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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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)
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  • 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
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  • 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Image preview

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.

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.

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.

A Story to Help: Perfectionism

I wanted to share with everyone a story by the world famous, Ajahn Brahm. It has helped significantly because it changed my perception of many of the thoughts I have on a daily basis. I, like many grad students, suffer from perfectionism. This has caused me to not finish projects on time, get rejected from things, and has caused more anxiety in my life than pretty much anything else. I do still strive for the best quality but sometimes I just say it’s good and move on.

So monks tend to build their own monasteries because it is super expensive to get a contractor, and monks don’t have money. Anyway, a Buddhist monk was laying brick to build a wall. He had to learn how to lay brick since it’s really not as easy as the YouTube videos make it seem. After a very long time, the monk was finished. He stepped back to admire his work when he noticed two bricks that were a little out of place. He was furious, enough to go to the abbot and ask for him to knock down the wall so he could rebuild it. That was not going to happen, he had to live with the bricks. Every day the monk walked by that wall, and every day he suffered from having to look at those bricks. The monk didn’t even want people to look at it since he was so ashamed. Until one day, a man was visiting the monastery and was looking at the wall. The monk approached the man who was just entranced by the wall. The man told the monk how beautiful the wall was and how much he admired it. The monk was confused and told the man it wasn’t perfect and there were two very bad bricks. The man looked back at the monk as said “Yes, there are two bad bricks, but I see the 998 good bricks too”.

Sometimes we get so caught up in seeing the “imperfections” in life that we forget that there is so much perfection around as well. This story really made me think about how I get so much anxiety from things I don’t think are perfect that I forget that I do so many good things alongside those not-so-perfect tasks or items. Making mistakes is life and you are human. Plus, those imperfections are not imperfections at all. They are “features” and those features are what make us individuals and beautiful. The next time you doubt yourself or put yourself down for not being “good enough”, look for the 998 good features that you have. I guarantee that you will have a less anxious time and definitely more happiness in your life.

How Adopting a Pet Has Affected My Mental Health

I woke up this morning at 4 am. to the sound of my cat, Sirius, meowing because he was scared and probably pretty hungry. We are currently experiencing a tropical storm and he does not like the noise of the wind. I gave him some food then tried getting back to sleep. I have a pretty hard time getting back to sleep when I wake up because I get anxiety in the morning. So I meditate which usually puts me right to sleep (lol). This routine has been going on for about a year and a half since I adopted him. He wakes me up at ungodly hours and I comply. I love every minute of it. I wish he would sleep through the night, which he does when it’s cold outside, but I can’t win every time.

I remember the day I adopted Sirius. My roommate at the time liked to foster cats and we had gone through quite a few. We were currently fostering Sirius and his brother Regulus. I loved both cats and honestly wanted to adopt both but knew that having two cats was quite a handful. Regulus was adopted first and then we had Sirius with us for a few more weeks until I went to pick him up from an adoption clinic and saw how unhappy he was in a cage. I got him right away and he’s been my best friend ever since.

Having a cat at first caused me so much anxiety. In fact, I had a serious panic attack that very night after getting him. I am a “what if” thinker. I thought of all the “what if’s” that could be thought and it really affected my mental state. Turns out, getting that cat was the best thing I had done for my mental health. Sirius gives me a reason to wake up in the morning. I have to take care of him which helps me take care of myself. Having the responsibility of a pet really gives you a sense of satisfaction as well. Now I am not saying to go and get a pet if you are suffering from depression or anxiety. I am saying that it has helped me significantly. Honestly, even getting a house plant to take care of will help as well. Just know that animals are amazing creatures. Sirius even picks up on when I am sad or not feeling well and he will come over and just lay with me. One weird thing that I noticed, and paid for, was him getting really stressed out when I was super stressed out from an altercation with a roommate. This led to him suffering from feline idiopathic cystitis. That was awful and luckily that is over with.

Having a cat has helped tremendously with my anxiety and has even helped to reduce it. I truly believe I am a better person because of him. It also helps that he’s an awesome cat and everyone loves him too.

**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.

What to Do When Everything Goes Wrong: Grad School

You will have some pretty bad days in grad school. Experiments will go wrong, you failed an exam, you forgot to pack a lunch, you get the point. I have had my fair share of extremely bad days, where everything seemed to just go wrong, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Lately, I have experienced quite a few failed experiments (I blame the ghost), pretty bad anxiety, and having my cat go in for an emergency vet visit. There’s a long list of things that go bad in my life but I am not here to rant. I am here to help you overcome these hurdles and thrive!!! I will not lie, this post is quite a difficult one but I will try my best. Just know that everyone deals with things a little bit differently, so what works for me, may not work for you. This is the beauty of trial and error. Also, this is why I love to know how people deal with these problems so I can add to the list of coping methods. Anyway, let us get started.

