Who Cares What They Think

Why does it always take a lifetime for the weekend to come, and then when it does, it’s gone in the blink of an eye? Seriously, someone needs to develop a mechanism to slow time so weekends last way longer than they do. This weekend came and went, but I was able to get a lot of nothing done. Just the way I like it! I was at my parent’s house because I wanted to see my relatives coming into town and hang with my brother. My brother is about to be a father so everyone was coming in for his girlfriend’s baby shower. Everything went well and I think all the attendees had a great time. Because of the “no boys allowed” policy, I took my dad and brother fishing.

Anyway, back to the post. The short weekend had a lot of down time which really got me thinking about life and such. This is a fairly new thing that has happened in the last few years. I think I am finally getting out of the stage of life where I really care what other’s thought of me and now I am focused on finding happiness with myself. So, I want to share some insight with the young grad students that I think will be helpful along your journey into a academic career.

grad students

No one cares

One of the things that kind of bothered me, but I came to terms with it was that no one cares. Well, let me rephrase that, no one cares as much as you do. You are going to put a great amount of effort into doing grad school, passing classes, losing 10 pounds from stress, stuff like that. People will not celebrate as much as you will when you accomplish things and it may hurt. They just haven’t put as much effort into it as you have and don’t know the struggles. Do not be upset if they don’t celebrate your small wins. They are currently going through their own battles. This is definitely something you will experience as a grad student.

People will tell you that you can’t do it. Don’t listen to them.

I know many people (other grad students), myself included, that get criticized for what they do. People, some very close to me, make fun of because I have a blog and spend a good amount of time trying to make it worth reading. People may not understand why you are doing something, and they may make fun of you or tell you that it isn’t worth doing. Don’t listen to them. If you are passionate about something, or just want something to do, go for it. Create a blog about spearfishing, though you’re afraid of water. Start a YouTube channel about art history, though you are an engineer. Do something that will bring some form of happiness and don’t let other’s discourage you. I see so many other grad students stopping their passions. Please don’t do this because someone didn’t understand it.

Some people will never understand

Some people will never understand why you study European history from 1867-1868. They will never understand why you love researching squirrels in Ethiopia (if there are any) or why you wrote a whole research paper on the solubility of lead in drinking water. Who the heck cares what they think! If you love what you do, that is all the really matters at the end of the day. Some people go their whole lives taking into consideration what other people think about what they do. That is not what living is about. Find what you love and do that.

Final Thought

I really like to blog. I love how there are a whole bunch of people, all over the world, that read what I write. Heck, some people even message me and tell me what to write about next or to tell me that they love my content. This is why I do this. I want to make a small contribution to the world. Do I care about the people telling me that “this is a phase” and “you need to focus on something else. Blogging get’s you nowhere”? No, I do not. I laugh, say thanks for your input and I continue on with my blogging. I hope you can just say “thank you” and continue your passions. It is how you will find happiness. I hope you all have an amazing day doing what you love. I know I will.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. OnlineTherapy.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.

Fall Evenings

So as most of you know, I am completely obsessed with my scooter. It’s a great gift for grad students ;). I really don’t know how I went this whole time without one. I mean, I had a bike, but there are some limitations with bikes that scooters can bypass. Last night I went to Depot Park, here in Gainesville. Actually, I ended up in Depot Park after doing some exploration around my neighborhood. Sunset is around 5:45 pm here and I left my apartment at 5:20, so I really didn’t have too much time to explore, but I made the best of the time I did have. I just wanted to share some pics with you guys of the sky and park from last night.

Picture Time: Fall Evenings

Fall evenings
Fall Evening
Fall Evenings

It was beautiful out. A bit chilly, but that’s to be expected this time of year. The coloration of the sky was crazy. There was blue, pink, red, orange, and some crazy colors that i can’t even describe. It was quite an experience and new that my readers would enjoy it just as much as I have.

Something like this is why I encourage people that are struggling in grad school to go on walks and get out in nature. Grad school can confine you to this really weird corner of the world where you forget that there is an “outside”. It is so easy to get caught up in work and forget that you are on this earth to live, not work. Enjoy the small things, the “free” things. Going arounf my neighborhood last night was such a treat and extremely peaceful. I was also surprised at the many places around me, mostly food places, that I didn’t know existed. I think I’ll hit up those places soon for some food.

Go Outside

It is highly suggested that you just get outside for at least 30 minutes a day. The evenings are a great time, especially during the fall, to get out and just…be. Go for a walk and listen to your favorite music or audiobook. Heck, sometimes just listening to the natural sounds is all you need. Sometimes getting away from the “artificial sound” is good for you. Just try your best to stay away from busy work. Your life and happiness is way more important.

I hope you guys have an amazing day. I will be in the lab for a very long time today, but I will make sure to leave, eventually lol.

Grad School Experiences

I want you to be prepared for everything that you may experience when you go off to school. This includes what you will experience as an undergrad, but mostly as a grad student. I want to share with all of you the many different things that I have experienced that you will most likely experience in your grad school studies. These are all both good and some not so good. Grad school is not always about having a bad time lol. It is also a great experience too. Here are a few of the things that stand out.

Photo of Woman Writing on Tablet Computer While Using Laptop

1) You will experience imposter syndrome

This was one of the very first things that I experienced when I started my grad school program. It is the feeling that you are not good enough or belong. You can also intensify these thoughts and feelings by comparing yourself to others. Some people will come from really great schools and that will cause you to feel inferior. You are not! You definitely belong and it is normal to feel like a small fish in this huge pond full of very, very large fish. You will grow and eventually be that person people are intimidated by.

2)You’ll be poor but that’s alright

Being poor is part of the process. You aren’t in grad school for the salary. You are here to learn very important skills. I think being poor is one of the best things that has happened to me because I appreciate what I have more than ever. I get the basics and don’t chase after money constantly. I find happiness in what is free and not materialistic things. The money will come, but the skills you learn on how to manage money and live frugally are priceless.

3) You may not make friends right away, but you will

Grad school may be a bit harder to make friends because you might be isolated from people for a very long time. Do not give up hope though. Eventually you will make friends, and lasting friendships too. At first, you may have to just do things alone, but you will not be alone for long. I wrote a whole blog on making friends in grad school. Check it out here.

4) You will have to say goodbye often

Grad school is a time where you will see a ton of people come and go. You will say goodbye more times than you like, especially if you are a doctorate student. I see master’s students come and go all the time. It doesn’t mean I don’t befriend them. I just know that one day I will say goodbye, possibly for the final time. Keeping in touch with everyone is hard too. Just be happy that they were part of your life, even for a split second. Everyone, no matter who they are, shape you into the person you are today. Be happy you were able to spend time with them.

5) You will fail. Then, you will succeed

Failure is inevitable. You will fail more times than you succeed, but you will eventually succeed. The difference between you and everyone else is that you don’t give up. You keep going even when it gets hard. That, in itself, is success. Grad school has not been kind to me or my colleagues, but we keep going. Honestly, that’s what makes this experience so amazing.

I have experienced many ups and downs in my 4+ years of grad school. I have seen many people come and go and had to deal with failure upon failure. Grad school is shaping me slowly into the person that I will become and it’s exciting to see that happening. You will experience all of these things in grad school too, if you go lol. Embrace these things and learn from them. Become a better researcher and person because of them. It’s the only thing you can do. If this blog made you sad, I suggest checking out my blog on things that I do on days I feel sad (link here). It will help.

**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 Be Happy in Grad School

This is it everyone. I finally found the secret to happiness in grad school. The secret is….don’t go to grad school ;P. I am just kidding of course. Grad school has all types of happiness that can be found. You just have to know where to look.

Grad school can be an extremely rough time for an individual. It usually occurs during a very interesting transition in your life. The transition from being a dependent to someone who is independent. You may think this is 18, but trust me, the kids these days aren’t independent until they graduate undergrad…if that even.

Why this blog?

I was watching Hector and the search for happiness last night, and it made me think about what makes me happy. Am I happy? What even is happiness? There were so many questions that I thought about and I sort of figure some stuff out. Of course, these are things that make me happy and make others happy. I think the movie did a good job of answering some questions on happiness, but it missed out on others that might be essential for grad school.

I love when people say that they just want happiness in their lives. Yes! we all do, but that is not how things work and I think this mind set is one reason why people can become so unhappy. People want so hard to experience happiness that any minor unhappiness discourages them. Happiness can come from literally every situation but you need to be open and willing to see the happiness there. I write about this quite often. There is usually something good that comes form every outcome, but people tend to focus on the negative instead of the positive. This is why grad school can make individuals feel so unhappy.

How to be Happy in Grad School

happiness in grad school

So how do we become happy in grad school? The key here is to understand that happiness is not a destination, it’s a travel guide on your journey to where you are going in life. If you are severely unhappy in a job, you go to the next. If you are unhappy in a relationship, you leave and start one until there is more happiness than before. In grad school, happiness can be a bit sparse. You may experience moments of hardship that lead you to some very dark places. Talking with other grad student, this seems to be the overwhelming consensus. But the happiness is still there.

The happiness comes when you look for the good in all that you do. You may have failed an experiment for the 100th time, but you may have learned how to master a technique during that same period. If you focus on the good that came from the bad, that is when you find happiness. That little bit of happiness helps to motivate you as well. So, instead of giving up, you find reason to try that experiment one more time.

If you find happiness in grad school, this may lead you in the direction of academia as a profession. For me, I am teetering on this idea of becoming a professor instead of going into industry. Research, finding out the unknown, playing with chemicals all excite me and they bring me a ton of joy. Yes, I have failed experiments so much that I have contemplated breaking all of my equipment just to be done with it.

But, I looked at those failures in a different way. I figured that maybe the data that I was getting, though it wasn’t what we were expecting, was actually significant. Maybe what I thought was a failure wasn’t actually one at all. This brought a great amount of happiness because I thought that maybe I had stumbled upon some amazing scientific theory that will change the world of water chemistry. Turns out, I was contaminating my samples, but hey, that still brought happiness because I solved a problem lol.

Some things that I focus on to get the most happiness from Grad School

What are some things that you place above all others to make you happy or to bring some happiness in your life? For me, there are a list of things that I value above all others that I think contribute to happiness that I find everyday. Here are a list of those things. See if they match up with what bring you happiness.

Man Standing Beside His Wife Teaching Their Child How to Ride Bicycle happiness in grad school

1) My family, friends, and relationships with others.

You will go through life and have very hard times. Some of the hardest moments in my life so far have been made better by the love and support I had from my family, friends, and others. I have gotten out of some dark places because of others and that’s why this is top of my list. I find happiness from the time spent creating these relationships with these individuals. Of course there will be some hardships here too, but those lead to wonderous moments of love and happiness later. BUild relationships with others and your happiness will increase exponentially.

Yellow and White Alarm Clock happiness in grad school

2) Understanding that everything in life is temporary.

This is kind of a sad realization but quite an important one. All hardships that you have had are temporary. Every moment is temporary and every feeling is temporary. You will have sadness but that will fade as time goes on. It’s important to know that, because things are temporary, you must try and enjoy or at least gain something from those moments. People will come and go in your life. Some may stay, but they won’t always be there for you so it is essential that you focus on enjoying the time you have with them. You will find quite a bit of happiness this way.

