mountains

This is what I call running/jogging/walking/crawling up all of the stairs to the top of the stadiums. Our stadium has like 180 steps or something crazy like that, so you definitely feel it going up. Be careful coming down, though. Your legs will be wobbly.

2. Stadium Mountains with added weights.

So I bought a sandbag during the pandemic when we were all working for home. This was perfect to use yesterday to go up and down the stadiums with added weight. I bought this one https://amzn.to/3hxEOk6. You can also get a weighted vest or just carry a backpack with books in it. Just make sure that there is additional weight and I guarantee it will be a hard, yet satisfying exercise.

3. Leg raises on the stadium bleachers

leg raises are amazing to target lower abs, which can be a pain to work out. The bleachers are perfect to do leg raises because you can comfortably fit on them laying down and they add some instability to work out those stabilizer muscles. I see people doing these all of the time and it shows. I would suggest bringing a yoga mat since the bleachers could be a little uncomfortable at times.

4. Sprints

Sprints are amazing because you can do them anywhere, on a football field, up ramps, through traffic, through a busy marketplace after you just stole a diamond necklace, really anywhere. I love sprinting up ramps particularly. You really work up a sweat and burn a ton of calories. Also, your legs will become so muscular and defined which is always a plus. I try and incorporate sprint each session when I go. I have seen a significant improvement in my stamina as well as strength. Give it a try.

5. Lunges up the steps

This is a killer. My legs are always so tired after lunges and man do they hurt the next day, but they are so worth the pain. Lunges are such an alpha exercise, working your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. These are really good to do as a burnout at the end of your workout mostly because it will take all of your energy to do them lol.

I hope you try stadiums at least once in your life. The gym can get pretty crowded and most of the workout I shared will target the same muscles that weight lifting targets. You don’t even need to be an expert to just run around a stadium and do these exercise. Let me know if you do stadiums and what exercises you incorporate into your workout. I may just incorporate those into mine :). Peace all.

How I Deal With FAILURE!!!

I want to start off this blog telling you that I do not believe that there is such thing as failure when you have tried to do something. True failure comes from not even trying in the first place due to fear of not getting the result you want. People that tell you that they failed an exam, failed a marriage, failed really anything are not actually failing. Ok sorry to be redundant with all of the “failures” lol.

So why did I name this blog “How I Deal With Failure”? It’s because most people would rather see that than something like “How I deal With Finding Out a Different Way of Doing Something Because the Results Did Not Turn Out the Way I Planned”. It’s a mouth full isn’t it?

So let me tell you how I go about dealing with a situation that I was not expecting, or one that I did not like. I simply learn something from it. I have gone through a ton of therapy and have listened to a ridiculous amount of Buddhist talks to change my way of looking at “failures”. They are all learning experiences which means that they aren’t failures at all. Sure, you may have failed an exam, but you learned that the method of studying that you did wasn’t right. Sure, your marriage didn’t go as planned, but you learned that you were not in the right relationship. Sure, I failed an experiment and managed to spill leaded water all over the place, probably causing me to ingest the same concentrations of lead that were found in Flint, Michigan’s water, but I learned that I need to be more careful when it comes to things like that.

The only true failure is when you just don’t try. I tell people all of the time to just try and do something even though they “know for a fact that it will go bad”. The future is completely uncertain and you never know what will happen. I see how my thoughts stop me from even trying something, but I will force myself to do it, and then it turns out it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

By changing your mindset, and I believe this is a major part of cognitive behavioral therapy, you will see that failures do not exist. You you happen to screw up pretty badly, learn at least one thing from it. If you embarrass yourself and call that a failure, laugh about it and make it into a funny memory. Life is way too short to not take risks and worry about failure. I am learning a great deal about not being afraid to fail in grad school. I have been told “no” so many times and I have messed up more times than not, and you know what? I learn something each time and I continue on. I grow from these experiences and you will too. It’s a long process, but my God, it is life changing.

Why Everyone Needs Therapy

As you may have guessed, I suffer from a few different mental issues that are only worsened by my graduate studies. I have learned to cope with these feeling and have completely accepted that they are a part of who I am. I have come to peace with my anxiety and depression and have learned to live and THRIVE, mostly because I went to see a therapist. Let me stat off by saying that, yes.!!!, even you can benefit from therapy. You do not need to have anxious thoughts, or depression, or any mental illness whatsoever to benefit from seeing a therapist. Therapy is for everyone to help find methods to handle the struggles in life. There may be some crazy issues that you may face in the future, and therapy prepares you for those battles.

Luckily, my insurance covers the cost of using the app Talkspace or Online-Therapy. I was so nervous to see a therapist because I truly thought something was desperately wrong with me and therapy couldn’t help out. Boy was I wrong. My therapist was a professional in the field of anxiety as well as, I believe, family therapy. She had been a therapist for like 30 years, so she has dealt with everything. It did take me a few weeks to feel confident enough to truly open up to her.

About 3 months ago, she told me that she only needed to see me once a month because I was a totally different person than when I started. Being told that made me feel 1000 times happier than being accepted into a doctorate program. I have been able to cope with my emotions and feelings ever since. It truly is an amazing feeling.

Everyone should at least see a therapist once in their life. It is a scary thing to go see someone and truly open up to them but I can assure you that it is worth it. Talkspace was a good start and they were relatively cheap. Therapy is a great way of helping you get through every day struggles that you may have, or it might just be the boost and support to allow you to start that new chapter in your life. It allows you to address your fears and emotions and find ways to live with those things as well as use them as tools to progress in life.

Covid has led to a ton of people seeking therapy and that is amazing. People are understanding that something is wrong and want to correct that before it controls their lives. Isolation and loneliness were two big topics brought up by my therapist during the early stages of the pandemic. This really affected people and still does. You should never feel alone. You can be alone but should not feel lonely.

I hope the people that are on the fence about therapy go and see one. It truly was one of the best decisions of my life. In fact, this blog that I have created would not have been started without the help of my therapist. I hope you have an amazing day and I hope this blog was inciteful. Let me know if you go to therapy or someone you know does and how they feel about it.