  1. Acknowledge that you are having moments of hardship and tell yourself “This too shall pass.”

I love the phrase “This too shall pass” because it not only tells you that the hardship will end but that good times will end as well. I know that sounds bad but you can turn it into something good. In the tough times, it will give you hope. You have survived every hardship in your life and you will get through this. When you have good times, let yourself know that it will pass as well. You will learn to cherish the good times way more and prepare yourself for bad times. Soon you will notice that the good times last a whole lot longer and the bad moments tend to subside much quicker.

2. Remind yourself that this is part of life and you can learn something from it.

“Smooth seas don’t make skilled sailors”. You will have tough moments but look for the learning experience, look for the good in every situation. Every moment is a learning experience and will help you grow. You are a student, remember. Learning is practically your job and this is no different. Find something that you can learn about in your situation and grow from it. This lesson has helped me to reduce my mistakes significantly.

3. “Look for the Honey”

There is a Buddhist story about a man being chased by a tiger and falls off a cliff. https://medium.com/age-of-awareness/the-tiger-and-the-strawberry-b73de1dccf19. I have a different version that was shared with me and I will share with you now. A man was walking through the forest, when all of a sudden, a tiger jumps out and starts chasing the man. The man (obviously and Olympic runner lol) starts running as fast as he can through the forest until he gets to a cliff. The man sees a vine of the side of the cliff and grabs hold of it, hanging off. He looks down and sees a huge King Cobra below him, and above him, he sees the very hungry tiger. The man, knowing he’s going to die, starts looking for a possible way out, but can’t seem to find one. All of a sudden, he sees two mice come out from a hole in the side of the cliff and start to eat away at the vine. OH NO!!!!!! The man is in a really bad situation. He looks up at the tiger and then notices that the tiger is scraping a tree, which the vine is connected to. In that tree, there was a beehive right above the man with honey flowing out every time the tiger scraped the tree. The man, not knowing what else to do, put out his tongue and caught a bit of honey that fell and it was the best tasting honey that he ever had. The end.

“But Ben, what happens next? Did the man survive? I have so many questions!!!!” I will answer all of those questions in a bit but I want to share something first. The man was in such a tough spot but he looked for something good, even when he was close to death. In situations where you are (figuratively) the man, look for the honey. Find good in everything. You are in grad school and things will get tough but know that there is always something good in every situation.

Ok, so the tiger was reaching over really far and lost his grip, falling down right on the king cobra, killing them both. On the way down, the tiger hit the vine, causing the mice to fall as well but they survived because I want some happy ending for the little woodland creatures. The man climbed up and went home to his family. He survived.

This brings up my last point I want to make in this blog. The future is uncertain. Sometimes we get caught up thinking that the bad times will continue, when really, we have no clue what will happen next. Bad situations can lead to surprising outcomes that you would not have thought were possible. When things go wrong, especially in grad school, reassure yourself that this may lead to something you weren’t expecting, something possibly life changing, and man that’s exciting. To quote the greatest character, from the greatest movie ever “You will have bad time, but these will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to”-Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting

Have a great 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.

My Favorite Things on Days I Feel Sad

Sadness comes and goes throughout life. Somedays you wake up and are just sad for no reason. Other times, something just happens to put you in a bad mood. Lately, I’ve been feeling a little down and I think it is because of how rainy it has been in Florida. I love the rain but honestly haven’t seen the sun in about 2 weeks. I am going to keep this blog post a bit shorter today and just list off about 11 things I do to get over the “slumps”. So here is a list of things I do when I feel sad. Here we go!

  1. Sit Outside with a cup of coffee and read about coffee. I like to sip on French Vanilla or Hazelnut
  2. Go on a walk
  3. Just run around
  4. Watch Harry Potter (for the 10000000000th time)
  5. Next, Watch a Disney movie……after Harry Potter of course
  6. Bake a dessert
  7. Call up a relative or friend to talk
  8. Go on the internet and blog for people
  9. Read all of the amazing comments that people have for said blogs
  10. Count all of my blessing and really be grateful for what I have
  11. Talk to my Therapist.
  12. Find ways to motivate myself. I have been trying Ineedmotivation.com

Bonus: Play with 2 very cute puppies that refuse to fall asleep (What I am currently doing)

There are probably a million other things that help to bring me out of a sad mood but these puppies are just so darn cute and I can’t think of anything else. What do you guys do when you are sad? Let me know in the comments.