Silhouette Photo of Woman Against during Golden Hour happiness in grad school

3) Focusing on the “free” stuff

This is a money section. Money can buy some happiness. Of course it can, it got me a scooter and it can buy McDonalds lol. But the free things in life are what truly bring joy. For me, walking in the morning and watching the animals brings me so much happiness and one other thing, peace. Being able to spend time with my friends and just talk about life brings me happiness, and it costs $0. Meditation has brought on so much happiness and peace and it was freeeeeee. We tend to think that the best things in life come with money but in fact they are the free things we take advantage of each day. I try and focus on all that is free to me and really appreciate those things.

Person in Yellow Hoodie Standing on Seashore

4) Being Myself

In undergrad, I used to work out 6 to 7 days a week, sometimes twice a day. All through high school, under senior year, I was chubby. I wasn’t necessarily fat, but I was not happy with how I was. So, in undergrad, I worked out and ate right so I could get lean and get girls. That was pretty much a huge focus. I cared so much what people thought about me that I started to change my character to fit the crowd I was in.

Unfortunately, I would be a totally different person around others just so they would like me. I was never myself because I was so concerned about what others thought about me and not about how I felt about me. You can see that this can bring a ton of unhappiness. I see this way too often in grad students. They try so hard to please others and change for others that they forget to be happy with who they are.

I realized later that, yes being myself may lead to fewer friends, but the friends I did get are ones that will be there with me for the rest of my life. I chose quality over quantity and man did that really help.

happiness in grad school

5) Not comparing myself to others

This is a new thing that I had to learn in grad school to stay sane. Anyone who has been in school knows of that individual who just has everything going for them. They are good looking, rich, smart, popular, everything good happens, etc. It’s annoying but that’s life. Have you ever compared your life to those people’s? I know I sure have and that made me feel like crap. First off, comparing your life to anyone else’s is going to cause problems. You are only speculating based on what you have seen so that’s pretty shallow. You don’t know what kind of life that person has or how hard they work to be where they are. Stop comparing and start doing stuff to benefit yourself.

Grad school is definitively all about comparing yourself. You will have people that work constantly and you see yourself not working as much. Boom! you start comparing your work habits to theirs. You see a person that just published their third manuscript and you haven’t even written one. Boom! you think you are doomed to fail in this. Comparing yourself to others accomplishments leads to torment. Focus on yourself and what you accomplish. Say congrats to others and then get back to work to obtain your goals. Also, stay off social media because that’s just one big pool of comparing yourself to others.

happiness in grad school

6) Finding the honey

I wrote a blog at the very beginning of my blogging journey where I talked about a monk being chased by a tiger. It’s a great story and I suggest you read about it here. Pretty much, the story is about finding the good in every situation. SO the monk found the “honey” in a very bad situation involving a snake, some mice, and a hungry tiger. This is what brings be true happiness, finding the good in bad situations.

Have you ever had a person talk to you and just complain about how hard their day is. They had to write emails, talk to Janice down the hall about her expense report, eat a lunch that wasn’t that good, etc. They make it seem like every situation that they have is the equivalent of getting their teeth pulled. See, don’t be like them because this individual only looks at the negative things in every situation and not the positive ones such as having a job, being able to eat, and literally just being alive. If you find the “honey” in bad situations, they stop being so bad. I guess a good way to say this is to look on the bright side of life.

I hope you find it

Remember that happiness is not a destination. You may get to a happy point in life but it is far from being the end. There will always be good and bad days, but the bad days will really make you appreciate the good days even more. This will bring about more happiness. I hope you find happiness in your grad school experience. It can be quite difficult but it is attainable. Some days will be hard to see happiness and other days will only be joyous. Enjoy the ride, you only get to go on it once.

**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.

End of Semester STRESS!

stress

Hurray, you have made it to the end of the semester, or well pretty darn close to the end of the semester. If you aren’t stressed to the max then you either have everything together or maybe this is an easier semester. Most of you will have projects, papers, presentations, and exams. This can be a pretty stressful time, indeed.

On top of that, you have Thanksgiving, which will probably make you not want to work at all afterwards. The odds are against you lol. This can be quite stressful, but you’ve done this many times before. Honestly, by the time you get to graduation, you will be so numb to end of the semester stress that it doesn’t even faze you. Until then, there are a few things you can do to reduce this stress.

1) Get plenty of sleep.

Good quality sleep is essential to finishing the semester strong. Honestly, sleep deprivation is causing you to limit the capabilities of finishing strong, so it’s essential to get plenty of rest.

2) Limit the caffeine.

The last thing you want is sleep deprivation and a full out panic attack. Sure a cup or two of coffee is fine, but try to keep it just to that. Any more and you will feel anxious and probably won’t sleep or get work done. Maybe get some decaf coffee. Here’s some to get.

3) Meditate for at least 10 minutes a day.

The great Buddhist monk, Ajahn Brahm, used to spend the time between finals to meditate. He said that meditation helped to clear his mind and actually helped him significantly to remember information for exams. He went on to get a doctorate in theoretical physics, so I think he knew what he was doing. Here’s an article on how to meditate.

4) Take breaks and go outside

Study breaks are essential. Starring at a computer screen is terrible for your eye sight and you need moments to let your brain relax. Finals definitely take up quite a bit of time so exercising time gets taken up by studying. By just taking a brief walk, you can get some form of exercise in which will help keep you energized to finish strong.

5) Drink more water

This is good because you’ll spend so much time going to the bathroom that you won’t have the detrimental effects of studying for hours on end lol. Also, dehydration causes you to get tired easily and water will help keep you awake.

6) Don’t aim for perfection

Perfection does not exist. Aim to get it done. People stress so much on grades that they don’t actually focus on the learning aspect. Yes, passing classes is fine but understanding the materials that you just learned is way more essential, especially in grad school. As long as you keep a 3.0 gpa, which is pretty easy, you will be fine.

7) Make sure to ask yourself if everything is fine.

Check in with yourself. Do you feel sad, happy, depressed, relaxed? Make sure your mental health is of top priority during this stressful time. Trust me, I have suffered for many years because I did not prioritize my mental health. I don’t want anyone experiencing what I went through.

Good luck on all of your final projects, papers, and exams. The end of semesters in grad school can be just as crazy as in undergrad, so staying on top of things is a must. After finals, make sure to rest and recover. Go on a trip or play your favorite video game. Enjoy the time off before you have to do it all over again in the spring.

**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

Driving Home for the Holidays

driving home for the holidays

Many of you will have to make a very, very long trip home to see family during the holidays. You have probably been away for a couple of months and are probably really looking forward to seeing your family. Luckily for me, I don’t have to travel far, but many of you may have to make a very long car trip home. This can even be made worse by bringing your pets too. I know for a fact that Sirius does not like car rides and he makes it known. He’s getting better but it does still stress him out.

If you have to make a very long car ride back for the holidays, I have a few suggestions to make it more exciting and possibly fun. Let us get started with my favorite thing, a LIST!!!!! WOO.

1) Listen to a podcast or audio book that you’ve never listened to before.

I like to listen to audio books that are classics such as The Hobbit or Harry Potter. Unfrotunatel, I know for a fact that I won’t read these books, but I still want to be able to enjoy them. I have a list of other audiobooks that I have listened to. Check them out here.

As for podcasts, literally any podcast out there will bring you entertainment. There are a few that I have heard are pretty good. They pretty much all deal with weird things in the world. Here’s an article on the best podcasts to listen to in 2021 (here). These will definitely keep you entertained.

2) If you don’t mind using internet data, listen to scary creepypastas on YouTube.

So a creepypasta is basically a legend or scary story shared around the internet. Some of the best ones are Slenderman, Laughing Jack, and my favorite Ben Drowned. There are a plethora of other stories as well. My favorite channel to listen to them is Dr. Creepen. I listen to a ton of these stories when I go on my 6 hour trips to Miami.

Of course, you have to like these types of things to really enjoy it. If you like listening to scary stories, I highly suggest checking some of these out. They make the drives really fun and a bit thrilling as well.

3) Plan out your stops

So if you have a very long trip, try and find a cool place to stop and maybe see something or go somewhere you’ve never been before. Do a little research and see what types of food places are along the way too. You may end up driving by a really good food place that you’ve never been. For me, I usually plan out my stops on the drive to Miami to see areas of Florida that I’ve never been. You’d be surprised how many fun places are along I-95.

4) Understand traffic is out of your control so try not to get upset.

Traffic stinks, especially during the holidays. Yes, everyone has been in bad traffic, but there really is nothing you can do about it unfortunately. You can get upset, but that will just make the journey less enjoyable. Honestly, traffic isn’t too bad. It gives you more time to listen to the audiobooks, podcasts, or scary stories :). Try and look at these things in a positive manner and you won’t feel as frustrated. Plus, traffic may save you from the politically driven fight that may occur when all of your family members are present lol.

5) Lastly, listen to really uplifting music! Also, sing like no one is watching.

One of my favorite things to do is listen to my favorite bands and sing ever song on their albums. I honestly don’t care that the person next to me looked over and saw me singing. That person is just jealous because I am having fun and they aren’t! Singing makes you happy and happiness can sometimes be sparse when driving long distances.

If you happen to be travelling soon, I hope you try some of these things out. They help me so much when I travel and I know they can help you. Let me know what you do on long road trips during the holidays to help make them easier.

Daily Reminder That You Rock

Today’s post is a short and simple one. Today, I want to tell you that you are amazing and deserve nothing but happiness. Some days will be easy, some not so easy, but know that you are awesome regardless how the day is.

I wish more people would tell others this. Just getting up in the morning and doing what you do makes you amazing. You rock and you always will.

Have a wonderful day and I hope the rest of your week is awesome too.

Starting Over: A New Adventure

I meant to write about this particular subject last night but decided to wait until this morning. I had a meeting at my part time job last night and we found out that our boss is leaving the department and going back to school. He presented a fantastic lecture on finding your path in life and figuring out what you want. I felt sad at the end but very excited for him since he gets to experience what I went through, a great adventure.

adventure

Many grad students come directly from undergrad and start into a master’s or PhD. School is something that they have always known and it’s not too scary to start it. Of course moving to a new city or state and starting school is terrifying, but I have other blogs going over that. This one is about leaving a full time job to pursue education and how this is scary, yet amazing.

This subject hits home for me because I gave up a full time job to pursue a career in something I really had little experience with. This is often the case for those that leave the comfort of their jobs to pursue a degree. I understand how scary this is and how many questions go through your head while applying.

Just a bit of background

If you are unaware of my background, I graduated undergrad in 2016 and went to work for a civil engineering firm. After 2 years of work and 2 years of very comfortable work and paychecks, I left it to come get a PhD in engineering. I know the mixed feelings you get when you see that you are making pennies in grad school. In know the struggles of saying goodbye to the many wonderful individuals you have grown close with. And, I know how hard it is to jump into the unknown, head first, and deal with that anxiety.

These are normal

Let me tell you that these feelings are 100% normal. They are hard to deal with and take a good while to come to terms with, but they do pass. Leaving a job to go back to school is a huge risk, but risks are how you find your way through life. I had a wonderful blog about the comfort zone. Check it out here. I basically said that it is totally Ok to be nervous about these changes. Being nervous is good and it WILL lead to something amazing.

Uncertainty

I always say that the only certainty in life is that life is uncertain. I want to add one more. There are two certainties in life, uncertainty and change. Sometimes change comes under uncertainty and uncertainty definitely goes under change. Things will change, you passions will change, and you will change. Sometimes you need to leave your comfort zone to expedite these changes that allow you to become the person you were destined to become. Being scared and nervous is totally fine, and those feeling will come and go. What you are doing takes courage and guts. Things that cause you to grow.

Don’t let obstacles stop you

If you know what you want in life, go for it. Don’t let anything get in the way. But know one thing, it will be hard. It may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. But it is worth it! Trust me, I know. I want to leave you with one of my favorite quote/song lyrics. I’ll post the song below too. It comes from the Hobbit movie from 1977. The quote goes, “The greatest adventure is what lies ahead”. This is so true.

**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.

Something to Think About

good and bad

Lately, I have been looking back on all of the wonderful and not so wonderful things that have happened in my life. I have looked at where I’ve been and the direction in which I am going (scary right?). One thing that really caught my attention was thinking about really good things that have happened in my life and really bad things that have happened and how they have shaped where I am currently.

I hope this makes sense

This concept was introduced to me a long time ago when I was starting my mindfulness journey, but recently reemerged from my subconscious. It is the concept of how every event leads to good or bad things happening later on. So our lives are made up of choices, right? Everything you do is a choice and sometimes we make really good choices and really bad choices. At the time these choices may seem good or bad, but these choices, regardless of what they were will lead to something else that may be good or bad.

My choice led to some cool outcomes

I will give you an example because It’s hard to describe really what I am thinking sometimes lol. When I was in undergrad, I used to consume heavy amounts of preworkout. The amount of caffeine was absurd, but I kept drinking it because the workouts were amazing. This choice was a good one at the time because I was in shape, the girls really noticed me, and I was never too tired to do anything. Thanks caffeine. I thought this was the best decision of my life, until I had a panic attack for the first time in my life. So my “good” choice led to bad consequences later on. Just because I thought the choice was good at the time did not mean that it was the best choice for me in life. Some of the best things come from “bad choices” or “bad occurrences” in your life.

The story does not end there, though. See, I had the worst experience of my life for about 6 months. I was it such a bad place mentally that I was worried I would never recover. What started off as a good choice turned into something very, very bad. But, even bad things lead to extraordinary things. If it was not for my mental health, I would not have gone to therapy. Because I went to therapy, I had the motivation and courage to continue with my doctorate. And because I continued, I got a publication, I am now a PhD candidate, and I will graduate. Also, because of the choice of taking prework so much, I ended up creating this blog to help others who suffer from mental health, especially in grad school.

What’s your path?

Everything you do will lead to an outcome. You won’t know it until you experience the outcome later on. So, what I am saying is, just because you think it is the right decision at the moment, might not mean it’s the right decision later on. But, it may lead to something great. We create our own paths in life depending on the choices we make, but we have to make a choice to go on these paths. One day you might be offered a great job opportunity that turns out to be the worst thing later on. You never quite know what the future will have for you.

Forgive me for rambling

I hope my rambling sort of made sense. Just know that if you think you made a bad choice, it may lead to something greater in the long run. Don’t regret the choices you make, unless they are really really bad. Just know that those choices will take you on a different path, one that may turn out amazing. Who really knows?

**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 Watch on Your Down Time

There is one thing that all grad students love to do and that is tell everyone how hard their program is and how much work they have. I happen to fall into that category more often than I would like. Yes, grad school is hard, and you will have tons of work to do, but, you will have a ton of free time as well. If you take away all of the time you spend on social media, you’ll be surprised how much time you actually have.

Experiments also have a ton of down time. You might be running simulations or waiting on a very slow reaction to occur. You might be like me and spend countless hours watching water drip out of a tube at a rate of 1.5 mL/min. So, there’s a ton of free time whereyou can watch a few shows or movies!! Of course, you can use this time to blog or start a business or, my favorite, meditate, but sometimes you just want to be lazy.

So, I want to list off a few shows/movies/documentaries that I found really great and I think you will too. Some are super helpful with motivation. Some of these are informative and others are just a great way to enjoy the moment. Let’s get started.

Movies and Shows

1) Good Will Hunting

Good Will Hunting is my all time favorite movie! I have honestly watched this about 50-60 times and quote it quite often. Matt Damon and Robin Williams are both fantastic in it. I don’t want to give too much away and would highly suggest that you watch this one. There is a reason why this is my favorite movie ever.

2) My Octopus Teacher

My mom actually forced me to watch this and it was well worth it. My Octopus Teacher is about friendship, life, compassion, nature, and understanding how much we don’t know. I think this is still on Netflix and would suggest heading over to there as soon as you can. If you don’t have Netflix then I bet you know someone who does, if you catch my drift.

3) The Buddha: The Story of Siddhartha

So, I just started watching this about 3 days ago. It is very difficult for me to sit still and watch movies, so it has taken a while to finish this. This tells the story of the Buddha and all of his teachings. It is fantastic. Most of the mindfulness blogs are all based on the teachings of the Buddha, so it is cool to see the origins. They interview a ton of people and even the Dalai Lama. It is an easy movie to watch and you learn a ton from it.

4) Chef

I watched this movie in 2016 when my mental health was at its worse. This was the only movie that I could watch all the way through without having a serious panic attack. What makes this film one of my all time favorites is because there really aren’t any sad moments. The only moment where there is some conflict is towards the beginning. I won’t give anything away, don’t worry. This movie is just such a feel good one and there really aren’t any sad moments at all. Actually, I take it back, when the movie is over is a sad moment :p. I suggest checking this one out.

5) Jungle Cruise

I am going to end the list with this, Disney’s Jungle Cruise. I “did my research” aka went on rotten tomatoes and saw that it did very well. I figured “hey, let’s give it a chance and maybe we will be happy with it”. Oh man, this movie was hilarious and awesome. It kept the goofiness of the ride (jokes and puns and stuff) but brought a really interesting and unique story with it. If you have Disney+, go watch this movie. It’s phenomenal.

Let me Know

Of course there are many more videos and movies and stuff that I would love for you to watch. I just wanted to post a couple to get you started when you get bored of watching Parks and Rec for the 15th time. Oh, Parks and Rec is fantastic and super easy to watch while you are in the lab. That will be the very last recommendation. Wait, Schmitt’s Creek is also super amazing, oh, and IT Crowd. Ok, Ok, I’ll stop lol. Let me know in the comments of any good shows that you have watched or if there is a great movie or documentary that everyone needs to see. I would love to fill my down time with great entertainment.

If you haven’t already, go check out my blog on the best study music (link here). It’s a good alternative to watching movies in the lab. Also, here’s a good link to the best movies for PhD Students (link here). Check it out.

Homesick While in Grad School

Photo Of Woman Sitting On Floor

So I wrote about if grad school is worth it yesterday. If you are asking yourself that question, I highly suggest checking that blog out. Here is a link to that one. I was actually fairly surprised how that blog came out. One of the better ones that I have done. Anyway, I touched on a subject in that blog that I think is well worth writing about…being homesick. Well, I wrote about moving away to a new place, but this goes with that.

Homesickness

I know so many people that left their hometown to come to UF. Many people left their home country to come here as well. I couldn’t imagine how hard that is for them. I had a hard time just moving 2 hours away lol. But one thing that we all have in common is feeling homesick.

Homesickness will hit you eventually. I experienced it in undergrad about a month after moving to Gainesville. One day you are just strolling along and the next moment you see or smell something that reminds you of home. For me, I felt homesick for the first time when I decided to make my mom’s mac and cheese recipe. It hit me hard too. Luckily, I am in grad school where I went to undergrad, so the feelings of homesickness subsided and were not as bad when I came back. For almost everyone I know here, this is not the case.

I believe this is about the time of year where people are sending in their applications for grad school. Or, they are preparing to fill out applications soon. This means that there will be a new group of individuals that travels to a new town, to start a new journey. And, man, will there be some rough patches for them.

homesick

You can read a ton of methods to help reduce homesickness online. I want to share just a couple of weird ones that have worked for me. I do suggest trying the other methods as well of these don’t work. Also, if the feelings get too much to handle, seeing a therapist is always a recommendation by me. If you want, you can read about my experience with a therapist (here). Here are a few ways that I reduced the feeling of being homesick.

Methods that I hope help with homesickness

  1. Call your parents/siblings/friends/anyone at least once a week. You can call them everyday but that might make you feel even worse and miss them more. It is good to stay in contact with them though.
  2. Sit with the feelings of homesickness and acknowledge it. Sometimes the best way to deal with your feelings is to accept is and just sit with it awhile. If it is overwhelming, try some meditation practice (check out how to meditate, here).
  3. Pick up a hobby to distract your mind. This helps so much with my feelings of loneliness and I am sure it will help when feeling homesick.
  4. Cook a meal that your family usually makes. Sometimes what we miss most is just the comfort that we removed ourselves from. Food always makes things better too.
  5. Stay of social media!! This is a no brainer but always needs to be brought up.
  6. Join a sports team/club/organization/anything to keep you busy. This will help tremendously because you’ll make friends that will help with your feelings and you will stay busy. Preoccupy yourself with things and the transition becomes easier.
  7. Create new experiences for yourself and go do them. Go find something that makes you happy each day. Focus on those feelings rather than the sad feelings and you” feel alot better. One thing that I did and still do is just listen to calming music and go walk around campus. Look for specific things like birds or flowers. Focusing on doing this will keep your mind from wandering back to the bad feelings and thoughts. Trust me, it works.
  8. Plan a trip to come visit your hometown. Plan a trip and the excitement of going will make it easier to handle each day. Sometimes the thought of myself not seeing my parents for a why was overwhelming and I thought I would never see them. When I planned to go home, I knew that I would see them again and that made me super excited.

I hope this helps

Going away to school is so terribly difficult. You will have ups and downs the whole time you are there. Just know that those moments will pass and you’ll be better off in the long run. I hope these can help. Let me know in the comments ways that you overcome the feeling of homesickness. I think we can all benefit from that.

**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.

Is Graduate School Worth it?

Is graduated school worth it? You probably typed this in a few times while either applying for school or while actually being in school. Honestly, the answer is always going to be “it depends”. Every situation is extremely different and going to graduate school can be 100% worth it and 100% a waste of your time. From my experience, it has totally been worth it and I’ll explain why in this blog. For you, you might really want to consider some things before going. You can be extremely successful without graduate school. It really depends on your goals.

Green Typewriter on Brown Wooden Table

Your Goals

Before you start applying, really ask yourself “what are my goals and will grad school help to achieve those?” Let’s say your goal is to make a ton of money, will grad school cause that to happen/. You could be going into a program that really doesn’t make a lot of money afterwards. So, in this case, grad school is not worth it for that goal. If your goal is to further your education and possibly go into an academic research position, grad school is essential.

Why I chose graduate school

Going to grad school was a pretty easy one for me at first because I was money driven. I wanted to get a master’s to be able to make more money and be highly sought after by employers. Getting a master’s in engineering is pretty difficult so I figured people would really be interested. It wasn’t until I looked more at what my real goals were that I realized what my true passion was for. My goal for grad school changed drastically. I wanted to become a research scientist because I was curious about the unknown. Money would be nice, but thanks to many of the realizations I had about money, I knew that that wasn’t something to really chase after. Now, 4.5 years later, I am preparing to exit grad school with very new goals that I have set. So for me, grad school was worth the time and many, many headaches.

Person Holding Yellow Leaf

Some more perks in graduate school

Here is a list of some of the perks that come with graduate school and why it may be worth going:

  1. You meet a ton of really intelligent people. You also get to network with scientists that may have come up with some of the concepts that you studied in college. I have met many people that have revolutionized the field that I am studying, water chemistry.
  2. You get to make long lasting friendships with like-minded individuals. The friends that I have made these past few years are some of the best friendships that I have ever had. Sure, you can meet people outside of grad school, but it can be very hard to find people just like you in this huge world. College brings all of these people together and almost makes it easy to find them.
  3. You will obtain a master’s or PhD at the end of it. These degrees last you the rest of your life and can open up doors that you never knew existed. This is a huge perk to grad school.
  4. You get to work on some really exiting projects. If you do a thesis based grad degree, you may get to work on some cool scientific studies. FOr me, I get to play with water, lead pipes, and some super concentrated acids. I also get to work on projects that can help make people’s lives better. That makes all the work I do extremely satisfying.
  5. You can go on trips to present your work. Conferences are a huge part of grad school. You might go to one, you might go to 50. Each one is unique and you get to meet some really cool people from around the country or even the world. I have only gone to one, but I learned some cool things about similar research and got to talk with other PhDs about their experiences. I made some friends too.
Side view of frustrated bearded African American businessman in formal wear sitting on street near building in city after workday

Some other things to Consider for Graduate School

Unfortunately, there are some other things that you need to consider first before going off. I list those here:

  1. How much it costs. I don’t know about your schools, but UF is 1.5x undergrad tuition. It’s expensive to go to grad school. Luckily I have a tuition stipend so it’s paid for, but master students pay out of pocket, mostly. If you are an international student, you are paying much more.
  2. You may be very far away from friends and family. I am fortunate enough to only be about 2 hours away from my family, but I am about 6 hours from my girlfriend. This is always extremely hard to deal with. Some people move half way across country from grad school and spend months or years away from loved ones.
  3. You might get addicted to coffee. This is a real concern for some people lol. If you do find yourself in this position, check out my blog post on coffee. You’ll need it (link here).
  4. You’re mental health will be put to the test. If you have mental health problems already, grad school may cause those to be worse. It is extremely stressful in 1000 different ways and will stretch your mental health to the limit. If you don’t have mental health problems, you might get some unfortunately. Read up on if before applying. Here is a great place to start.
  5. You might hate it. Grad school can often be an acquired taste. Sometimes you get a terrible adviser or your project just doesn’t go anywhere. These happen but you are taking a risk by going to grad school. And, you probably won’t go anywhere if you don’t take risks.
grad school

In the end

Do you want to go to graduate school? Do you feel like it will help make your life better than it is now? Have you considered everything that is on this blog? If you say yes to all of these, I say apply somewhere today. Graduate school has been such an amazing, scary, frustrating, exhilarating, and fulfilling experience for me and for many of my colleagues. Would I do it again? That’s a hard no, but would I say it was worth it, oh yeahhhhhhh. I have about 6 months left in my program before funding runs out and I am forced out. I honestly love what I do and thinking about what comes next is scary. But life isn’t worth living unless you conquer those things that scare you.

If you are thinking about graduate school, and have questions, send me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. I’ll try my best to help you out. Also, check out my other blogs on my website. Until next time, peace!

Doing Grad School For the Money

When I was in undergrad, I had quite a few friends that were all in the business college at UF. When we weren’t discussing what we were going to drink that night or what workout we were about to do, we were talking about how we are going to to make money and get rich. As an engineering student, I was constantly being bombarded with the comment that I am going to make money and be well off. These comments came from my professors mostly. So, for my entire undergrad, I was focused on getting a good job and making money. Isn’t that really the point of getting an education?

First Job

As I switched gears from undergrad to the “real world”, I realized that everything they told me was a lie, or at least not as truthful as I thought. I figured that my first job would be extremely lucrative and something I could see myself growing in. My first job out of college was an hourly engineering job, making $16 an hour. Not really what I was expecting, but, hey, it’s money right!! I spent 2 years at that job before coming for to school for my doctorate. I realized much later that that job was one of the most important lessons that I have learned in my life.

Because of my puny pay, I decided to get my master’s while working. I specifically strived for a master’s so I could get more money and that back fired. I was told my master’s wouldn’t help the company in any way, and basically getting it was a waste of money. It hurt to hear this, but it set in to motion the best decision I ever made.

Time for Change Sign With Led Light

The Change

The day that I was told that my master’s didn’t matter was the day I had my annual review. I was anticipating a pay increase, which I got, but it was also the same day I decided I needed change. My pay increase was $1.80 an hour more and I became a salaried employee. No more overtime for me. I loved working at that company because of the people. Engineers are just some of the coolest people and extremely friendly. That’s why making the decision to do my doctorate was so hard. It was scary, but doing things that are scary can help you get to a very magical place.

New Beginnings

Leaving the firm was a hard decision, and I did it mostly because I was chasing money. I took a big financial hit when I found out how much my stipend was, but I was going to be a millionaire after college, right? I realized very quickly that my choice to come to grad school was not because of money, but because I loved to learn things and I wanted to explore the unknown. It took me a whole 2 years to realize that what I do is not about the money, it’s about the journey that many people do not take. It’s about contributing to science and humanity. Money will come and go, but the lessons I have learned in the 3 years I’ve been here will stay with me forever. Those lessons are priceless.

It’s Ok

It is ok to come to grad school to get a pay increase. In fact, that’s the main reason why many people do their master’s. Doing your doctorate shouldn’t be for money though. You put yourself through this journey because you love the subject. This journey is hard. It is exhausting and it will wear you down to nothing, but you keep going. The money will come, don’t worry about that. Doing your doctorate will also not cause much of a pay increase compared to a master’s either. You do this because of the love of the subject.

I am doing my doctorate, now, because I love science. Also, I get to mess around with chemicals all day and get to explore the unknown. I love being able to teach other’s crazy difficult concepts. Getting to present your findings is also super fun as well. It’s not about the money, it’s about finding what you are passionate about. That will truly make you happy. As for the lesson I learned from my previous job, that one was super easy to realize. I learned that finding what I was passionate about was more rewarding than having a good paying job. Sure, money is great,but over the years I have learned that actually enjoying what I do is worth more than any paycheck I receive.

Do something because you love it. Life is too short to be miserable. I hope you all have a wonderful 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.

Handling the Good Days

Grad school is an extremely fun, stressful, confusing time of a young scholars life. You will experience such a fluctuation of emotions that you might think that you are going insane. It is completely normal and part of the process. Some days can be very hard. I have written about this specifically *here*. Go check it out if you haven’t already. Other days are going to be easy and quite enjoyable. Today, I want to address the days that are “good”.

My Morning

Today, I woke up to a torrential downpour that lasted like 2 hours. Lightning was everywhere, thunder was causing my apartment to shake, and everything was amazing. I love waking up to rain because it’s so peaceful and cozy weather. I’m not going to lie, getting out of bed was difficult, especially because Sirius was curled up next to me, sleeping. But it was a great way to wake up.

Bearded Man Holding Cup of Coffee

By the time I left my apartment, most of the rain had already cleared up. Rain storms in the fall/winter are amazing because you get a cool breeze afterwards and the smell of fall just takes over. That smell can really change your whole day. Walking to campus was very nice and I had a really refreshing and great tasting cup of coffee. Today was already off to a great start.

Be Grateful

One thing I like to do when I am having a good day is remember all of the things that make the day great. It is really hard to be grateful for things or at least think about that when you are having a really bad day. Since I was in a good mood, I thought of all the things that made me happy. Many of these are in my list of things that i am grateful for *here*. I’ll tell you that the rain was definitely something I was super grateful for.

Silhouette of Man Raising His Hands

Also, another thing I do on the good days is focus on the feelings that I have. I mainly focus on how I physically feel and my mental feelings. I really try and remember what that feels like so I can remember that on the days that aren’t so good. Some times, on bad days, remembering the feelings you had from good days can change your whole day around. Try it and see if it works for you.

One Last Thing

Lastly, on days that are good, I smile and make sure to spread some happiness to others. I try and do this on the bad days as well, though it is much more difficult to do then. When you are having a good morning, afternoon, or whole day, try and spread some joy and happiness to those that might be having a bad day. I find this makes your day a lot better and can completely change the other person’s day as well.

I hope everyone finds some happiness in their day as well as finds something they are grateful for. Remember, good days come and go, so take full advantage of them. I know I am. Have a great day and I will see you in the next one.

**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.

Starting a Hobby :Wood Carving

Hobbies are essential to have in your life. Why? Well, they keep you sane and are a way of removing yourself from stressor such as school, work, family troubles, literally anything, etc. For grad students, and this also pertains to everyone else too, having a hobby is an easy way to remove yourself from your work. I know first hand how work can suck you in and keep you in a weird area where you are tired but “should do more work”. There will always be work, take some time off to enjoy your life.

I have quite a few hobbies that I actively do. These include fishing, blogging, scootering (woohoo), and wood carving. I have written about how wood carving has helped me with my mental state (link here). In fact, I was using it as a coping mechanism during quarantine. It was an excellent way to reduce anxiety.

A few individuals have reached out to me because they wanted to start wood carving. I wanted to share with you some things that I used at the very beginning to help me get started.

YouTube Videos

I wrote about this is the last blog but go search Doug Linker (link to his YouTube). He creates amazing content that was super helpful when I first started out. I highly suggest following his page and learning basic carvings. Carverswoodshop is also an amazing channel that goes over basic techniques that you can learn. She makes awesome Christmas carvings. Here is a link to her page.

Here are some videos from both channels that give you an idea of the type of content they provide .

Tools

I’ll share links to the tools that I used and still use to this day. These tools are extremely simple, just make sure to keep them sharp. The last thing you want are dull knives.

So above is the 9 piece wood carving tool set. This is a beginners set and you can learn how to carve a spoon with this one. It comes with gloves which are essential. Let me emphasize the “getting gloves!!!!!!” part. These tools are extremely sharp and you can and will cut yourself if not careful. I suggest this tool set for beginners because making spoons is a great way of starting to carve. Here is a link to this product on Amazon (link).

This is the BeaverCraft Whittling set. This was what I first bought and I still use these knives to this day. All of the carvings, minus the chainsaw carving, were made with this set of knives. If you don’t want to make spoons and want to carve other things, I suggest this set. Make sure to get gloves as well. Here is a link to these knives as well as a link to gloves (link) and gloves (link).

Now if you are getting a bit more into carving and want to start adding texture to your carvings, I highly suggest this chisel set sold by Waycom. It literally has everything that you need. I have this exact set, and it makes a huge difference. Also, there are many carves that I can’t really do well with knives, so I resort to chisels. Here’s a link to this product (link).

Wood

If you are starting out, basswood is the way to go. First, it is super soft and easy to cut. Second, it will not dull your knives as quickly, which is a plus. Lastly, it’s fairly cheap. Wood prices are skyrocketing, but basswood is still fairly cheap. Stay away from hardwoods or you’ll be breaking or sharpening your knives every 3 cuts.

Bass wood gives a nice waxy look after cutting too, which makes your carvings look way better. I suggest basswood to start with so you can practice all the different cuts and master those before just grabbing a random stick and carving. Here is a link to some basswood on Amazon. (link).

Have Fun

The overall goal of wood carving is to express your artistic side and have fun. This is an easy hobby to take up and really cheap too. Many hobbies require a ton of money to do but this just requires a little start up funds and then some wood. Of course, when you get ambitious and start carving with a chainsaw, then it can get expensive lol.

Let me know in the comments if you are interested in carving or if you are interested in more information. I would love to help you start a cool and mindful hobby that has a ton of benefits.

How to Enjoy Busy Weekends

weekends

This weekend was extremely busy for me. I was supposed to stay in Gainesville and do work, but that’s not fun and life is way too short. My brother bought tickets to Howl-o-Scream at Busch Gardens, so I spent Friday night there. Unfortunately, I had to work Friday night until 7:30, so I arrived at the park pretty late. Driving from Gainesville to Tampa then back is quite an experience lol. Also, walking through the park, alone, with scary creatures, is also an experience. I used this as an opportunity to do something that scared me.

Busy Saturday

I got home from Busch Gardens around 3 AM and went directly to sleep. Luckily, Sirius was not rambunctious and actually let me fall asleep. Saturday, I woke up late and made my way to Orlando to see my girlfriend and her family. I know “why didn’t you drive there on Friday?” Well, I don’t really have an answer to that lol. Saturday was pretty eventful and we ended the night at the Columbia restaurant in Celebration. 10/10, would highly recommend going there or to one of the other restaurants around the state.

Relaxing Sunday

Sunday was filled with movie watch and cookie baking. I was supposed to do a bit of work yesterday as well but I think making cookies is way more important. Driving home last night was quite fun and I did eventually end up working for a bit last night, before falling asleep fairly early.

It’s Hard but Fun

Grad school has really taught me to take full advantage of the free time that you have. I have experienced both full time work as well as grad school and my grad school studies definitely give much less free time. Grad school is filled with so many things that one “should” be doing and it is hard to turn off. Also, work hours are not really limited to 9 to 5 so you can spend way more time working on things than you realize.

Weekends are a great time to get in as much as you can but also designating time to rest. Friday night and Saturday were for activities and I designated Sunday as a day of rest. This has significantly helped my productivity today as well as decreased the amount of brain fog that I usually have on Mondays. It was also nice to get a bit of work done last night to fight the feeling of anxiety.

If you are doing grad school, you will be very used to having crazy packed schedules. This is not just limited to the week but also the weekend. It may take a bit to get used to but you will. You’ll even thrive off of getting a ton done in a short amount of time. Just make sure to take some time to rest as well. Some weekends will be crazy but some need to be chill. Check out my post about relaxing on the weekend (link here). When you aren’t busy with things, make time for yourself to recover. Your mind and body will thank you.

Cookies

Photo Of Stacked Cookies

Also, if you want a really great recipe for cookies, here’s one. My girlfriend and I made this recipe and the cookies came out amazing. I highly suggest trying it. Also, for more recipes, I suggest getting The Cookie Book (link here). There are some really great recipes in there.

Money Can Buy Some Happiness

So, I have an addiction. I am addicted to impulse shopping and the immediate gratification of buying anything and everything on Amazon. I have actually consulted with my therapist about this and I have worked to reduce my spending as much as I can.

Getting a Scooter

Man Riding on Bird Electric Scooter

Every once in a while, I do buy something that satisfies the large void in my soul. You know, the one where you think buying stuff will fill it. Yeah, that one. Well, I think I found something that is worth the money, a scooter. Not just any scooter, but the Razor A6. I did actually contemplate getting this for a very long time, so it was less of an impulse buy.

The Hawthorne Trail

See, I live right next to a very long biking/ running trail called the Hawthorne Trail. It’s 16 miles long and goes through some amazing wooded areas. I have ridden on it before with my bike, but my bike is beyond repair, so I am only left to walk the trail. I was shopping for a bike to get, to ride the trail again, but those things are super expensive. The idea to get a scooter after seeing a group of individuals scooting passed me on the electric scooters that they place around campus. Sure enough Amazon had push scooters that were relatively cheap. I slept on the thought of buying it for a couple of days then bought it.

The scooter came 3 days ago and have ridden it the past 2 days. The very first ride was 3 miles down the trail at a top speed of 14 mph! I was hauling butt down some of the hills. The trail is mostly woods and then it opens to Paynes Prairie. I was not able to get all the way to the prairie but I will try again next week. The main goal is to eventually ride the whole Hawthorne Trail. I calculated it to be about 3 to 4 hours of riding, totally doable.

Happiness

This scooter has taken me to places in Gainesville that I did not know existed. I have gone through neighborhoods, trails, apartment complexes, literally anywhere I can ride to . This has brought a feeling of excitement and happiness that I haven’t had in quite some time. Seeing all of these new places and experiencing the outdoors has been such a blessing and I am truly grateful that I bought this scooter. It won’t take awy from my walking though. I still aim for 5.6 miles a day.

If you are looking for something fun, fast, and a great form of exercise, I suggest buying a scooter. It’s probably one of the top 10 best purchases I’ve made.

If you haven’t already, Please check out my blog on my walking challenge (link here). Until next time, peace!

How to Become a Morning Person

I think one of the ultimate achievements of grad school is becoming a morning person. I doubt many individuals think about it often, but I know that practically all grad students wish they could wake up early and go to be early too. Luckily, I am a morning person and pretty much always have been throughout grad school. I would say this mostly happened because I worked an 8 to 5 job prior to coming back. Being forced to wake up early helped.

Grad school can be a weird time for your sleep schedule. Unless you have to do early morning experiments or get to class, often you may not wake up until 10 am or later. I know quite a few grad students that roll into the lab at 3 pm, after just waking up. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine going to bed so late at night (early in the morning?) to where you wake up after 12 pm. That’s just too much.

I want to share some other methods that one can use to become more of a morning person. I find mornings are a great time to get a ton of work done before you eventually succumb to the afternoon slump. No amount of caffeine can help you then lol. Here’s a list of some ways to become a morning person.

1)Go to bed earlier

Person Lying on Bed Covering White Blanket

I know this can be difficult for some, but it is essential if you want to change your sleep/wake schedule. Usually during the summer, when I don’t have to wake up as early, my schedule tends to shift to me waking up early.

The best way that I found to get to bed earlier is lay off caffeine after 12 pm and make sure to get a workout in at least 2 to 3 hours before going to bed. Also, stay off your computer and phone before bed. Slowly, your body will start adjusting to this pattern and realize it’s time to sleep. At first, you may sleep longer than you were anticipating (probably because you were alot tired than you thought0 but eventually, your body will start waking up earlier, on it’s own.

2) When you wake up, drink water

Drinking water in the morning rehydrates the body after 8 hours of being deprived of water. Rehydrate yor body and you will definitely feel more energized. After water, get some caffeine in you. This really helps a ton.

3) Schedule a workout session each morning.

Woman Doing Exercise Inside Gym

If you really want to change when you wake up, schedule to workout in the morning and actually stick to it each day. Gradually, you’ll begin to wake on your own, you’ll be energized, and ready to work out. This also makes nights way easier because you have more time to settle down and relax.

Get a friend who will keep you accountable as well. This helped me significantly the first year back in college. 6 am workouts were my favorite part of the day. The extra energy boost in the morning was super helpful as well.

4) Create a night time routine and stick to it

Free stock photo of blank, blank notebook, blank page

This includes the time that everything happens. Create a routine at the same time each night and stick to it. Maybe read a book an hour before bed or do a bit of cleaning prior to bed. Stay consistent with the routine and time that this happens. Soon you’ll be off to sleep and walking up early to kick the day’s butt.

Overview

Mornings can be extremely tough for some people. I mean, waking up each morning to my cat curled up next to me makes getting out of bed so difficult. Resist the urge to stay in bed though. The mornings are a great time to get all of the difficult work out of the way so the rest of the day goes smoothly.

Grad school is a hectic time, with weird schedules, but I promise you that being a morning person might just be the best thing you can do. It will make the transition from grad school to real life easier. Productivity will increase significantly. Also, you will find that mornings are an amazing time to be up.

Mornings can be super relaxing and quite therapeutic time of day. If you aren’t a morning person and are trying to become one, I suggest trying these methods shared above. Also, for more helpful suggestions, check out Sleep Foundation (link here).

Another Day With No Motivation

Life is just so funny. One day, you could be hours deep into work and quite overwhelmed, then the next day is completely empty. This has been quite a normal experience for me while in grad school as well as when I was working full time. It sucks, not because of the work load, but because the days where you don’t have anything to do, can be filled with anxiety. Grad school is very much this way. You can go weeks with non stop work, then, poof, nothing. The days with little work are the worst because you will feel like you “should” be doing work. To that, I say “nay”.

I am currently busy with quite a few experiments. Our research team just got the green light to do more experiments, so we are pretty busy. We also have meetings galore, so that’s fun. I tend to be the go to guy with these experiments. Don’t get me wrong, it makes me feel amazing to be in charge of doing the experiments. This is the reason why I started research, but it can be overwhelming some times. Also, motivating myself to get any work done has been difficult. Caffeine can only get you so far.

For incoming grad students, or grad students that are getting into the bulk of your research, having this ebb and flow of work is normal. Heck, you may have weeks where you never see the sun, but know that this is essential to get you where you want to go. This can be fun too because you learn so much about yourself and you grow as a researcher. Though, it can be hard when there is little to know motivation.

Just Do it

I have written about how to motivate yourself (link here and a video here). There are even classes you can do to get more motivation too (here). But the best thing that I have found is to just get started. Lately, motivating myself to do something has been hard. I think of all of the things I have to get done and end up just procrastinating. This causes unwanted anxiety and stress. The best thin to do is start small and motivation will come.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson Summary

The above figure is from The Subtle art of Not Giving a F*ck. I just listened to it on audio and man was it good. The author describes that motivation is a cycle. Motivation leads to action which leads to inspiration. But also, action leads to inspiration which leads to motivation. You just need to get started and motivation will come.

Make it Fun

Today, I am going to do a ton of work but I am also going to have fun doing it. I have 250 samples to dilute prior to analysis and I think I am going to listen to an audio book while I do it. I have a good list of books to listen to if you are interested. (link here). If I make the task enjoyable then it doesn’t seem like work at all. Grad school work is not physically demanding, but mentally. If you are able to convince yourself that you don’t really need to think while doing the task, you’ll find you have a lot more energy to do it. Make the work fun and have a good time doing it.

Whatever you have to do, just start. Grab a nice big cup of coffee and start. It doesn’t have to be much but at least you will see that you are moving in the right direction. I hope whatever stuff you have is easy and get’s done quickly. I also hope you have an amazing weekend. Thanks for reading!

Ways to Fail Your PhD

Every PhD is different. You will have some where an individual spends all of their time in a lab just to produce 1 paper. And, you may have a few where the student seems to be on vacation all of the time, yet they produce 3 to 4 papers a year. I know both of these types of individuals which makes a PhD a slightly weird experience.

There are a million blogs and articles on how to successfully do a doctorate. Heck, my whole blog is pretty much about being a successful grad student without going insane. But, very little articles that I have found talk about the things that cause students to fail. I want to talk about a few of the most important ones so you, the doctorate student, will thrive in your program. Here is a list of a few ways that you can fail your PhD.

Black and White Checkered Paper Bag

1) Not asking for help

This is such an important part of doing a doctorate. You are going where few have gone before and that is exciting and down-right scary. At first, you may be working on stuff that is fairly straight forward and easy to do. But, soon you will find that doing a doctorate will take you places that may cause confusion and doubt. Ask for help! This can be asking your advisor for guidance on the next step or asking a friend to help you with some stress that you are having. Being stubborn and thinking you can handle everything alone is dumb and will cause you to fail. Reach out to people for help. I know you will find it.

2) Thinking you know everything

No one knows everything. Acting like you do will only lead to failure. Doing a doctorate is understanding that you don’t know everything, but you are willing to find out. I knew one individual that thought they knew everything there was prior to starting their grad program. Undergrad is a lot easier if you are like them but grad school is a different game entirely. In grad school, you are finding something out stuff that no one else has found out. You are contributing to knowledge. Those that think they know everything will become extremely frustrated in grad school because they will learn very quickly that our knowledge is extremely limited. The best way to succeed in grad school is know you don’t know everything but you are willing to learn as you go.

Crop unrecognizable coworkers in formal wear standing at table with laptop and documents while greeting each other before meeting

3) Always agreeing with your advisor

Your advisor may know quite a lot but they don’t know everything. Grad school is about becoming an independent researcher. It is about doing stuff that even your advisor doesn’t know. If you agree with everything they say, and take what they say as truth, then you will fail. Question everything they say because it may be wrong. In fact, it is often wrong because they are not doing your research, you are. You are the specialist in this field and it is Ok to question or even disagree with what they tell you. Don’t be afraid to disagree with things they say, especially if you know it is false.

High Angle View of Lying Down on Grass

4) Not taking time off of work

Rest is an essential part of work. If you are working at all times of the day, you’ll burn out quickly. Burn out is so sad to see, especially when it is with first-year students. A doctorate is a marathon, not a sprint so you need to rest to keep up your strength. Taking days off is a great way to increase productivity. In fact, I have written about how it helps (here).

Rest is essential because it allows our minds to recover and strengthen. If you work out, you know onset muscle soreness sucks. Burn out is like that but for your brain. If you over work tour brain, you’ll just be “sore” even more. You need time to recover. After working out, you are a tad bit stronger, and this is the same way with your brain. The days that I take off are usually the days where a “eureka” moment occurs. Try it out.

Woman Sitting in Front of Macbook

5) Not controlling your stress

You are going to be stressed in grad school. If you can control it, you have a great advantage. Stress can lead to all sorts of problems (read about them here). Stree management is key to your success. I have a few ways you can reduce it in my blog (link here). Check it out. Reducing stress will not only allow you to continue this journey but it will make it an enjoyable one. I think the stress that comes from grad school is the reason many people fail. If you can control this stress and use it to your advantage, you will be extremely successful, I guarantee it.

Person Holding Red Book With Silver Link Bracelet Round Analog Watch

6) Being afraid to fail

No one likes to fail, but failure is the way to being successful. I think in an age where we are put down for failure has made us afraid to try anything that may lead to failing. Social media doesn’t help because you look at everyone’s accomplishments, not their failures. Grad school is about failing at stuff so many times that you become desensitized to it. Your experiments will fail, you may fail exams, you will fail in writing and friendships and everything. This is good. It means that you are trying. If you are afraid of failure, you will never take any risks. You will stay in your comfort zone and miss out on the wonderful things that can happen outside of your comfort zone.

I am currently listening to the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. In it, the author talks about how people are afraid of failure and that is why there are a ton of missed opportunities. He emphasizes that failure is essential for growth. You try, you fail. You try again, you fail again but learned something from it. This is how growth occurs. If you want to grow as a researcher, you need to be ok with failure. Remember that a failed experiment may lead to a discovery that could change the world.

I want you to know that a doctorate is hard, life is hard, everything is hard. There is no right way to go about doing a doctorate but these things that I have mentioned are great ways to fail at it. For those just starting out, welcome. You will succeed, I know you will. This journey is an interesting, scary, exciting, and down-right awesome one. Enjoy the ride.

Doing Things Alone is OK

Today was homecoming, and UF had a ton of festivities. Homecoming in Gainesville is such a big thing that people actually close their businesses for the day to partake in all of the stuff around campus. Like them, I took the day, well half the day, off and decided to go see what homecoming is all about. There are three big events that occur. The first being the homecoming festival, followed by the parade. I think the parade is the biggest event of the day to be honest. The last event is Gator Growl. It’s just a big concert, mainly aimed towards the freshman.

Why I bring this up is because I went to the parade alone today. I did meet up with a few friends for the festival, but they left before the parade, so I was by myself. If you are like me, just going to events like this can be anxiety inducing. I know it sounds a bit pathetic, but going places alone, or doing things alone, is quite a hardship for many grad students. So, today I forced myself to do something scary, and I went to the parade.

I think the hardest part for me at least, is feeling like I am being judged for being alone. Prior to therapy, I may have listened to these thoughts and believed that doing things alone was pathetic and worth being judged. Now, I know that this is a silly little game your brain plays which is entirely false. If you are like me, and have a hard thing doing stuff alone, I have a few helpful pointers that I think would be good to try out.

Positive black man listening to music with wireless earphones and taking notes in diary on street

1.Ask yourself if your anxiety is justified.

If you are hesitant to go to places and events because your anxiety is flaring up, take a step back and try to see if all of those thoughts are justifiable. In my case, my brain tells me it’s pathetic to do stuff alone. If I agree that it is pathetic to do whatever it is I am doing, then sure, listen. If my brain tells me that it’s pathetic to go to a parade alone, I question it. I ask “why is that pathetic? I really enjoy going to events, so why should this stop me from doing this?” This works a heck of a lot of times.

Photo Of A Boy Covering His Eyes

2. Think of a very bad outcome that can happen, then go do the thing you wanted to do.

Hear me out. I know this seems bad but thinking about a bad situation that can happen can actually help. The likely hood that something bad or embarrassing happening is quite slim. If this is what prevents you from doing something alone, then I suggest trying this. You think of an embarrassing thing happening, then go to the do whatever it is you want to do. You probably won’t experience that bad or embarrassing thing you thought of and your brain will go “Oh, this wasn’t dangerous or as embarrassing as I thought”.

I was listening to a therapist recently talk about phone phobia. It is a real thing and affects a significant amount of people. They said to think about messing up what you say in your head. Then they said to think the outcome of that happening. After this, call someone up and it is guaranteed that talking to them and having slip ups isn’t nearly as bad as in your head.

Person Laying on Sofa While Reading Book

3. Remind yourself that getting out of your comfort zone is where the magic happens.

If you haven’t read my blog about the comfort zone, I highly suggest it (link here). Sometimes you just need to sike yourself up to do stuff. That is ok. Feeling a bit nervous about doing something you may not have done before, or alone, is a bit nerve wracking. Telling yourself that you will be a stronger person might just be the boost you need to go do something alone. I do this a ton.

Grad school is an extremely isolating experience for some. You will do a ton of stuff on your own and it may be scary. Many people travel to completely new places and spend all of their time in grad school alone. If you look at them, you can see that they do just fine. They have learned to adapt and do stuff on their own.

I cared way too much about how people saw me. I don’t really care anymore which has freed me greatly, but I know many people that feel judged when doing things alone. If you are one of these people, you are not alone at all in these feelings. I know for a fact that things will get better for you, as long as you put in the effort. One thing that I have suggested to people is to go to a movie by themselves. Honestly, I don’t know why people don’t go by themselves more often. This is a good step and I think it would be beneficial.

I hope you guys had a wonderful day! Until next time, 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 Boosted My Productivity

It’s been a good 2 years since I started my mindfulness journey. It started well before I did therapy because I wanted to try before asking for help. Giving in and getting external help is quite difficult for me. It is actually something that gives me quite a bit of anxiety but I am and have been working through that. So, before getting help from a therapist, I started meditating and practicing many of the coping skills I talk about in my Mindfulness section of my blog (check it out here). It helped quite a bit, but therapy definitely helped even more.

After therapy was over, I had to continue with my practices of mediation, journaling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and most importantly, helping others with anxiety! So, while I was practicing all of this, I noticed a ton of really good changes in my life. First, I was happier. Overall, things that would get me sad or anxious didn’t do such thing anymore. I often tell people that mindfulness is like a buffer and sad moments are like pH changes. When you have a bad moment, the buffer takes over and evens you right out again. I am a research scientist that deals with buffers so this was the best thing to compare mindfulness to lol.

A major change that I notices was that my productivity was increasing. I believe this is because mindfulness reduces all of the clutter that is in your head. Instead of spending hours worrying about something, you have the mental capability to calm those thoughts and focus on something else. I would spend literally days focused solely on one ruminating thought. This would reduce productively a ton which would cause even more anxiety in my life. By practicing mindfulness, I was about to compartmentalize my thoughts and focus on things that needed to get done.

Here is a good article by Forbes about how mindfulness encourages peak performance (here). I wish I could link many peer reviewed journal articles, but they always require you to pay for them. If you really need to get work done, take a moment, find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted, and meditate. You don’t have to have a full meditation session though. just spend a few minutes following the breathe. If you need some more guidance on meditation, check out my blog on how to meditate (here). See if that helps make you able to tackle things better. Science has shown that this is a good way to be more productive, so give it a try.

I hope everyone has a wonderful week, filled with stress free days and candy corn. My days have been filled with ample amounts of candy corn lately. So, I may need to go see a dentist soon. Until next time friends, stay amazing!

**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.

Appreciation

I want to take a moment to show appreciation to the many people around me that keep me going. This weekend, I celebrated my birthday with my girlfriend and her family. It was absolutely wonderful and filled with love, joy, and a bit of alcohol too lol. It was a wonderful day getting to spend it with them then I got to spend yesterday with my family. Yesterday had much less alcohol but the same amount of love and joy as I had on Saturday. What a wonderful weekend indeed.

Brown Wooden Rabbit Figurine on White Surface

Sometimes I get caught up in my own life and my own worries that I forget to just take time and hang with those that love you. This includes friends, family, pets, literally anyone. I was able to do just that this weekend and I felt so much love. This is what makes being alive so special. We get to experience these types of moments. These moments are what you will remember years from now. It won’t be how many hours you spent at work, or how you saved a client thousands of dollars. No, you’ll remember sitting on a porch, in 75 degree fall weather, just hanging with the ones you love.

Grad school doesn’t offer many moments like this. It is demanding and wants you to spend your life in the lab/library/office. Don’t listen to it. Sure, getting a ton of papers written and published is cool, but many of those people that work all of the time are depressed and do need a lot of help. I know quite a few, me being one of them, unfortunately. I am much better now, though. Don’t worry.

Enjoy the time you have with loved ones. Focus on the happiness that comes from those moments and bring that happiness into moments you feel sad. Always remember that there are people that truly care for you no matter what.

If you haven’t read my post about the 29 Things I’ve Learned by 29, then I suggest checking it out (link here). Today, I leave you with homework. I want you to think of a really great time with friends, family, random people, whoever. I want you to think of all of the great times you’ve had and fill your body up with all of that joy. Then I want you to just sit with that feeling for a few moments. When you have sad times, I hope that you can remember the feeling of love and joy from this exercise. It will help you through the bad times.

**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.

29 Things I’ve Learned by 29

Tomorrow, I turn 29.

Man in White Crew Neck T-shirt Holding Pink Balloons

It’s amazing how time just moves so quickly after highschool. I hear that it never slows down either. In 29 years on this earth, I have learned a ton of stuff. Some way more useful than others. So, I wanted to share with you 29 things that have helped me get where I am not. Some of these things, I have learned in the past year or so which is fairly exciting. Here’s the list:

  1. Being kind to others will get you very far
  2. Exercising the mind is just as important, if not more important, than physical exercise
  3. Energy drinks are addicting and bad
  4. Writing each day will increase your creativity
  5. Uncertainty is a certainty in life
  6. Just because they say they don’t have Covid, doesn’t mean they don’t have Covid
  7. Meditation works
  8. Eating a healthy meal can really boost your day
  9. Getting barely any sleep and working your life away is nothing to be proud of
  10. Wood carving is one of the best reducers of anxiety, unless you are using a chainsaw
  11. Cats make amazing pets
  12. You will lose friends as you get older.
  13. You will develop a stronger friendship with the ones that you don’t lose
  14. Ramen noodles are amazing, but don’t eat them everyday
  15. Keep politics out of conversations at parties
  16. People may do bad things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are bad people.
  17. Coffee is a wonderful thing
  18. Family doesn’t only mean blood relatives
  19. Travelling the world opens up doors you never knew were there
  20. Poutine is God’s gift to man
  21. You can find something good in almost every bad situation
  22. Therapy works
  23. Taking time away from social media may be the best thing to do for anxiety
  24. We all have bad times, but we don’t have to suffer because of them
  25. Publishing a research paper is hard
  26. Having a ton of money will not make you happy
  27. Appreciating what you do have will make you happy
  28. Life is not always fair
  29. Happiness is not a destination. It is points on your journey, leading you in the right direction.

The list can go on and on but I think this is a pretty good start. Let me know valuable lessons or literally anything that you have learned in your life. I would love to read about them in the comments. Unfortunately, I may not blog tomorrow since it is my birthday and I’ll be at Disney. I will try and make a post on Sunday, though. Until then, see ya!

**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.

When You Feel Stuck: Experiments

There comes a time in every grad program where you just don’t really know what to do. This could be while you are doing experiments, studying for exams, looking for jobs, really just anything. Currently, I am feel stuck on a problem trying to justify results that I am getting from an experiment. The results are significant but I can’t really explain what’s happening.

Feeling stuck on something is actually very good. With experimental results, getting stuck gives you an opportunity to look for other ways to look at the problem. This is learning at its finest! It can really be disheartening when you spend a ton of time feeling stuck, but it is all part of the process of becoming a scientist. I wanted to suggest some things on how to work through these moments of feeling stuck. If you are currently having experimental problems, like me, take a look at these ways of dealing with them.

Portrait of woman in hat and skirt

1) Go far away from the problem at hand.

This can literally mean just leave the problem for a bit or stop thinking about it. When I feel stuck, I go on walks. I listen to music and try not to think about what’s frustrating me. Most of the time, my subconscious figures things out for me.

Free stock photo of adult, alarm clock, antique

2) After leaving it for a bit, look at all the components of the problem.

Write down the problem, your solutions, as well as anything else that might be important. In experiments, writing down everything that you did may shine light on why you are getting results that are different than what is found in the literature. This also means, write down what data other people are getting too.

Photo of a Sign and Eyeglasses on Table

3) Stay positive.

So this is important. If your data is different than other people’s, you may have found something out that is quite significant. Tell yourself that this is the case, because if you are negative about what is happening, you may overlook some really cool findings.

Photo of Woman Writing on Tablet Computer While Using Laptop

4) Keep working at it.

Do not give up on the project/experiments until you have exhausted all possibilities. You might have made a mistake and contaminated the results. Yes, this happens to the best of us. But, you may have also found something really significant. If you give up early, you may not find the answer to your problem.

High Angle Photo of Woman on Ladder

5) Ask for help

If you are smart, you will ask for help. Problems may have an easy answer that just needs a fresh pair of eyes to look at it. So, ask your adviser what they think or go to your committee members. They may just have the answer you are looking for.

These are problems that no one else has tackled, and you are the one to do it. I think that’s extremely exciting to be honest. I promise you that you will get through whatever it is that’s happening. Just remember that you have survived 100% of the hardships that you have experienced and you’ll survive this one.

If you haven’t checked out my blog about ways to reduce stress, I suggest you do. Who knows, you may need it when tackling hard problems (link here).

**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.

The Uncertainty of Grad School

If anyone knows a great amount about uncertainty, it’s grad students, more so PhD students. There is one question that you should never ask a doctorate student and that is “when do you think you’ll graduate?” I understand that this is a harmless question, but we really don’t know. Our lives are filled with uncertainty about our research, careers, heck, even about if we can eat later. If you are a grad student that is dealing with a feeling of uncertainty, just know that you are not alone.

I wish I could say that a PhD is a straight forward path, filled with a fun research project and a set schedule. It is not. For the most part, the whole project is up to the student to do, and there will always be setbacks. Funding is a major setback for grad students. You need money to be able to work on the project as well as money just so you can eat. In some cases, you may get neither. In other cases, you may get barely enough money to pay for your rent. You just don’t really know.

Feeling uncertain about your future is completely normal. Having anxiety because of it is a normal response but needs to be managed. Grad school will throw so many curve balls that by the end of it. You will be so desensitized to uncertainty that it doesn’t even bother you. I feel like that is a main goal of graduate studies.

Being able to focus on a project and see it through to the end, regardless of what happens, is something that not many people can do. Most projects will have a set goal, timeline, and tasks that need to be complete. Your project might be a brand new scientific addition to the world where you may get weird results, you may go poor in the process, and you may not have a set path for you. Understand that this can be fun, stressful, but fun.

It’s all about the journey, my friends. See, goals are great, but the journey is the most important part. The end goal in a grad program is graduation. That might be years in the future. So, would you rather get the most out of the ride or be miserable the whole time? I wrote in a blog post about finding the good in things. (link here). Things will go wrong, and a lot in grad school. It is all part of the journey, though. You learn to adapt to changes and uncertain events that may occur.

African man with frown look sitting under red light

Here are a few things that you can do to reduce the anxiety that comes from uncertainty in grad school.

  1. Accept that we cannot control everything. If it out of our control then why worry about it?
  2. Envision the best scenario that can happen. Also, envision the worst thing that can happen. Now understand that what is likely to happen is something between those two things.
  3. Keep moving regardless of what happens. You may get pushed back another semester or your experiment failed. These are all things that are out of our control. You must keep moving forward and learn from those experiences.
  4. Seek support from those you trust. Most people have a support system. Go to them and don’t just take all advice from some stranger on the internet (lol).
  5. Look for the honey. Every event that occurs can have some form of good that comes from it. Look for what good came from each event that occurred. Focus on just that and it will make the situation much more enjoyable.
  6. Accept that uncertainty is part of life, and quite an exciting thing too.

Sometimes the best thing to do is just accept that things will not go as planned. There will always be things out of your control that will run the show. If you are truly suffering from dealing with uncertainty, check out this article about the books that can help you with that (link here). I think I might get a few of those books myself.

Before I finish up, I just want to say, it is ok to get anxious every once in a while. These feelings are normal and nothing is wrong with you. However, focusing on these feelings and getting more anxious is not alright. Grad school is a terrifying time in a young scholars life. You may think that you are traveling this path alone, but you aren’t. We are all on this journey. Focus on the good things that come from grad school. Focus on the skills you are obtaining along this journey. And most importantly, be kind to yourself. I wish more people didn’t beat themselves up all of the time, especially for things out of their control.

I hope your week is eventful and full of fun activities. You guys really are the best. Thanks for reading.

My Favorite Quotes

Today, I felt like looking up a few quotes that really help me get through the day. Some of these, I have posted around my office so I can look at them each day. Here are a few of my favorite quotes and I hope you enjoy them. Here is also a list of other quotes that you may want to check out (link here).

  1. “You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”-Robin Williams (Good Will Hunting)
  2. “We have a saying in Tibet: If a problem can be solved there is no use worrying about it. If it can’t be solved, worrying will do no good.”― Heinrich Harrer (Seven Years in Tibet)
  3. “Everything has beauty, but not everyone can see.”- Confucius
  4. “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” -Winnie the Pooh.
  5. “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb
  6. “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”-Franklin D. Roosevelt
  7. Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is a quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”-Mary Anne Radmacher
  8. “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” -Steven Furtick
  9. “It gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it everyday-that’s the hard part. But it does get easier” -From Bojack Horseman
  10. “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”-Ernest Hemmingway

I hope you find value in these quotes. They are definitely important in my life and keep me going. Let me know some of your favorite quotes in the comments. I would love to add more to my collection. If out haven’t already, go check out how writing can help with your mental health (link here). See you in the next one!

My Experience With Therapy

I have written quite a few pieces where I emphasize the importance of therapy. In fact, like 50% of my posts in my “Mindfulness and Meditation” section contain something about therapy. Today, I want to share a little bit of my experience using Talkspace.com and the pros and cons of this platform.

Free stock photo of adolescent age, adult, chair

My experience

I started therapy March of last year. I remember because quarantine hadn’t started yet and that was something my therapist brought up later. At first, it was mostly just texting back and forth. I preferred this method because I am a shy person, and talking about my feelings is hard to do. It was also fairly convenient because I could text my therapist at any time during the day or night. This was definitely a perk of using the app.

After about 3 months of texting, my therapist asked if I would prefer to do a 1 hour, live session, instead of texting. Little ol’ anxious Ben said no, at first, because this made me feel uncomfortable. My therapist understood and was still really supportive. It wasn’t until last fall that I decided to do live sessions.

Live sessions are amazing. You really get to cover a ton of information and learn so much about yourself. It also was a one and done kind of thing, better than texting about my feeling every night. I had a 1 hour session which covered literally everything on this blog. I mostly dealt with understanding my feelings, coping with anxiety, and practicing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Check out this article on the benefits of this method (link here). Needless to say, Talkspace was well worth it.

Of course there were some things that I didn’t like about doing online therapy, mostly the texting portion. If you get the basic plan on any of these online therapies, you may just get texting. I think BetterHelp has a better plan than Talkspace, but I am not sure. If you have tried BetterHelp, let me know your experience with that one. The live sessions are the best attribute of the app but their platform isn’t that good and sometimes the video chat doesn’t work. This can be bad if you desperately need a therapy session and the technology doesn’t allow for that to happen.

I ended my therapy sessions in the spring. My therapist only wanted to see me once a month to check in and that did not occur as she left Talkspace because they didn’t pay enough. It was fine with me because I felt like a new person. Therapy was an amazing decision and I highly recommend it.

Smiling Muslim woman waving hand and having video call

Here are the Pros and Cons for Talkspace that I have noticed

Pros

  1. Super easy and convenient. You can text your therapist at any time during the day
  2. You get to have a one-on -one session with them ponce a week, for an hour
  3. It’s very cheap and may be covered by insurance
  4. The therapists are amazing
  5. They give you recommendations for therapists based on what you are having trouble with
  6. It actually works
  7. They give you weekly updates and reports
  8. Often covered by colleges

Cons

  1. You only get 5 text messages per week from your therapist.
  2. Their more expensive option provides more, but is often not really enough if you need immediate help.
  3. Not all insurance helps, so you will be paying out of pocket.
  4. Their platform doesn’t work well with video chats sometimes.
  5. They don’t pay their therapists that much so some end up leaving.

If you are considering therapy, don’t rule out online therapy. There are so many therapy platforms online that I would say are just as good as regular session. The top three that I would suggest would be 1) Talkspace 2) BetterHelp and 3) Online-Therapy. Whichever you choose, I am sure that it will help significantly. If you are in grad school, or just in a stressful job, taking the time to get help, professionally, can change your life.

If you have experience using online therapy platforms, comment below. I would love to read about your experience. See you in the next blog.

Being Mistaken For An Undergrad

I want to talk about something that I think most grad students experience, being mistaken as an undergrad student. I get it all of the time because I have a “baby face”. In fact this weekend, someone asked me if I am a junior in college. I was a bit set back by this comment, but not offended. It was kind of funny to see their expression when I told them that I am finishing my fourth year of graduate school.

Man and Woman Sitting on Concrete Bench Using Laptop Computers

In my university, 75% of the students are undergrads so grad students are quite outnumbered. Doctorate students are not very common so everyone just lumps you in with the master’s students or, in my case, the undergrads. If this happens to you, just laugh about it. People may ask you if you have exams or how your classes are going. Just say “fine”. Some graduate students will tell their whole life story to people, letting them know they don’t take classes and devote their life to research. Don’t be this person.

Photo Of Female Engineer Wearing Lab Coat

I do love to tell people I am a doctorate student, though. That’s only if they asked. This morning, I was at Publix and someone asked “what do you have going on today?” I just told them I have lab work. They asked what lab so I told them that I am a doctorate student. The look on their face was priceless because I caught them way off guard. I just laughed about it and said “have a great day”.

Do not get offended if people mistake you for an undergrad. People don’t know what you are and will assume based on what they know. Just laugh it off. It’s just another part of the graduate school process. Anyway, I just wanted to share this because it’s something that might get on grad students nerves when it really shouldn’t. Life is way too short to be offended. As always, I hope your day is amazing and for those in lab, I hope your experiments go well. I will see you all in the next post. If you haven’t already, check out my post on Habits of a successful graduate student (link here).

**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.

It’s OK to be Nervous

Grad school is a very scary experience. Like most new things, grad school will put you into some very scary situations that turn out to be just fine. You won’t have to do anything too crazy, I promise you that. But, you will experience stuff that may make you scared. Trust me, it’s all part of the process of making you a great scholar.

It is OK to be scared in grad school. You are going to do many things that are brand new to you and you are going to give a ton of presentations. I mean an absurd amount of presentations. Those can be one of the scariest parts of grad school. You may feel a bit nervous about most things. This is good. This means that you are stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring something new and exciting. I actually drew a visual for me on my white board to let me know that getting out of my comfort zone was good.

I suggest drawing this same figure. There are many different versions of this which I will share but this is my favorite because of it’s simplicity. I need to get out of my comfort zone to get to where the magic happens. Grad school is where that magic is and I definietly got out of my comfort zone with this one. Here’s another version.

How to Leave your Comfort Zone and Enter your 'Growth Zone'

I find these visuals to be so motivating.

In grad school, you will traverse through all of these zones to get to where the magic happens. You will acquire so many new skills, and the best part, you will also create a much broader comfort zone.

I often tell new students that the first year will be the hardest. You will be super hesitant to do experiments, meet people, give presentations (link here on how to give great presentations, btw.), etc. This is normal and very much expected but there will come a time where all of the things that made you nervous or scared, won’t anymore. I love seeing when this occurs in new students. They gain confidence in what they do and grow in their experiences.

Embrace the feelings that you get when you are trying something new. Know deep down that this experiences is helping you learn and it is OK to be nervous. You are growing as an individual and that is so freaking cool.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”

**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.

Make Sure Your Friends Are Ok

I spend a great amount of time alone. That is just how academia works to be honest. Finding friends has been a bit of a tricky situation since starting for this fact. Luckily, through some persistence, and dumb luck, I have found quite a few friends to share my time with. These individuals are also graduate students, so we are all in this chaotic boat called the doctorate program.

Everyone complains in my department about the exact same things, long hours, impossible workloads, sometimes weeks of no work (weird but it comes up), etc. It’s quite normal to have one of my friends come to me, complaining how badly they want to leave. They feel lonely, imposter syndrome is kicking their butts, or something is happening with their adviser. This is why it is so important to be kind to others in your program.

Grad school is easy. Doing the work is easy. Thinking about the workload and the dissertation and also thinking about all of the alone time and isolation, that’s the hardest part. I believe this is a major contribution to why people are very unhappy in grad school. They have shown that they can do the work, but they get caught up in their own heads, thinking about other things that come with grad school. This is just one hypothesis that I have, but that’s for a different day.

Two Women Sitting Near Trees

Your friends need help too. In fact, if you are in a mentally healthy position in grad school, please help your friends with coping mechanisms. I have started to do just this, not only to my friends in academia but also those working full time, in the real world. Make sure your friends are doing well. They are such a valued part of your life, and if they are hurting, you probably will as well.

Make sure to check in with your friends often. Also, check in with the other students in your department as well. You don’t even have to say much. A simple “good morning” or “what’s up?” is enough. When people around me say stuff like that, it always makes me feel better. You’re friends will probably be the same way.

fight

Everyone is fighting some form of fight. We all have demons, but that doesn’t mean we all have to suffer. Grad school can be a terrible place for people if they don’t have the right support. Why not become that support? But, like most things, be warned. You may be taking on quite a bit if you try and get your friends to open up to you more. They might be having a very rough time and need you there. Remember, be like a dust pan. Take up all of their “trash” but make sure to dump it in a trash can. Do not hold onto their problems or you will get burnt out. Learn to let go. Check out my blog on other mindfulness techniques that you can use too (link here).

If you could do me a favor today, please check in with your friends this week. Make sure things are ok, and if not, offer some support. I guarantee it will be well worth it. I want to leave you all with a YouTube video about mindfulness and kindfulness. Check it out below. See you all in the next blog.

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

Grad School Weekends

Weekends are sacred. They should be for a graduate students. I rarely spend my weekends doing work unless I absolutely have to. I know of people that work every single day of the week and never spend a moment away from their work. That’s exhausting to watch and unproductive and taking breaks is essential to boost productivity. So working constantly boggles my mind.

For those that are just starting grad school, you’ll soon realize how toxic the environment can become. You will be expected to work a lot more than you probably ever have. You will see people come in to the lab at 9 am and leave at midnight. Know that this isn’t normal! Sure, you will have some times where you may have to stay very late, but don’t make this your life.

Take most, if not every weekend off. Spend this time doing literally anything but school work. Go on a hike, see family, rob a bank, anything! I like to spend my weekends going to see family or driving to Miami to see my girlfriend. By taking yourself out of work, you will start to really enjoy things more. Working every day causes you to become irritated and grumpy. You will stop doing hobbies and you may even start hating the project that you are working on. Pretty much, working all of the time will make you bitter.

Taking weekends off is amazing for your mental health as well. Life is so much more than the paperwork you have to do, or the experiments you have to run. You are literally on this earth for a fraction of a moment, so you don’t want to waste it alone, doing work. Take Saturdays and Sundays to go explore new things and experience something that you haven’t experienced before. Go to the movies, ride a bike, heck, just lay in bed and binge movies all day. There’s plenty of time to do work later.

This weekend, I am going to enjoy time with friends as well as time at the gym. My schedule is a bit all over the place because of lab work and personal training so getting to the gym myself has been a struggle. I am also experiencing a bit of post-quals slump (PQS). I need the time this weekend to just do everything but work. It will be good for me and for those that will have to deal with me lol.

Hopefully, you get to spend this weekend doing something you love. If you are stuck in the lab because you are trying to catch up on work, make sure to set aside a decent amount of time to enjoy today. I guarantee it will make you feel so much better. If you haven’t already, go check out my last blog about the pros and cons of going to grad school (link here). I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

**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 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.

sleep

4) I sleep better

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

Kindness

5) I am kinder

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

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

Simple Ways to Reduce Stress Now

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

  1. Exercise
exercise

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

2. Use the massager that you bought

massage

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

3. Drink tea instead of coffee

Tea

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

4. 10 minutes of meditation

Silhouette of Man at Daytime

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

5. Write down your stressors

Person Holding Blue Ballpoint Pen Writing in Notebook

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

6. Play mellow music

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

7. Breathe

Man Wearing Black Cap With Eyes Closed Under Cloudy Sky

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

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

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.

It will be hard, but worth it

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.

Find your productive time

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.

Learn 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….sheesh

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.

Help others with their anxiety

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.

Final Thought

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!

Take Vacation 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.

The beginning of the semester

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!!!

It’s important

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.

Search for how many days you get

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.

Why take vacation?

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.

Enjoy the ride

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.

Rest=success

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.

Final Thoughts

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 (aka office job) 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 office job in no time.

3. Get a standing desk

office job

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.

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
grad school

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

2. No one will really care about your work

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

3. You will say goodbye to a ton of friends

Persons Left Hand on Airplane Window

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

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

Assorted Sliced Fruits in White Ceramic Bowl

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

5. You are not in undergrad anymore

Person in White Shirt With Brown Wooden Frame

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

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

Things That make YOU Happy

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

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

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

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

Zoom to Classroom: The Great Transition During Covid

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

Text

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.