**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.

Let’s Talk about Anxiety Triggers

Grad school can be one of the best few years of your life. It can also be one of the worst times. For me, I can definitely tell you that I have had a wonderful time because I have learned to accept the good and bad moments. It took me a great while to be OK with hearing the word “no” all of the time, or having terrible days in the lab (I blame those days on the ghost that haunts it). Before therapy, I would have panic attacks almost weekly. They weren’t as severe as the very first one that I had but very close. My heart races, I get sweaty and shaky, and my thoughts get out of control. I brought this up to my therapist and she assured me that I am not alone and that I did a great job at describing what a panic attack actually was. Learning this made me think that something was wrong with me but she also let me know that there are millions of people who have this and are coping with it just fine. That was slightly comforting but alarming as well since I wouldn’t wish this upon anyone.

The next plan of action was to determine what set these states of panic off and if there was an underlying cause for my anxiety. Turns out, I had many. First of all, I am a worrier. I have been told my whole life that I worry too much and think of all of the bad things that can happen in my life. That was trigger #1. Whenever something happened, I would think of the worst possible outcome and that would lead to sooooooo much anxiety. It was something I needed to work on. My therapist suggested that I use my hand to help out. If you are unfamiliar with this practice, it entails you holding up your hand and assign different scenarios to each finger. For me, I think of the best possible outcome in a situation and assign it to my pinky. The worst outcome that I can think of goes to my thumb, and combinations of good and bad outcomes go to my middle three fingers. The middle three fingers are the more likely outcomes that will occur in any given situation. Having a visual helped significantly since, well, I am a visual person. Who knew? ;P

Trigger #2 was my sense of perfectionism. There’s one thing about grad school that everyone should be taught at the beginning and that is, if it’s good enough, it’s finished. Chasing after a perfect paper, a perfect poster, or anything perfect is completely unattainable. Grad school is a training experience and perfection just takes way too much time. I was chasing that dream of having a Nobel Prize winning research proposal/manuscript. My god that does not exist. Once I learned that good enough, was good enough, I was able to relax. I still struggle with this since I do want to give my best work, but I am in the last year of my doctorate so I can’t spend too much time perfecting everything.

Trigger #3 was being alone with my thoughts. This one is by far the scariest one. The pandemic definitely did not help because I was alone even more. Grad school is extremely isolating and lonely, so there’s plenty of time to be alone in your head. This is why half of PhD students won’t graduate. The best thing I ever did was take up meditation. This has helped to calm my mind and actually train it to not pester me with obnoxious and flat out wrong ideas. When I am not able to control the thoughts and I start to have anxiety, I’ll go on a walk or go to the gym. You can’t really think of anything when you’re gasping for air from running or doing squats lol.

Let me know the things that cause you anxiety and how you cope. I am interested in how people live with anxiety. Hopefully you found this to be enlightening or just somewhat entertaining. I’ll see you all in the next blog

Peace

**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.

Mindfulness and Love throughout grad school

The part about grad school that people do not like to talk about is how isolating and lonely it is. I am particularly talking about the doctorate program. So you are supposed to do independent research, on something that few people even know about, then publish it all by yourself (with the help f your adviser as well :p). That’s a lot of pressure and work. On top of this, you do it practically in the confines of your office, alone. This is what I have been dealing with for the past year. It can become extremely lonely and very easy to slip down into a deep dark hole of depression. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love what I do, but sometimes it becomes too much. Grad school is a weird space between being a professional and being a college student. You do extremely difficult tasks, day after day, yet you get paid as much as a dish washer in a restaurant. It’s also very hard for others to relate to what you are going through, therefore adding to the isolation. 

I have a few YouTube channels that I want to share that have significantly helped with feelings of isolation. Of course I will start with the Buddhist Society of Western Australia. They are wonderful and really help to show gratitude and kindness. It is so easy to be a grumpy gills all of the time, but watching some of their talks has really changed my perspective and outlook on life. 

https://www.youtube.com/user/BuddhistSocietyWA

The next is R3ciprocity. Dr. David Maslach is amazingly helpful with any problems that you may have in graduate school. He even has an editing team to help correct errors in manuscripts, if that is something you are interested in. He oes over practically every issue that I have had and comes up with easy solutions. 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5spxk7bNDMGPSHjW_8ndZA

The last channel I want to bring up is fairly new to me. I had been seeing a therapist, weekly, for about a year when one day she said I was good to just see her once every month. I was sooooo happy because it meant that I was getting better. Therapy has been an amzaing experience and I suggest every grad student do it. Well, the next month came, and she did respond to any of my messages or calls. She left the therapy platform I was using so I was out of a therapist :(. Luckily, I found some pretty good videos with therapists that have help a ton. My favorite is Therapy in a Nutshell. The channel is run by a Emma McAdam, who is by far one of the best therapists on the platform. I highly recommend checking her channel out.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpuqYFKLkcEryEieomiAv3Q