Traveling in Grad School: You Can Do It

It’s my favorite time of the year, summer! As a grad student, you tend to favor summers more than any other semester. 1) You won’t have to push through a ton of undergrads to get to your lab. 2) The gym is finally empty so you can workout in peace. And 3) it means your adviser is probably gone for a bit so you can take some time off. If you decide to take time off and go on vacation, I highly suggest doing it during the summer when things are a tad bit slower. Traveling in grad school during this time can be super great and a bit stressful. So today, I want to cover the topic of traveling in grad school and how you can do it without going insane lol.

traveling in grad school

Why You Need To Travel

Life is more than sitting at a computer and doing stupid work until 5 pm. Life is about going into the unknown, exploring what is there, and enjoying everything about this experience. You are more than a grad student, you are a human being. Life is quite a weird thing and you need to enjoy every bit of it. Traveling is one way of doing this. Now, in grad school, you are very limited on the type of traveling that you can do. Money constraints, work load constraints, and everything else in between. So, traveling to far away places might not be on your list of things to do. You can, however, explore the location in which you live. Traveling doesn’t always mean going somewhere far away. It can mean exploring the area where you live.

Traveling is important because you experience new things. You get to remove yourself from the day to day stresses that keep you up at night. Heck, you might just be traveling to see friends or family. This can be a huge stress reliever that adds years back to your life. If you decide to travel outside of the country you live in, you’re bound to be introduced to new lifestyles, cultural differences, and some pretty gosh darn good food. The best thing that you could possibly do is travel while in grad school. You learn so much about yourself and others this way.

traveling home in grad school

Traveling Home

Some of you are going to school pretty far away from where you grew up. For me, I only live about 2 hours away from home, so it is a quick and easy drive home for me. For others, you might be thousands of miles away. I know many students in my department that are from other countries. It’s not so easy being able to travel to see family, especially with plane tickets going up. If you are someone that has to travel a pretty far distance to go home, I have a bit of advice.

First, plan out your trip very far in advance. This serves many purposes. You will find better tickets for plan rides home for one. You can give plenty of heads up to your adviser. Remember, you still are doing research throughout summer. Planning out far in advance also allows you get enough work done so you are stressed about working when you get home. Spending time with family is important and you don’t want to be working the entire time.

traveling to a far away place in grad school

Traveling Somewhere Else

You may be taking time off to go and travel somewhere else and go on vacation. In this case, really plan this out to make sure that you are not working at all. Vacations are extremely important to take while in grad school. If you want to read more about why, check out my post about it (here). Also, if you would like to know some locations where you should visit, check out my post about those (here). I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel to amazing places that I think everyone needs to visit at least once in their lifetime.

Make sure to really plan out everything if you are traveling somewhere new. Make sure all tickets are bought, passports up to date, and hotels booked. Doing this far ahead will make the whole trip smooth and stress free. The point of traveling is to reduce stress and explore. You don’t want to be more stressed.

Traveling in Grad School on a Budget

I think the absolute best part about traveling in grad school is traveling on a budget. Yes, you are poor. If you aren’t, please send me some money lol. Anyway, if you are like most people in grad school, you’re pretty poor. This does not mean you can’t have the best trip of your life. It simply means that you have to put a bit of effort into making the most of it, on limited amounts of money. This makes trips very fun. I would love to have unlimited money and go everywhere, but that’s not realistic and I find limiting the amount of money spent on a trip is actually better. You may need to stay in a hostel if you are traveling abroad. This is actually my go to because you get to stay at some cool places, and meet amazing people. Most of the people going to hostels are the same age as you and trying to make the most of life. It is a great place to meet life long friends.

You also get to experience what it’s really like at that location. For example, I went to China right after graduating undergrad. I was on a very tight budget which didn’t allow me to get taxi rides everywhere or hop on planes each week to go to far away places. No, I had to walk everywhere and use the subway. BTW the subways in china are amazing and cheap. This forced me to completely immerse myself in everything there was in the city. I had to interact with the locals, find my way around a foreign place, and learn to handle being out of my comfort zone.

preparing to travel in grad school

How to Prepare

So here are a few things to consider when preparing to travel anywhere while in grad school. These are things that I personally do which have helped me a ton. Hopefully they work for you as well.

  1. Get plane tickets early
  2. Try and get a travel buddy if going out of the country. Traveling alone might be scary, especially if it’s your first time.
  3. Notify your adviser that you are taking time off and for how long. They will more than likely be Ok with you taking time off.
  4. Book hotels or hostels early. Try not to wait for the last minute, especially if you are traveling during the time of a major holiday. (trust me).
  5. Get most of your work done so you won’t have to worry about anything.
  6. Before leaving, pack for the weather. Wearing shorts in the middle of winter in Beijing is not advised…
  7. Make sure your pets are taken care of.
  8. Plan out a budget and give some wiggle room. If you stick to a budget that’s too tight, you won’t have as much fun.
  9. Do research on where you are going. If it’s home, you know what’s there. If it’s somewhere you’ve never been, find cool things about it and go do them.
  10. Make sure your passport is up to date.
  11. Plan out how to get to the airport. Uber can be expensive but friends can be bribed with food ;p
  12. Tell someone close about where you are going, for how long, and everything about what you are doing. Have them check in with you to make sure you are ok while away.
  13. When planning out things to do, don’t cram a million things into each day.
  14. Allow yourself to get excited.
traveling in grad school: you deserve it

Go On Vacation, You Deserve it.

Please, please, please, go travel somewhere this summer, or fall (if you are reading this in the fall). You deserve a break from academia every once in a while. It is healthy for you to leave the work and go enjoy life. Work will always be there. in fact, leave it there and never come back lol. Man, sometimes I wish I could.

Don’t feel like you need to spend all of your time working on your doctorate. In fact, doing so is actually hurting you. The benefits of taking time off and doing literally anything but work outweigh staying in the office and doing one more thing.

Final Thoughts

For those traveling this summer, let me know in the comments where you are going. I am heading to the Florida Keys in July to go fishing for a week. My family does this each year and it really is needed in my life lol. It will be the last vacation I take before I buckle down for the long write (thesis writing). My defense is coming up quickly so I want to make sure everything is ready. I will need this vacation to rejuvenate myself before I write each day for like 10-12 hours and prepare my dissertation.

I hope you guys get to travel somewhere cool and I also hope that you are having an awesome day! Thank you for reading my post and I hope to see you in the next one. Peace!

Summers in Grad School

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So, tomorrow is the last day of the spring semester. I swear, these semesters are getting shorter and shorter each time. It could jut be because I only do research, but I swear we just started the spring semester like last week. Oh well! Today, I want to discuss summers in grad school. It is literally the best time of year, mostly because it is hot and I live at a place with a pool. It is also a great time for grad students to catch up on work that they have been putting off. Shame on you lol. Just kidding.

Summer is a great time because you will most likely have more time to get stuff done. In some cases, summers are a bit slower than the rest of the year. In other cases, you might be pressured to finish papers, experiments, and everything else your adviser throws at you. I want to discuss a few things that I think will benefit you. Make the must of summers in grad school. You may not get another chance to have a free summer after graduation.

Take Time Off

So, summer is usually when people will take some time off. If you haven’t already, go check out my blog about vacations in grad school (link here and here). It may give you a few ideas. Anyway, I highly encourage you to take some time off. If you were taking courses during the semester, you deserve to have at least a week of just doing nothing or going somewhere that you’ve never been. Heck, go to the beach and get a tan. There’s no real need to push yourself hard after going through finals.

This is the time when faculty take off too. Your adviser might not even be in the country so why are you still going to the lab? I do understand if you have to get stuff done, such as, you are graduating soon and need to finish. But if you aren’t, go somewhere for a few days and experience life outside of academia. It’s so easy to be caught up in all of the work that we forget to experience life. Also, it is extremely toxic for you to continuously work, you’ll hit burn out really fast. Read about that here.

Get Some Papers Published

If you are in a doctorate program, you know the importance of publications. I literally cannot graduate unless I have at least 1, first author publication. In many departments, you might need even more than that. Summer is a great time to get out a publication. You have probably been doing quite a bit of work and have enough information to add something to the world of academia. Might as well write something up in summer, get it published, and get that out of the way. Plus, you’ll have quite a lot more time to write. Writing a publication takes a heck of a lot of time. Sometimes weeks just to write a 5000 work article. Summer is the time to do that.

Catch Up On Sleep

This is for all grad students. First off, sleep deprivation is only hurting you. Get some sleep before I call up your adviser and get them to yell at you. Working 16-20 hour days, day after day will lead to you probably having to leave your department. You are not getting any more productive work done than if you worked 8 hours. Trust me. Anyway, summer is a good time to sleep in. Sleep in every day if you have to. You will notice that your productivity will skyrocket over summer. Mine always does and I am not stressed out as I usually am during the spring and fall semesters. Summers in grad school should be somewhat relaxing. Why not relax by getting some decent (>8 hr) sleep.

Take Random Courses

There are plenty of courses that you can take during the summer to either have fun or learn something. We have leisure courses that are offered each semester. They include stuff like dancing, pottery, bar tending, and various other things. You don’t have to take those, you can take course online such as like a coding course, maybe a course on productivity (I have a ton through this link), mindfulness, learn to be a graphic designer, and a ton of other ones.

This is a great idea if you are taking like 1 or 2 classes over summer and really have nothing else to do. This is also a good way to make the most out of the free time that you have. I promise that you will be plenty busy come fall semester. Having the time during summer to be able to do random stuff is such a blessing and you really need to take full advantage of it.

Binge Shows and Movies

I want to stress the importance of doing something like this. You really need to have a few days where you aren’t “productive”, meaning, you aren’t working on your doctorate or master’s or whatever. Relax and unwind with a good Harry Potter movie or perhaps binge watch a show that you haven’t seen before. I actually have a blog post about watch to watch on you down time. Check it out through this link (here). As I stated before, summers in grad school need to be filled with relaxation. Binging shows is as relaxing as you can get.

I say invite over a friend and try and watch all of the Lord of the Rings movies. Make themed food and just spend the whole day watching them. Bonus if you do this on a rainy day. Raining day movie binge days are the absolute best and you all know it.

Catch Up on Exercise

Yes, I put mad emphasis on relaxation. One way in which you can relax is by exercising more. You know that you slacked a bit on going to the gym or even just walking. Summer is your chance to get back in the gym. Also, since most students are gone, the school gyms are likely empty. That means that the squat rack is actually open. Score!

If you just want to stay low key with exercise, I suggest at least creating some good habits such as walking each day and maybe running a bit. Check out my blog about the walking challenge that I do. You can start a challenge, get a metal, and create a healthy habit all at once. Here is a link to that blog post.

Maybe Start a Blog

Summers in grad school can free up a ton of time. If you are in grad school, you know that writing is super important. So import that I include it in most of my blog post. Starting a blog is a great way to develop those writing skills that you have been meaning to perfect. It also makes writing your thesis way easier. Trust me, what takes a day to write now, would have taken me a month prior to me starting a blog. Writing becomes such an easy thing.

Other than learning basic writing skills, you can also just have fun with it. Blogging is a great way to document your journey through grad school and it is extremely helpful for those that read it. I started with hardly anyone reading my stuff. Now, I have at minimum 25 people a day reading my material from all around the world. I am hopeful that I will get to at least 100 people a day by the end of my doctorate. That’s alot of people reading my stuff and learning about my journey through grad school. Why not be like me and start now. Soon people will be coming to you for advice on how they can make the most of grad school.

Final Thoughts

Honestly, I love summers in grad school. Not only is it a time to be productive, but it is also a time to finally be able to breathe and relax a ton. For those in grad school now, let me know what types of things you’ll be doing this summer. I would love to know what everyone is doing. For those wondering how I will spend my summer, I’ll be writing up a paper, sleeping in, and going on a few trips throughout the summer. I will also be working a bit at the gym too. I have to make money to afford the plane tickets this summer lol.

Well everyone, I hope you are all having an amazing week. I know I sure am. I’m going to try and write another blog tomorrow, but we will see. If I don’t see you tomorrow, then I will the next day. As always, thanks for reading. Peace.

Update on what’s going on in my life

I have a feeling that some of you are a bit mad at me because I am not writing to you guys as much. Instead, I have been writing to the “internet”. Yes, I have been focusing on SEO and it has worked. I am getting like 10 to 15 people a day to my website. You guys know how hard it is to get organic traffic, so I am super happy about that.

Today, I want to write to you guys, my followers and friends. I haven’t really done this in a while and it shows as many people on wordpress aren’t liking my posts as much as they used to. I will make sure to write some of these informal posts here and there. They really do help me by allowing me to vent a bit/journal. As you all know, I have been coping with anxiety and a bit of depression for a while now. Blogging has significantly reduced those feelings and I want to thank you all for the support. You really are an amazing group of people and I think there are about 1500+ of you following my blog. Thank you all.

My Weekend

This weekend, I am heading to Sarasota to celebrate my girlfriends birthday. We are going to see her family friends that live there and have a fiesta! I am really looking forward to it and seeing everyone. I have been a bit of a recluse lately because I am trying to get a first draft of a paper to my adviser. Yes, I have another paper that I am hoping can get published in a high impact journal. Honestly, the data is a bit weird and it may just end up in some other type of journal that really isn’t much. But, I will be optimistic and say that I think this paper will get into a higher impact journal than my last.

If you want to read my last paper, here is a link. It’s a literature review, which means that it is long and boring lol. There might be a pay wall, though. Just read the abstract and you’ll know everything there is about it lol.

I am in the final stretch of my doctorate. I have about 6 months until I defend my research and I really have been going hard with lab work. By the end of September, I have to have a rough draft of my dissertation to submit to the school, so I need to get on that lol. Nothing like a bit of anxiety to really get you in the writing mood, right?

Sirius

Sirius is doing well. He was being a little brat the other day and escaped his carrier when I was walking up to my apartment. I had to chase him around the complex, but luckily I was able to catch him and bring him inside. He has been so cuddly at night which makes my heart happy. I have been oversleeping because of him too. He tends to curl up right next to my chest and it just makes getting up really hard. Also, he is very energetic when I am home which has been a problem being productive. He really loves to play with his toys, and me.

New Chapters

Lastly, I have been applying for jobs and actually got an interview, 8 months before graduation. I am slightly nervous for it, as I haven’t done an interview in like 6 years. I don’t know what to expect, but I know I will be ready when the time comes. This will be my first virtual interview, so it’s a bit different than what I am used to.

Final Thoughts

I hope everyone is having an awesome week. It is almost the weekend and the weather is getting amazing. I believe I will be spending the vast majority of the weekend outdoors and I can’t wait. Doing lab work is really fun, but spending time outside, with friends and family just really takes the cake. Also, there will be cake this weekend so I am excited lol. Let me know in the comments what you plan to do this weekend? Anything fun? As always, have an awesome day and I will see you in the next one. Peace!

How Much Free Time Do Grad Students Have?

Ahhhh, the age old question. Will you have any free time in grad school? The answer, is always, and will always be, YES!!!! If someone says that you will be busy from sun up to sun down, everyday, stay away from them. They are clearly doing something wrong. So then why do people say you won’t have any free time in grad school? If you want to find out what I think, you have to promise me that you will read this whole post. I’m just kidding, I’ll talk about it right after this.

free time in grad school

Will You have free time in Grad School?

As I said above, yes, you will have free time to do things you love. In fact, you might have a ton of time to do many things. Yes, you will be plenty busy towards the end of semesters and deadline. But, for the most part, you’ll likely have enough time to do the things you are passionate about. People often say that you will be busy all of the time. This just isn’t true. The people that are busy all of the time are the ones about to graduate or the ones that are about to hit a bit milestone such as defending or doing their qualifying exam. People often want to feel important so they brag about the hours they spend in the lab. I guarantee that they spend like a hour actually doin work and the rest of the time is watching Netflix.

People say that you will be busy all of the time because maybe they think that everyone needs to be busy. Apparently, in grad school, as well as life, it’s a cool thing to brag about how busy you are all the time. You know what happens when you are busy all of the time? You burn out. Also, being busy all of the time and working non stop is a great way to just let your life fly by. I would rather end my day at a reasonable time and enjoy things than work a few extra hours to get some small tasks done. I get that hard work is good, but people take it to the extreme and really make things toxic.

amount of free time in grad school

So about how much free time will you have?

If you are coming in to grad school directly from undergrad, you may seem like you have less free time. Undergrad, for most people, has a ton of free time. Now, by free time, I mean non classwork related activities. So, clubs, jobs, and other things I will put as “free time”. Outside of the classroom, you have ample amount of time to do whatever it is you do. In grad school, you’ll be focused more on coursework and research, so it may seem like there’s less time to do other things.

For those that are going to grad school from working full time, you’ll pretty much have the same amount of free time as you do while working full time. As I said in past blogs (link here), grad school is like a full time job. Once you’re done for the day, leave the work at the office and go home.

So, to answer the above question, grad school will take about 8 to 10 hours of your day. Sometimes much less, sometimes much more, and the rest is free time. That leaves about 8 hours of the day to do other things such as wood carving, doing other hobbies, working out, getting extra money, blogging, meditating, and everything else that I mention in blog posts lol. I highly recommend reading those posts if you are interested in any of them.

free time in master's program

How Much Free In Grad School: Master’s Program?

So, I am going to break this into two sections. The first will deal with master’s students and the second will be PhD students. I won’t be covering medical students or law students because I am neither and do not want to give you the wrong information.

So, in a master’s program, you will be mostly dealing with course work. I laid out how many hours you should spend doing coursework based on how many credits you are taking (here). A rule of thumb is you will spend about 3 hours per credit hour studying. A full time master’s student will most likely take 9 credits, 12 at the very most. 9*3=27 hours a week on classwork which leaves the rest to doing whatever you want! That’s right, spend the rest of the workweek doing anything except classwork lol.

Of course, these numbers will fluctuate throughout the year. While finishing my master’s, I had weeks where I works seemingly non stop for like 2 weeks straight. Other times, I maybe put in 5 hours tops during the week. You will have plenty of free time in a master’s program, trust me.

How Much Free time in grad school: PhD Program?

free time in PhD program

This one is a bit different than a master’s. You will probably be doing research mostly, and you’ll technically be “on call” 24/7. This does not mean that you need to work all of the time. No, keep it like a job and make sure to end the day. I would say that a PhD is a 8 to 5 job with the occasional 8 to 8 days/ multiple days. Yes, you’ll have free time. As much as a master’s student? probably not, but you will have a decent amount of time to be a human. Remember, you’re human and not a robot.

I have known people to work and publish a ton and I know of people that put in like 3 hours a day and go do other things. An old coworker of mine held a full time job on top of his stipend while in his PhD program. I know many people that finish at 3 each day, get plenty of work done, and manage to make it to 2 or three intramural sports events. The amount of free time that you have in a PhD program is completely up to you.

This changes when there is a deadline. The amount of free time leading up to your qualifying exam is near 0 and the same when writing your thesis. Those are not year long events and will only take up a small percentage of your time in academia. Deadlines will have you running around, doing work, but all deadlines do. There’s nothing different.

Final Thought

If you are thinking about going to grad school but are concerned that you will work your life away, don’t worry, you won’t. You’ll be plenty busy but not overly busy where you can’t enjoy the occasional hike around your apartment complex or going to a bar at night lol. I actually believe that being constantly busy in grad school is a terrible thing to do and you shouldn’t do that. Towards the end, you may start to actually like what you do. I know, I have gotten to a point where my free time is spent building things for experiments or reading about my research. Yes, I do work in my free time but because I actually want to. You may get to this point later on.

Enjoy these few years in grad school. You won’t get them back. The years will pass by very quickly so enjoy every minute of the ride. If you have any questions or concerns, send me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. If you haven’t already, go check out my blog on how my cat doesn’t really let me work lol. I have a link to that blog (here). I hope you all have a wonderful week, and I will see you next time.

Should You Drop Out of Grad School?

Unfortunately, this is a tough subject to talk about, but one that is important. If you are asking yourself “should I drop out of grad school?”, you are either 1) actually considering it or 2) just a typical grad student lol. If you are seriously considering dropping out of grad school, then you are in the right place. I am not here to stop you from doing it, but I do want to bring up some things that may make you reconsider. Grad school is hard, life is short, and you deserve to be happy, regardless of some stupid degree.

Anyway, today we are going to focus on the age old question “should I drop out of grad school?” lol. It is a very difficult question to ask yourself and you will have to consider quite a few things before you go through the process of leaving. I will discuss some of those things to consider in this article. So, let us take a look at some of the reasons why you would even want to consider dropping out of grad school.

Should You Drop Out of Grad School

Reasons to drop out of grad school

SO, there are quite a few reasons to go to grad school. There are quite a few reasons to stay in grad school and of course, there are a bunch of reasons to leave grad school and drop out.

1) Your goals have changed

So , you may have started your grad school tenure with the goal of becoming a professor or getting a really good job in the field that you are getting a degree in. Over the course of the 3 to 8 years of grad school, you found that what you are going to school for is not your calling. Trust me, it happens way more than you think. This usually occurs when you are doing a PhD. A PhD usually takes a very long time and that gives you plenty of time to change up what you want to do in life. This reason to leave the program is completely justifiable and you should not feel ashamed if you fall in this category.

I would suggest at least making sure you get your master’s degree while in school. You will be surprised that just holding a master’s degree will get you plenty of jobs later on and there’s always a bump in pay. This is true even if your degree doesn’t have anything to do with the career you are in. Always get the master’s lol.

Should You Drop Out of Grad School

2) You don’t get along with your adviser

So, this one can either be used to justify leaving or moving to another department. A huge component of passing grad school is working with your adviser and, at least, somewhat getting along. I know of people who had to leave their current studies because, no matter what they did, they could never please their adviser and always butt heads. Sometimes the advisers can be too much and in some cases abusive towards their students. This is a very good reason to leave them.

I would suggest, before leaving and dropping out of grad school, you search for an adviser that you will get along with. It is totally fine to switch departments or even colleges if you have to. Just not getting along with your adviser really isn’t the best reason for leaving grad school completely. If you are serious about your research, I highly suggest choosing the option of finding someone else.

3) Grad school is making you sick

Now, I am not saying that grad school is making you feel ill, well maybe, but I am primarily talking about mental health. If grad school is making you severely ill (mentally), you may need to reconsider it. I truly believe that reaching out for help should be the first thing to do. Getting professional help during grad school is probably the best thing I ever did and one of the best things you can ever do. If you want to read more about my experience with therapy in grad school, check out my blog post on it (link here).

Mental health needs to be your primary focus when taking care of yourself. The amount of isolation can really take it’s toll on your well being. If you have tried everything, and I mean everything, and grad school is just destroying your mental health, then you might need to consider the option of leaving. Grad school is not worth it in the end if you are going to be depressed. Trust me on this, your mental health is way more important than some stupid degree.

Should You Drop Out of Grad School

4) You can’t afford to live

So, you are going to be pretty poor in grad school. In some cases, you might have to eat ramen a few nights in order to get by. It happens, we hate it, unfortunately it’s part of the process. If you are having to give up on your physical health, mental health, and well being just to be able to afford rent, you may need to reconsider some things. Loans are definitely an option that I wish wasn’t one, but this might need to be taken into consideration if you are skipping meals or whole days of food just to be able to pay rent. I know people that live in very old, run down, apartments because that’s all they can afford.

Yes, you can get another job outside academia (unless you’re an international student. They can’t have second jobs.) and you can get more money. But that might push back graduation. If you get to a position where you are not able to eat or live in a safe environment, I would suggest looking for a different field to go into that pays more or just getting a master’s and leaving. Some of the very long PhDs are also some of the lousiest paying. 8 years of work at minimum wage might not be worth it, especially if you are in a field that might not have a lot of money for you coming out of college.

Should You Drop Out of Grad School

Things to consider first before dropping out of Grad School

There are many things that you need to conder before you decide whether to drop out of grad school. This is a big decision and it should not be made in one day. In fact, taking a whole semester to decide is probably best.

1) Will leaving affect future goals

Sometimes we make decisions off of emotions. I know that I do all of the time. This is a decision that should not be made because you had a bad day in grad school. We all have bad days, but we don’t want to mess up out future goals because of one bad day. When considering dropping out of grad school, consider your goals. Will they be influenced by this decision? If you have your heart set on being a profession, you know that dropping out will influence that. You can’t be one unless you get a PhD. If you want to be an engineer, dropping out may not hurt you at all and you can go on to having a fulfilling career. Take this into consideration when making this decision.

2) How will others react and be affected

So, this one is a consideration, but not a big one. If you have thought it through and you find leaving the absolute best option, don’t worry about what other’s think. You are making this decision for yourself. Unless it affects them, then don’t care. If this decision does affect them, say a spouse or a child, then you have to take them into consideration. This decision could mean that they might need to support you while you search for jobs. It could mean you having to move and that affects them just as much as you. Leaving academia is a huge decision and I know you’ll talk it over with others first.

3) Is it absolutely the right thing to do

Really, really consider this. I mean, sleep on it for weeks if you have to. Going to grad school might have been the best thing for you. Having a bad semester is not a reason to leave but having a few bad years and realizing that grad school wasn’t the best thing for you is a good reason to leave. Is leaving the right thing for you? That is for you to decide.

Final Thoughts

I hope you don’t consider leaving grad school and I hope you finish everything you started. Grad school is a hard and strenuous task, but I know you can do it. I am here to root you on and help you if you need the help. If you feel like you are in a position where you are thinking of leaving, please consider reaching out to me to talk about it. My email is benswaringen@yahoo.com. I would gladly talk about your options. The very last thing I want is for you to feel alone in this decision.

Anyway, I hope you all have had a wonderful day and week. This post was a late one for me. Usually I write in the mornings but I decided to write in the evening. I hope you found this post enlightening and I will see you in the next one. If you haven’t already, go check out my blog about the best coffee and coffee gadgets for grad school (link here). Peace!

A Letter To Yourself

Today’s blog post is actually an exercise that I did in therapy. Basically, you write a letter to your younger self to let them know how you have grown and changed over time. It really helps to show you how mature you are and how you have changed the past few years. Today’s letter will be to my first year PhD self. That might have been one of the most stressful times for me because I left everything to pursue a doctorate. I moved away from family, loved ones, and started a life back in the town that I called home for 3.5 years previously. To say that I was scared and anxious would be an understatement.

A Letter to Ben

Hi Ben (I usually always start this way. Nothing formal)

Congratulations on starting your PhD. This is a huge step and one of the best decisions that you have made. I can’t thank you enough for making this decision and starting this journey. So, thank you!

As will all journeys, you will experience many different things. Some will be good, other’s, not so much. You have decided to take this path and it comes with it’s fair share of ups and downs, and you are going to experience both. You survive, though lol.

The doubts that you have are just thoughts. They are not real in any sense and all created by a worrying mind. Fortunately for you (and me), none of the negative thoughts ever come to light. In fact, life has a funny way of being extremely unpredictable and surprises you quite often. Many of the things you are so sure will happen never do. It’s hard to fully understand what I am telling you now, but some time around your second year, you’ll start to understand more what I mean by this.

Life, unfortunately will get a little harder for you. You are going to go through a very rough patch in your academic career that will cause you to question your whole PhD entirely. But you know how I said life has a weird way of being unpredictable? Well, you’ll find that life is unpredictable and quite helpful too. There will be many opportunities to help yourself during these times. Some that make you feel a bit uncomfortable at first. Take advantage of those opportunities. You will benefit so much from them.

Now let’s talk about friends. Yes, you make some really great friends and you will lose quite a few. People, just like in undergrad, come and go. Unfortunately, nothing really is permanent and that applies to your friends too. Do not take the time with them for granted. Your friends will greatly impact who you become and that is a good thing. Also, for those friends that are slowly drifting away, it is ok to let them go. Thank them for the time that you were able to spend with them and the laughs you had, but remember that they might only be a part of your life for a brief second. Their role in your life has come and gone.

I know for a fact that you are going to do great things. You were always one to really push yourself to be more than average. Be kind to yourself though. Some things may not work out as quickly or as well as you like, and that might upset you. It’s all part of the process and I promise you that things happen for reasons, though, those reasons may not be so clear.

You are ready for this wonderful, scary, adventurous, difficult, and downright amazing journey. You were born to be a researcher and help potentially millions of people. Trust me, you can and will do it and people will be there to help you along the way. Congrats again on starting your PhD. You are going to make an amazing doctor one day.

Ben (older version)

PS. Start blogging about your journey through grad school. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Final Thoughts

Writing a letter to yourself really shows you how far you’ve come. Just putting this together has made me really look back on the past 3.5 years and appreciate the individual that I have become. For those in grad school or senior year of college, write a letter to yourself, your younger self that is. It will open your eyes to how far you’ve come and the person you are becoming as well.

I hope you all found this post to be a bit different as well as entertaining. This is such a great way to boost your spirits as well ad a good exercise to do if you are feeling down and stuck in life.

As always, I hope you all have an amazing day and I will see you in the next one. Also, if you haven’t already, check out my last post about the best grad school memes (link here). Peace!

You ARE Good Enough (Round 2)

I want to apologize to everyone. before we talk about why you are good enough, I want to discuss something. If you have been reading my blog lately, you have probably noticed that I have become focused on key ideas and key words. If you are familiar with google (you probably are), you know about page placement and rankings. The more content or better, the higher my ranking on search pages. This is an SEO (search engine optimization) approach that I have been doing.

I want to say that I am sorry because I lost a bit of connection with my readers and was so focused on ranking high, but not for greed. I am hoping to get these ideas and tips out to the population and I strongly feel like I have helpful info for those but it is hard to spread that without focusing on ranking higher on the search pages.

This is why I started focusing on a different writing style. I may continue this, but I do want to get back to just blogging for you guys, and not only for the masses.

You are good enough, repeat that 5X

Lately, I have been hearing a ton of “I’m not smart enough” or “I’m not good enough” from many grad students that I have been around. I have even said this multiple times recently, and that’s not right. First off, you ARE good enough! You have done amazing things and will do even more amazing things. Grad school and college are hard! This might be one of the reasons you feel this way. You have become a small fish in a big pond and it is terrifying.

Every single great scholar has been in your position. There are a select few that might not have felt like they weren’t good enough, but that’s like 4 people lol. Everyone else has felt bad at least a million times but they all turned out to do amazing things. SO, whatever you are going through right now, know that you can make it through this and you’re only growing from this experience.

Final Thoughts

I hope you guys have an awesome day. I know that this is a short blog but sometimes that’s what you have to write. Keep up the amazing work that you have done. If you want to ask me questions or anything (maybe send me some money lol), my email is benswaringen@yahoo.com.

How to Deal With Grad School Stress?

Have you ever asked yourself why things are the way that they are? Like, why do we have to drive on the right side of the road? Or, why is it that you can’t just eat only one brownie when a plate is left in front of you? These are questions that keep me up at night. One of the things that I question and want to really get down to the core about is why is grad school so stressful? Does it have to be stressful? Why is there even stress in grad school? I thought we were done with that in undergrad. Today, I want to touch on this subject and possibly answer why grad school is stressful and what we can do about it.

Main Reasons for Grad School Stress

There are going to be a ton of reasons in grad school to feel stressed. Some are normal and some might not be. Do not worry though. You will get out of grad school alive and well, potentially a bit insane, but we can work on that later. Grad school is a stressful time but also a great time in your life. I want to discuss some of the reasons for stress and also want to discuss ways you can reduce this stress.

1) The workload is too much

I think that this is the main cause of stress in grad school. The first two years of a program will be heavy with coursework and maybe a few experiments here and there. This will be a bit overwhelming at first because you might not be used to this workload. For some individuals, undergrad was a cake walk and then they decided to go to grad school. The first assignment you have might be a 10 page analysis on the origins of life or something like that. If you come from a major that was easy, you can see how grad school might kick your butt at first. Many majors that were hard just stay right on track with the level of difficulty. Engineering, for example, is the same thig but you’ll probably write a bit more in your classes.

You will have a smaller course load than undergrad but you will be plenty busy. In grad school, the professors expect you to work, and work hard. You’ll get plenty of assignments to do on top of your lab work. This can definitely be extremely stressful and anxiety inducing.

2) You may not have any support

I think a huge part of stress in grad school is doing research alone. You don’t really have the support of others because, frankly, they have no idea what you even do. You will be alone most of the time and that can be stressful and a bit depressing. Stressful, because you end up putting way too much pressure on yourself, and depressing, because, well, you’re alone. These two, mixed together, is a dangerous concoction.

Not having the support of others can make the whole experience super stressful. As I said above, you’ll start pushing yourself harder and harder and just stressing yourself out because you don’t have anyone to tell you that it’s good enough. I wish this wasn’t a thing in grad school and I wish people didn’t encourage pushing yourself that hard as well.

3) You won’t have a lot of time to interact and make friends

Sure, you will make friends, I wrote an article on how to (here), but you might not be as social as you were in undergrad. You may also find it a bit difficult to make friends. That just adds to the stress already built up. I found that not having a support group (aka friends) made it hard to vent and release some pent of stress from school. You may also feel stressed trying to get friends as well. No one wants to feel lonely while spending 5+ years in a grad program.

You will feel stressed to find friends and that can make things very hard for you in grad school. There are many ways to help to relieve this stress which I will talk about later in this post.

4) Financial Stress

Grad school stress is brought on by a ton of different things and I think financial stress is one of the big reasons for it. There is so much uncertainty in grad school and you might not know if you’ll be able to afford to eat next week. You don’t get paid that much in grad school, and holding a part-time job during can be almost impossible. I have written a ton about how to make money in grad school, but it doesn’t help that much with the stress. You might be adding even more stress to your experience because you are working extra to pay bills.

You’re practically poor in grad school and that’s just how it is, unfortunately. We are apprentices so they don’t have to really pay us more, since we are “learning the trade”. Many of us have families to take care of and loved ones. So, money can be a problem. Once I figure a sure-fire way to not be poor, I’ll let you guys know. Until then, we just carry on.

What to do to Deal With Grad School Stress?

There are many things that I discuss on my website about dealing with stress. In fact, the main reason for the blog was how to be mindful and reduce the hardships of grad school. Check out my other blogs (here) for more incite. Anyway, let’s discuss a few ways in which we can reduce grad school stress and potentially thrive off it.

1) Get organized.

This is such a simple thing as well as highly effective. It is so easy to just have papers all around, no planner whatsoever, and nothing to keep your organized. This can make it harder to get things done due to clutter as well as make things very stressful due to lack of organization. First, get yourself a planner so write down all deadlines and what to do everyday. Next, clean your desk. The more clutter, the more likely you misplace something important. Organization will make it easy to find things you need and you won’t feel as overwhelmed by clutter. The planner will keep you on top of assignments and deadlines.

The first thing that I did when I was overwhelmed with work was writing everything down in my planner. I saw how much work I need to do and when it was due. This allowed me to schedule my days to work on assignments exclusively and my productivity increased drastically. I also decluttered my desk and actually found some pretty important documents! Yay to decluttering.

2) Make sure to take breaks

I wrote the other day about how to prevent burnout. Constant stress in grad school can most definitely lead to burnout and a potential mental breakdown. When overly stressed, you need to take a moment and just relax. Meditate for like 15 minutes or go on a long walk. Get away from work for a while and things will get better. You may just be caught up in the moment and feel overwhelmed. After a nice little break, you might find clarity and realize that it’s not that bad.

Breaks will also prevent chronic stress from happening. This will make your grad school experience terrible and you do not want that. Remember that relaxation and rest are key components to productivity and stress reduction.

3) Seek out help

I think this is a very important way to reduce stress, yet people often don’t do it. It is amazing how reaching out to someone for help will alleviate so much stress in your life. If you are feeling overwhelmed with school, reach out to a professor or adviser and ask them for advice. May reach out to the professor of the courses you take and ask for an extension if you are feeling overwhelmed. They will most likely help you out. If you are really struggling, reach out to your friends and family for support. They will gladly help.

There are many places on campus where you can reach out to reduce stress. Study groups, student health centers, and tutoring places. All free to grad students. Take full advantage of these to help and reduce the overwhelming feelings you get in grad school.

4) Learn to shop deals

Things are getting pricey these days (thanks inflation), which will make financial burdens worse. One way to deal with this is shop deals. Take full advantage of being a student and look for student discounts. If you like music, Spotify has a monthly subscription for students that’s $5.99 and include premium Spotify and also Hulu. If you love Amazon, apply for their student program for a discounted Amazon prime membership. You will soon realize that you don’t have to deprive yourself of luxuries in life if you shop deals and use student discounts. Do this will keep money in your bank account and financial stress away.

Sometimes money can get really tight in grad school. You may even need to take out loans. This is fine as long as it helps to reduce that burden. Taking loans out is scary, but sometimes necessary to make sure to finish your degree. Take out loans only if you absolutely need to. Interest rates for paying them back can be high.

5) Exercise Please!

Everyone knows that exercise is a great stress reliever. So, why don’t we do it more? Well, people are so overwhelmed with stuff that they may be too tired or they just don’t have time to do it. We need to incorporate exercise into our life to make sure that stress doesn’t get the best of us. Take a look at this article by May Clinic. They go over all the different ways in which exercise helps you manage stress. Some of these include improving mood, reducing the negative effects of stress, as well as pumping up your endorphins. Really, guys and gals, go exercise. Heck, just go on a walk. That will make things a lot better for you.

6) Reduce Grad School Stress By Having Fun

Last, but certainly not least, have fun. Make grad school a fun experience. Try and have fun with work and make that a fun experience too. You’ll notice that your stress will probably come from how you perceive doing something. You may feel more stressed if you have to do something that you don’t find fun. Try and make those things fun by turning them into a game or giving yourself a prize for completing it. This will reduce the stress from doing it.

Final Thoughts

Grad school stress is terrible. You may feel more stressed than ever, especially towards the end. Try to combat these feelings if you can. It will make the whole 2 to 8 years way easier and quite enjoyable.

For those in grad school or those that have finished, how did you reduce stress or deal with it while you were doing your studies? Let us know in the comments. Thanks.

Is Grad School Fun?

Today, I want to talk about the fun side of grad school. Is there a fun side of grad school though? Well, the answer is “of course!” Grad school can be such a fun time in your life and I want to go over why grad school is actually one of the most fun times in my life.

Of course, grad school is much different than undergrad. The fun that you experience will also be much different than that which came with the 4 years of undergrad. You will likely spend more time doing other things like movie nights and dinners rather than going out to the club each night. I have found that I actually find getting to bed early and waking up early outshines the lifestyle of going to clubs and bars and drinking until 2 am. Grad school has changed me lol.

Why Grad School is Fun

So, grad school is a ton of work which may have people thinking that it’s not going to be a fun time at all. Man, are they wrong! Grad school is chalk full of fun activities, meet ups, workshops, and a ton more that makes each day exciting and great. I am constantly getting bombarded with emails about the 5000 different activities going on each day.

Two Smiling Women Sitting on Wooden Bench

Meeting new people

The most fun parts about grad school involve other grad students. You will get to meet a ton of people, from a ton of different countries, doing different things than you. When you are in your master’s, you may take courses with people that are in different colleges than you. My statistics course had people from every department and college in the university. This is fun because you get to experience just so much. You can talk with people about their research. You can learn so much new information and grow as an academic. This is also a great way to find new friends this way

Photo of a Woman Holding an Ipad

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Doing stuff you love

When you went to college or if you are going to college now, what did you not like about school? Was it taking classes that just didn’t interest you? When asking other students about what they love in grad school, one common answer is this, they love being able to do work they are interested in. When you are in undergrad, you may have to take a thousand credits of classes that you don’t find an interest in at all. This makes going to school not that fun. Trust me, I had to take quite a few courses that I hated to get a bachelors degree. I truly believe that one of the major things that makes grad school actually fun is being able to take the courses you want and are actually interested in.

People Throwing Pins

Doing activities rather than bar hopping

Don’t get me wrong, I do like going out with friends and grabbing a drink or two. I do find that I have been shying away from the Friday night club and bar hopping and focused my time on doing activities that don’t involve drinking heavily and pregaming. In undergrad, pre games then going to bars was the norm. Every Friday I would have people over to drink and then going to the nearby bars to drink even more. In grad school, I now focus my time on activities such as going to new town, seeing plays at theatres, going to the park and scootering around the neighborhood. My friends also like spending more of their time doing stuff like this instead of spending money at the bars. The appeal of getting drunk and stumbling home at 3 am has gone away.

You will find in grad school that the fun that you had in undergrad such as bar hopping tends to subside. Waking up with hangovers all the time just isn’t helpful in your studies and your interests will most definitely change. You will find fun in going to places like a bowling alley with other grad students or going to a trampoline park for a few hours. Heck, you may find fun in joining a running club or cooking class. These might be things that you didn’t really do in undergrad that you want to do now.

You get to research cool things

One of the most fun parts of being in grad school is being able to do research on things that interest you. Not only this, but you might get to work with technology that costs 10x’s more than your whole college tuition lol. Being able to use state-of-the-art research tools is definitely a fun aspect of grad school. you are also given a tremendous amount of freedom to do what you want, which makes the “mad scientist” in me very happy.

You might get to research some really cool things and potentially build stuff that no one has ever built. I have a friend who worked on and build a satellite that is currently orbiting the planet. That is one of the coolest things ever. Being able to work on projects like this is what grad school is all about. It is also what makes grad school so much fun.

Close-up Photo of Survey Spreadsheet

Reasons You Are Concerned That It’s Not Fun

I typed this exact search query into google when I started grad school. I was concerned. I was actually pretty terrified that grad school would be all work and no play. Man, I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Yes, grad school is a ton of work, but it is a ton of time to find yourself and explore the world of academia.

When you think of grad students, you may think of people staying in the lab all night. You might think of someone falling asleep on a stack of books. Rarely, do you think of grad students having fun and living their lives. This might be one of the reasons why you are searching this topic. You don’t want to be that person. Trust me when I say this, grad students have fun. We need to or else we might go insane. For master’s students, you can have fun every day of your life. Keep up the grades and you can technically be on vacation your whole 2 years. PhD students have to find fun or they will most likely suffer from a mental illness. So, scheduling in play time is essential.

Final Thoughts

If you are considering grad school, and want to know more about the fun aspects of it, shoot me an email. My email is benswaringen@yahoo.com. I would love to talk with you about grad school and any questions that you might have about it. I can tell you all of the fun things I do as well as other things that are also fun to do.

Overall, grad school is a fun and exciting time. Trust me, it’s not all work and no fun. That would make it a prison sentence, and we wouldn’t want that. I have found that grad school has been one of the most fun and rewarding times in my life. I hope you find it that way too. Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful day and I will see you in the next article post. Peace!

What I am Grateful For in Grad School

Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit down. I think it’s because of the effects that I have from having Covid, though. Is anyone else feeling a bit sad/depressed/anxious after having Covid? It could just be me, though. Anyway, to lighten my mood, I thought about all of the things that I am grateful for in grad school. I wrote an article about the things that I am most grateful for. You can read that post here.

Today I want to talk about the things that I am grateful for in grad school, specifically. I think a list would do just nicely in this situation, don’t you think? So, let’s get right into it and talk about the things that I am most grateful for in my grad school program.

Silver-colored Heart Lock Bridge

What I am Grateful For

1) Lab partners

Having a good and reliable lab partner can be everything. There are many times where just having someone there has made all the difference whether it is having them do something with your project or just having someone to talk to. I have had some excellent lab partners in the past and I always look forward to being able to work on an experiment with someone else.

2) Having Reliable lab equipment.

I currently work in like 6 or 7 different labs, each with pieces of lab equipment that I desperately need to do my job currently. I am grateful that these pieces of lab equipment actually work and are reliable. A day where things don’t work can set me back weeks, which is something I don’t want, nor my adviser.

3) Fume Hoods

Having a good fume hood can literally save your life. I work with a ton of strong acids that are not healthy to breathe in. Fume hoods have saved me from breathing in the fumes from the acids. Also, fun fact, if you mix galvanized iron with nitric acid, it produces some crazy gases. I was very thankful that the fume hood stopped me from being exposed to those gases!

4) My office

My office is my home away from home. I have quite a few things in here that actually make people think that I live here. I mean, I spend most of my time in my office, so I want it as comfortable as possible. If I could live here, I would lol. I share my office with one other person, though, we have room for 3 more. Having the extra room really helps.

5) Having a reliable computer

You really need a reliable computer while in grad school. Having one will make all of the difference. Luckily, my computer is reliable, and fairly new, so I am extremely grateful for that. I honestly don’t know what I would do if my computer just didn’t work one day…probably just give up and apply for my master’s lol.

Man Doing A Sample Test In The Laboratory
6) Other PhD Students

Being in a PhD program can get extremely lonely. I am fortunate to have an office mate. Having other student’s to talk to and complain to can be very therapeutic. Most people don’t understand the mental struggles that can occur in grad school, so having someone to talk to that understands can be everything. Also, bouncing ideas off other grad students can lead to new discoveries or ideas that you didn’t have before.

7) Having the support of my family and friends

If it wasn’t for my family and friends, I would have left a very long time ago. You need the extra motivation to finish the degree. I am extremely grateful for the love and support provided by my family and friends. They truly have helped me to be the best I can be.

8) The faculty and staff of my college

The college of Environmental Engineering at UF has some of the nicest, most intelligent, and most qualified individuals working here. It is always so nice to walk down the hall and be able to have a conversation with a professor or staff member. I am always asked how things are going and they are always so willing to help me when I am having trouble. I truly appreciate everyone in this department.

9) My committee members

I have a great committee. I did choose them and thought very hard about who will be on the committee and how they will help me become a better researcher. I am super appreciative of them and how they have molded me into the PhD candidate I am today. Each one is a master at what they do and they have really shown me the best ways to do independent research. They are also in charge of graduating me so I have to say nice things :P.

Scientist in Laboratory
10) Having a ton of labs to work in

I have one lab that I primarily work in, but I do have a bunch of other’s that I spend time in. Having access to so many labs and resources has helped my research significantly. Plus, most, not all, my labs are clean and fairly decent sized lol. Having a clean and big lab can make a huge difference.

Final Thoughts

I like to show my gratitude for things in my life. I truly think it makes you a kinder person and that is what I strive to be. I wanted to share the many things that I am grateful for in my grad school experience. There are many more things that I am grateful for, but that will be for another blog post. Today, I wanted to share the 10 things that i am most grateful for in my grad school journey. I hope you found these interesting. Let me know what things you are grateful for in grad school or just what you are grateful for in general. I would love to read about them in the comments. Also, if you haven’t read my blog about accepting uncertainty, you can go check it out (here).

I hope you all have a wonderful day and I will see you in the next one.

Why You Should Blog in Grad School

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information see disclosure at bottom of home page

I want to start off by saying that one of the best things that I have done while in grad school has been starting a blog. Unfortunately, I started later than I would have wanted, but I did start. So, I am here today to encourage those starting grad school, or in grad school, to blog about it. Keep records of what grad school was like for you and provide tips to others on how to survive and thrive through the academic journey.

Why I started

I started my blog as a way to help other grad students that were having a hard time while in school. My aim was to provide a few tips and tricks that can help reduce the chance of a mental health crisis while going through your PhD/Master’s. I believe that I have been somewhat successful as many individuals have reached out telling me that my blog has helped, even just a little. The way I look at it, if I have helped even just one person then this was all worth it. Hopefully, you are here and have found some of my content helpful.

I also wanted to write more, since, you know, I have to publish articles in grad school lol. By writing each day, or at least 2 to 3 times a week, I have gained quite a few skills that have helped to make the writing process of science less daunting. Of course, I have a long way to go, but that just makes the journey that much more exciting.

Why You NEED to Start a Blog in Grad School

I know the title is why you “should” start a blog in grad school. I want to tell you that you need to start one in grad school. Well, you don’t have to, but I highly recommend it for many reasons that I am about to discuss. Starting a blog has been such a crucial step in my success that I want other grad students to participate and reap the benefits of it. There’s more to it than just honing your writing capabilities.

Woman Sitting on Gray Rock Near Body of Water

1) It will help with mental health

Mental health problems can and will occur while you are in grad school. My whole blog deals with ways to prevent mental illness that comes from the grad school experience. Check out my Mindfulness and Meditation section of my blog to read more about the ways to reduce mental health issues.

Blogging can be a way to release pent up anxiety and worries. Blogging is very much like journaling. You can literally write all of your hopes, dreams, fears, and regrets which can and will reduce mental health issues. In fact there are many studies on the effectiveness of journaling on mental health. Writing a blog is just another way to journal.

Trust me when I tell you that I am a totally different individual, mentally, because of my blog. I have written about my mental health and ways to reduce it. I have written about my fears, anxieties, worries, and problems. By getting it out there into the world, you will find that it will help you understand what is going on in your head and how to fix it.

One very important part about blogging that is lacking in journaling, though, is the community. There are thousands, possibly millions of individuals that are just like you and many of them will reach out to you as support. The blogging community has been such an encouragement and will make you feel like a part of a community, something that might lack while in grad school. Being a graduate student, you will be alone quite often. The blogging community will be there to provide support, especially when you feel the most lonely.

Hiker holding hand of black friend on road

2) You Can Help Others

The best part, I think, about blogging in grad school is providing helpful advice to those going though the same stuff you are. You will experience grad school differently than most, but there are many hardships that we all face. By providing helpful tips and tricks, you can essentially be helping someone get through grad school without developing a mental health issue. Heck, you may help make the grad school experience more fun or enjoyable and help someone achieve their goals.

Blogging, in a way, can be a bit like volunteering. You are providing your skills and experiences to help others. I think this is the most satisfying part of the whole process of blog writing. Being able to help those in need and making a small part of the world a better place is so worth it.

3) It can make you some money

One of the hard parts, if not hardest part, of grad school is being poor. I mean, really poor. For the hours that you put in into your work, you may barely make minimum wage. People often say “well you’re a student and learning, so why should you get paid more?” Well, yes, we may be learning, but we have a whole degree under our belts, sometimes many degrees, we have skill sets that people pay a ton of money for, and we work exceptionally hard on things that can revolutionize the scientific community. To get paid minimum wage to go through what we do is an insult. I do not expect to make 6 figures, but at least help us pay for a place to live and allow us to survive.

Anyway, This post is not about how unfair our pay is, no, it’s about making a bit of extra money. Blogging is difficult and you will not make money right away. In fact, you may not make any money for a very, very long time. This is why I don’t suggest only doing this to make money. Though, eventually, you may start making a few hundred bucks here and there. You may even provide a service that allows you to make thousands of dollars after a while.

Blogging is a great way to provide a skill set too. You can write blogs all day and sell your services such as consulting or possible other services to those that are asking for it. You can make money from affiliated links as well as ads. At first, you’ll make pennies. I haven’t even made 20 dollars, but I am in the blogging business for other reasons instead of money.

Since blogging is mostly passive income, it can be worth it to start a blog, monetize it, and have an extra bit of money to help feed you throughout grad school or pay for the amount of coffee you be buying lol.

4) You’re Writing Skills Will Get Better

The problem that I had when I first started blogging was that my writing skills were garbage. They weren’t that bad but they were a lot worse than they are now. Writing is an essential part of grad school. You’ll write papers and articles constantly. Blogging keeps those skills sharp so you can write these things with ease. Blogging also makes writing fun. I just remembered how much I hated to write in high school and undergrad. Now, I thoroughly enjoy the process.

Ever skill that you can think of with writing will get better. It’s like taking an English course all over again. But this time, instead of getting a grade, you just get comments back from your fans or you get paid. It’s super fun!

Four Person Standing on Cliff in Front of Sun

5) You Will Meet Like Minded People

Blogging your journey will introduce you to all types of people. You may even make a few friends along the way. As I said earlier, grad school can be a bit lonely and isolating. This is a great way to reach out and find your people and friends. Also, it is a great way to network with other scientists and researchers. I have added a few people on LinkedIn that were reading my blog. You can potentially find employers this way as well.

The people reading your blog are probably very similar to you in interest. I mean, if you write a blog about your love of horses, the people reading it will probably love horses too. I write about grad school and many of the people that read my blog have gone, are going, or are about to go to grad school. Some people are even just considering it now, even though they are not at the point of starting grad school. These individuals are very like-minded and I thoroughly enjoy having them read my content.

Photo of Woman Writing on Tablet Computer While Using Laptop

6) It is Just a Good Hobby

I want to end the benefits of blogging throughout grad school with this one. Blogging is a wonderful hobby that takes very little to start and can lead to a world of benefits. Having a hobby is essential in grad school. It is a hard journey and you need something fun to help you along the way. Blogging allows you to write about the things you love and even learn more about them in your research. Mindfulness was a huge part of my blog writing, still is. I have learned so much about it and have grown in my passion for it ever since starting.

Having a hobby that helps you through grad school can be what leads to you actually finishing. Hobbies can help reduce burnout and mental illnesses, two things that are very common in grad school. This is why I think writing about your journey is so important.

Final Thoughts

How’s this for the longest blog that I have ever written? lol. I hope you found this somewhat helpful and encouraging. I have been writing a blog for like 9 months now and it has been amazing the whole journey. If you are in grad school, I highly encourage you to write about your journey or even just start a blog about something that interests you. You will find that a blog separates you from the stress of grad school and takes you places you never thought possible. I hope you all have a wonderful day and I will see you in the next one. 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

It is OK to Slow Down

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information see disclosure at bottom of home page

Grad school, a wonderful time where you are running around, doing crazy amounts of things day after day, only to receive a piece of paper. Of course grad school is not just this. It is a learning experience and a chance to grow as a scholar. Yes, some things in grad school may not make sense as to why you need to do them. But in the end, you will be a much better researcher/scholar/whatever you become :).

Man Showing Wristwatch

One thing that I notice is how busy college tends to get. You will have exams, research projects, sports, clubs, homework assignments, outside work, the list goes on and on. It is busy. I remember undergrad used to be extremely busy. The biggest complaint I heard was how busy the semester was for everyone and how little fun they would have. Everyone justified it by saying what they were doing was a “resume builder.” Honestly, I hated this phrase and wish it would go away. No, we were all busy because we wanted to feel important and feared that we would miss out on things.

I am not trying to bash on being busy, though. I love the feeling of being busy, but when I am productive. Some people like to keep themselves busy for the sake of being busy, getting nothing done in the process. I don’t really like this. Now some people really are busy. The individuals getting ready to graduate or the ones trying to get volunteering experience to get into med school have great justifications. Some people just stay busy because they like the feeling. This is ok but sometimes it is really just fine to slow down. In fact, I highly encourage a slower lifestyle if you can.

Black Tortoise Standing

Why Slow Down

The older I get, the more I realize that staying busy and cramming as much as I can into as little time as possible is not sustainable. I like to enjoy things and not rush through them. Sometimes, I overschedule myself and find myself doing multiple different things during the day, while worrying about the next thing I have to do. This causes a great deal of frustration, honestly. Slowing down can help pne enjoy the task or thing that is happening at that moment.

Slowing down can help to cause less confusion, feelings of anxiety, and can lead to far less stress. The most stressful times in anyone’s life is during a time when a ton of things are happening that seem to be out of control. Notice that the most stressed individuals are the ones that cram so much into such little time. Slowing down, taking things off your to-do list, and relaxing are sure-fire ways to live a stress free lifestyle.

Slow Signage

How can I Slow Down?

“But Ben, how can I slow down in grad school? It’s always so busy!” Well, I have a few ways in which you can slow down, but you may not like hearing (reading) about them lol. So, let’s discuss some of the many ways in which you can slow down in grad school, in list form!!! Woohoo.

1) Say “no” more often

One of the best ways to slow down is to just stop saying “yes” to everything that people ask you. You are very valuable in the academic scene. Technically, you are seen as cheap labor, so many people may come to you and ask you to do extra work or write a paper. They may even entice you with your name on the publication. If you can’t do the work for them, you are allowed to say “no”. It is not the end of the world.

Woman in White and Black Dress Standing Beside Glass Window

2) Reduce time on your phone.

Much of our time these days is spent on our phones. One way to slow down and get some more time to relax is by just turning off your phone. Social media, text messages, emails, and other apps can make us feel overwhelmed. Our phones can keep us busy for hours on end, taking time away from things that truly matter like getting other work done, or even just spending time with another individual. It’s time to be ok with turning off your phone.

Notebook

3) Make to-do lists

One great way to slow down is to make a to-do list of everything that needs to get done that day. Then, start reducing the size of that list. We often make lists that are unattainable. I know all of my to-do lists have about 100 things on them, yet I can only manage to get 3 to 4 done a day. Make a list of essential things then subtract other things that are not as important. Do you really need to wash your car between zoom meetings today? Probably not lol. So take that off of your list.

4) Get Organized

Organization will help you stay on track. Organizing yourself is a great way to slow down as well. Focus on the most important things in order and you will probably finish in a reasonable amount of time and have more free time to do the things you enjoy, or just chillax.

Man Walking Near Body of Water

5) Schedule in Walks

I love walking. It’s in my top 5 favorite activities to do. I am also part of a virtual walking challenge (link here), which helps push me to do even more walking. One of the best things to do to slow down, that I know from first hand experience, is go on walks. This helps because it takes time away from doing work and forces you to focus on exercise and what is going on around you. I walk about an hour to an hour and a half each day. During that time, I am not working, I am off my phone (unless I am listening to my audibles) and I am focusing on the present. Walking has definitely made me appreciate the “now” and I have found that my life is not quite so hectic because of it.

6) Quit working at the same time each day

If you want to slow down, schedule a time and quit working at that time. For me, that’s 5:30. I have actually created a habit and my body naturally stops working at that time. My brain shuts off, I get hungry, and I start to really shift my focus elsewhere. It is a really good thing because my body knows when to just stop for the day. If you don’t really do this, you may just continue to keep working for a very long time or stay way too busy. You have to schedule a time to just stop.

Final Thoughts

Life in grad school can get hectic and stressful at times. I get it, I really do. But sometimes slowing down is the best option. Stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems can and will occur in grad school. This is why overwhelming yourself with stuff might not be the best thing to do. I had to force myself to slow down due to mental health reasons. If you want out know more about my mental health, check out these blogs (here). I have to slow down to reduce stress and anxiety. Fortunately, I am in a good place now, but I do worry for some of the new grad students. Please make sure to take care of yourselves in grad school. It is a long and hard journey.

**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

Rainy Day Mindfulness

Today has been quite a gloomy one. I woke up to a sick cat and a very overworked and tired girlfriend. Quite a lot was going on and it really didn’t make the morning too fun. One thing that did help was the gloominess of the morning. Today has an 80% chance of rain, throughout the day. It is one of those days where you just want to snuggle under the covers, watch Harry Potter, and eat a ton of candy. Unfortunately, today is a lab day, so I am doing experiments. I need mindfulness.

Two People Walking in the Forest

Walking and Mindfulness

The best part of this morning was the walk to campus. I say it all the time, but one really should walk everywhere, if you are able. This morning was the perfect whether to walk to campus. It’s slightly cool, there’s hardly any wind, and it’s extremely overcast. I was considering scooting, but figured that a walk would be better. Usually, I will listen to music on my walk, but today, I decided to just walk without the added distraction. It made all the difference.

I have to be honest with all of you, I haven’t been practicing mindfulness as much as I had in the past. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. I was primarily using mindfulness to calm my very anxious mind. In the past year, I have gotten to a point where I don’t have panic attacks often, I don’t have ruminating thoughts, and my depression has basically disappeared. I believe that it all comes down to my mindfulness practice and living in the moment. Because I wasn’t actively trying to prevent anxiety and depression, my mindfulness practices have lessened. Today, I decided to just try and be in the moment on my walk to campus.

Mindfulness

This mindfulness practice involves just walking and paying attention to the sights, sounds, and smells that surround you. On rainy days, you really get to experience quite a few different sights, sounds, and smells. It was very calm at the time that I left, so the sounds were mostly cars. Every once in a while, I would hear the squirrels or birds in the trees, which made for a nice transition from the sounds of motorized vehicles passing. Now the sights and smells were better than just the sounds. When it’s rainy, everything is a bit more gloomy so you get to experience familiar things in an unfamiliar manner. Most days are sunny, so I am used to experiencing those things in the sun, but on rainy days, they look way different.

A Woman in Pink Dress Standing while Holding a Flower

Smells

The smells, oh the smells, were quite intense. Not anything bad, though, just more potent. Apparently from this article , “When it rains, spores produced by the actinomycetes are pushed up into the air, releasing the geosmin and creating that fresh, distinctive scent, according to Smithsonian.” Thanks spores, you made my walk quite good smelling lol.

From below of thick cumulus clouds floating high in air on bright sky with orange beams in nature on evening time

I was at Peace

Focusing on all three of these senses really brought me more in touch with my mindfulness practices. For 30 minutes, I was living in the moment, not worrying about the work I had to do, the troubles of the day, or thoughts about the future. I was in the “now”. I almost forgot how amazing this feeling was and how peaceful I became during the walk. The whole rainy day vibes really made me peaceful as well. It would definitely be nice to have a few more of these days in the near future.

I highly encourage you to just go for a 30 minute walk and focus on the sights, sounds, and smells that you experience during the walk. Don’t listen to music, don’t look at your phone, and most importantly, don’t think. Just tune into your surroundings and be in the moment. If any thought pops into your head, acknowledge it and let it pass. I guarantee that you will have an amazing experience.

Challenge

I want to challenge you to take a 30 minute walk sometime today or this week and just observe everything around you. Go outside, if it’s not too cold, and just live in the moment. focus on the different sounds, smells, and try and pay attention to details of things around you. Look at a tree and focus on what the bark looks like. Things like that. But please, please, please stay off your phone. 30 minutes without looking at your phone is a long time, I know, but it is worth it. I hope you accept this challenge and try mindfulness out for yourself. I guarantee it is worth it.

Final Thoughts

Today didn’t start off as planned but most of my days don’t start that way. Walking in the rain helped to ground myself and find peace in this world, even for a short amount of time. I highly recommend walking in stormy weather. There is an odd sense of peace, unless it’s a hurricane. Then maybe stay inside lol. I hope you all have a wonderful Tuesday, I will be in my lab for a long time today, doing experiments. Let me know in the comments of mindfulness techniques that you use. I am sure we can all gain something from those.

Time to Accept Uncertainty

One of the best lessons that I learned while in grad school was life is all about uncertainty. I laugh at people when they are just “so sure” of something. If you were so sure then you can make a ton of money being a fortune teller. Life is such a crazy ride and I love every minute of it, yes, even the bad moments. We are all given this crazy opportunity, that is life, so try and enjoy this ride. Anyway, I just wanted to share a few of the things in my life that came from the uncertainty. Things that I didn’t know would occur and things that are going to change my life in some way.

I am going to be an Uncle

One of the coolest things that no one was really expecting was my brother’s girlfriend to get pregnant, which means I am going to be an uncle. She is actually due today so my family is waiting to hear from my brother and her today sometime. I am super excited and so is my family. This is one of the cool things that I was just not expecting. I always thought that I would be like 40 before I became an uncle, but nope, it’s happening either today or tomorrow!

My graduation is later than expected

One thing that grad students always think is that they will finish their PhD on time. Hahahaha, this is definitely not the case for me. I was scheduled to finish up this semester, but my committee and Covid had other plans. Looking at some Reddit posts and forums online, I saw that this is fairly normal. These past years have been so uncertain with Covid happening that I actually thought at a point that I would not graduate. Fortunately for me, I will graduate this year, at some point, so at least that is a certainty? lol.

A fun one. I got summoned for jury duty

I was summoned for jury duty. This was something I wasn’t prepared for and I have to drive back to my parents for it. I do want to be part of a jury but getting summoned not, while finishing up my doctorate is not the ideal time, unfortunately. I was so certain that I would never have to do jury duty, man was I wrong.

Person in Gray Denim Jeans and Gray Low Top Sneakers

More Uncertainty

There are a few things that I just don’t know about and I am extremely excited for. These include where I will live after receiving my doctorate, what my career will be, and will I still keep in contact with friends I have now. These are all things that will be in my control but parts of those things may be out of my control as well. I will see in the next few months what is in store for me and my life.

Final Thoughts

I think embracing uncertainty of life and riding that roller coaster is such a fun experience. Being so sure about things can lead to great disappointment. You can never 100% know what will occur and when, so you might as well just enjoy the journey as it happens. One day you might be living in your home town, enjoying life, and the next day, you are travelling the world. Things like that can and do happen. I hope my life is adventurous and exciting like that, and you know what, it might be.

I have written about uncertainty in grad school before. In fact, I really think you should go check it out, if you haven’t already. It offers some ways of dealing with uncertainty. As always, thank you for spending the time to read my blog. I will see you all in the next one.

Skills You Learn in Grad School

I think the most brought up portion of grad school, other than how hard it can be, is the topic of skillsets. you are going to learn a ton of new skills or just hone old skills that are a bit rusty. We know the types of skills that you will learn:

  1. research skills
  2. public speaking
  3. How to not spill concentrated acid on yourself
  4. How to conduct research
  5. What is considered “bad research”
  6. You’ll be an expert at Excel

These are just some of the major skills that you will learn along with 100 others. Today I want to talk about the weird and not-so-talked-about skills that you learn in grad school.

skills you learn in grad school

1) How to manage money without crying every night

This skill is learned very quickly. You are not really given a ton of money to work with and you somehow need to survive off of a salary that, in some cases, is below the poverty line. This skill is probably one of the best to learn because you are living at rock bottom, yet somehow thriving. Yes, simple living is not too exciting but this is a valuable skill to have because: 1) incase you get in a situation like this again, it will not shock you and you will know how to handle it and 2) you can help teach others how to live poor in case they are in that situation. Also, you will be a better person because you can sympathize with those that are struggling financially. You will probably be the first person to help them too since you know what it is like.

2 Women Sitting on Brown Wooden Chair

2) How to handle mental stress

Grad school is very difficult on your mental health. Heck, this whole blog is to help grad students cope with their feelings, handle their anxiety, and create a mindset that will allow for them to live a very happy and fulfilling life. At first, you may struggle. you may find anything and everything to help you cope. And, let me tell you something, you’ll find the help you need. You’ll practice mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy. You’ll try meditation and maybe yoga. You will end your grad school tenure in a better mindset than you had going in. This is a skill that is self learned with a ton of practice, but it can be done. You have seen rock bottom and most definitely won’t ever again (hopefully).

3) How to help other’s, especially new grads.

I hope you had a mentor when you first started grad school. if not then you might have had a bit of a tough time getting used to everything going on. Towards the end of your schooling, you become the mentor. You will have the skillset to teach the younger generation on how to strive in grad school. It is actually quite flattering when you are told to mentor someone. It means that you are trustworthy to help others on their journey. Even if you aren’t told, you’ll have the feeling to go and help someone. Seeing others struggle is kind of hard, and helping them, even a little bit, is extremely satisfying. This is a skill that I think more people need to have.

4) How to stop caring what other’s think of you

As a researcher, you will have a ton of people trying their hardest to make you feel stupid. When you get an advanced degree, it’s almost like an open invitation for people to try and find something that they can fool you with or test your knowledge. They may even say some really nasty things about you or to you. People will judge you, criticize you, and flat out be mean or make fun of you. Those things will not even bother you once you are done. You have gone through one of the hardest pieces of judgement (peer review) and you survived. Nothing that people say or think even bothers you slightly. This is one of the coolest skills to have because you start living the life you want without caring what other’s think. In undergrad, heck even more so in high school, I cared what people thought of me. I cared so much that it caused a ton of pain and suffering for me. Now, I couldn’t care less what people thought of me. It’s liberating, honestly, and I love it.

5) You will be kinder

This is such an important skill to learn. Being kind to other’s will get you extremely far in life. The kind people are always the one’s you really admire and remember. Well, you also remember mean people, but mean people suck lol so being kind is the way to go. After being thrown into the fire, that is, academia, you tend to come out a bit more kind hearted. You have been through tough times and you don’t want other’s to suffer the way you did. Kindness is a skill that is learned. Sure you can show kindness, but it takes a long time to learn how to be a kind person. You have the time to learn while you are in grad school. I highly recommend acquiring this skill set.

Final Thoughts

These are a few skills that I truly believe grad students obtain during their years in school. These are much different than the other skills leaned such as self motivation, analytic skills, and balancing their life with work. These skills mentioned above are some that many people look passed and it is kind of sad. The above mentioned skills that you learn in grad school are some of the best you can have. Trust me.

If you went to grad school, let me know in the comments some of the skills that you learned. Maybe we can make this list even bigger! As always, thank you so much for reading my blog. You may have noticed that my posts are getting a bit longer. I am testing out writing longer posts, but fewer of them. Apparently, I still have to do PhD work and not just spend my time blogging, though blogging is more fun. I hope you guys have a great week and I will see you in the next one.

Your Plans Will Change. That’s Ok

Grad students, professions, and those starting their schooling! What did you want to be when you grew up? Think way back to childhood and pretend as if someone just asked you that question. Did you want to be a doctor? A firefighter? A chef? What was your passion at that age? Ok, now that you have done that exercise, I want to ask you, what do you want to be after college or what do you want to be in 10 years? Is it the same as when you were a child? Odds are that it’s not, but some people may surprise me, so let me know in the comments if you are the small percentage that became what you wanted to be.

Man on Motorcycle in the Middle of Road

My story

When I was young, I wanted to be a professional baseball player. I was really good at sports as a kid and was set on being the next Derek Jeter. Once I reached about 6th grade, I started cooking and wanted to be a chef. I even was accepted into my high school’s culinary academy. The first two years in college, I wanted to be a marine biologist. Next thing I know, I’m studying hard to get into UF as an Environmental Engineer student. I graduated and became a civil engineer and now I am a biogeochemist. I have come a very long from where I started and that is totally fine. In fact, that shows that I have thought a lot about what I am truly passionate about and what makes me happy.

Pondering mature woman looking out window

Embrace the Uncertainty

It amazes me that people in undergrad knew exactly what they wanted to do in life. Heck, I even knew what I wanted to be. I chose environmental engineering and wanted to save the planet. I talk to a ton of undergrads and they have a 10 year plan locked down, even telling me what projects they want or will be working on, like they are so sure that will happen. The thing is, life is uncertain. (I have written about uncertainty in grad school. Check it out here). I know this for certain because I have experienced such a drastic change in who I am since I graduated with my bachelors in 2016. This is wonderful and I will tell you why.

A Man Having Coffee at a Table

Change

Changing what you want to do is growth. As you get older, you start to really hone in on things that you are truly passionate about and you will want to do those things. When you are young, you may not have the experience yet to know what careers are best. This is why it is Ok to change your plans as you go. I think the best thing to do is find your strengths and focus on those. Once you figure out your strength, you can easily adjust your career goals.

Starting Over is Ok

I have met so many people that have just started over after graduating with their bachelors. They have figured out what they want in life, or at least the next chapter of life. I find this so fascinating and inspiring. People often just give up and say that they “are too old” to start over. These individuals that are starting over realized what they want in life and don’t care how old they are. They just want to create the life that they have always wanted. I truly admire these individuals.

My brother was one of those individuals as well as my old boss. Both really took a look at what they were passionate about and decided to change up what they were doing to pursue those careers. That takes a lot of guts to do because you are giving up what you are comfortable with, stepping out of that comfort zone, and going into the unknown, practically blind. This is super scary to do but both are really thriving with their decisions.

Final Thought

Changing your mind about what you want to do in life and starting over is totally ok and actually very good to do. Life is short, yet long at the same time. What you are passionate about know may not be what you’re passionate about in the next 10 years or so. I tell people all of the time that are graduating that the next job they get is not the last job that they will get. You will change directions in life and that means that you are growing. You are trying to find your place in this universe, even if it’s only for a short amount of time. I highly encourage you to be open to all sorts of careers and know that you might start off loving a career path but that may change drastically one day. You may graduate with a doctorate in engineering but might be a charter boa captain in a few years. Who knows?

One day you might be the individual that is starting over in their life. You may want to start over entirely and become a doctor or lawyer, or own a waffle food truck (you know who you are lol). I think that’s awesome and you should go for it. The worst thing that can happen is you ask for your old job back which will give you even more time to think of your next career move. Life has a crazy way of working out. It may take a bit of time, but things will work in your favor. I hope you find your passion one day.

Lastly

I hope you all have a wonderful day and I will see you in the next post. If you haven’t already, go check out my blog about surrounding yourself with success (link here). I know you’ll find that to be a good read. Also, check out the rest of my blog at love-and-bean.com. I am trying to get more visitors to my blog and get more of a reach to grad students across the world. If you know someone in grad school, share this blog with them. I would love for them to read and comment with their stories and tips. Let’s build a community.

Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

This post contains affiliate links. For more information see disclosure at bottom of home page

Being in the age of technology is both a blessing and a curse. I mean, think about all of the amazing thigs that you can do on the computer and on your phone! Like holy cow, you can literally do your banking, tweet at a celebrity, tell your vacuum where to go, and you can even tell a Tesla to pick you up from where you are. Like holy smokes! Unfortunately, technology also has introduced us to highlight reels of everyone through social media. No one, well I know a small few, will put up what they are really going through on social media. No, it’s always the best things that are happening in their lives.

It is cool to post stuff like that and I do want to see your trip to Thailand or Russia or anywhere. I really do. But I know that it’s going to make me a bit jealous. This is why it’s important to stay off social media for a bit, sometimes, just so you don’t that jealousy. Staying off social media sometimes also brings us to todays topic. It takes away a platform where you compare yourself to others.

Side view of joyful adult man and pregnant woman in casual clothes comparing bellies and making grimaces while having fun together against white background

Stop comparing yourself, please

I don’t want to go too much into detail why staying off social media or any platform where you are comparing yourself to other’s highlight reel is common. No, today, I want to encourage you to practice not comparing yourself to others in general. It is so easy these days to look down upon yourself and beat yourself up for not having a mansion or a cool car or a rich husband or wife. It is so easy to beat yourself up for mot being the smartest or the best looking. But know that everyone feels bad about something and get jealous when someone else has what they want.

In grad school, the first two or three years are filled with self doubt and comparison. In fact, those are major signs of imposter syndrome which I have written about here. Grad school is one big competition to see who is the smartest, produces the most papers, and graduates without mental health issues. I constantly look at my peers and wish I was as smart as them or productive as them, and you know what, they look at me the same way. I have been told multiple times by those I am envious of that they are envious of my work habits and intelligence. It always makes me feel weird to know that my own thoughts are betraying me. Who would have guessed lol?

I want to suggest a few ways in which you can stop comparing yourself to other’s, especially for those in grad school.

Person Holding Pineapple Fruit Near Pink Wall

Ways to stop comparing yourself to others

1) List out all of the things you are grateful for.

This is a great opportunity to really find out all of the things in your life that you are grateful for. Many people do not have what you have. Write down all of the things in your life that you have, love, a house, a car, the ability to go to the grocery store and get food, even just the fact you can talk to a complete stranger on the phone without having a panic attack. Write it all down and read it every day. You will start to notice that those things that other people have just don’t satisfy what you want in life anymore.

2) Understand that you are not the richest, smartest, best looking, or funniest person in the world and be happy with who you are.

Though you may want to be these things, understand that you aren’t all of these things and that’s ok. Be happy with who you are. Being happy with how you are now is probably the only thing that I wish I was good at. People go their whole lives not being happy with themselves because they aren’t like those people who have money or are smart. It honestly makes me sad because they will always be suffering until they figure out that being happy with who you are is the only way to break that cycle.

From below of crop multiethnic team of professional basketball players gathering and putting hands together while standing on playground before game

3) Focus on your strengths

Everyone is good/great at something. Focus on that! You may really stink at being a writer but you are a math wiz. Don’t spend all of your time being sad because you aren’t writing the next Harry Potter. No, use the gift that you are given to advance mathematics. Same with literally anything that you are good at. Use your skills and strengths to help benefit the world.

4) Celebrate other people! Don’t be upset with their highlights

Celebrating people’s achievements instead of wishing you were them is a great way to show kindness, love, and compassion to others . You have no clue what that person had to do in order to get to where they got. Celebrate them and stop wishing you had what they have. Be happy for their accomplishments.

Delighted friends having lunch in cafe

Final Thoughts

Comparing yourself to others will cause more pain in your life than you can ever imagine. It may cause anxiety, depression, worrying, body dysmorphia, and all types of mental health issues. Practice pinpointing strength in your life and being more grateful for what you have. Happiness is something that we all crave and I think you can get there if you just stop comparing yourself to others.

I hope you all find something to be grateful for today. Also, be kind. It is hard enough these days with Covid. We need to be nicer to each other and lift each other up instead of putting each other down. Also, stay off social media lol. I appreciate 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. 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.

Start Your Semester Off Right

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The beginning of the semester in grad school can bring a ton of different emotions.

1)Happiness, because you get to see friends again and grad school is just a fun time in general.

2)Sadness, because you are doing work again

3) Anxiety, because those deadlines that you have are approaching way faster than you want

4) And lastly, anger, because you ate too many cookies and now have to work out lol

Whatever the feel is, it is completely normal to feel at the beginning of the semester. Wednesday starts the beginning of the semester and I am a bit happy as well as sad. This starts my final year in my PhD, which also means, it is my final year as a student. I am happy because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am almost at the point where I can officially call myself Dr. Ben. But, there is a ton of sadness as well. Over the course of 23ish years, I have come to really enjoy being a student. It is ironic because I used to beg my mom not to take me to school when I wa younger because I hated it. My how things have changed.

I want to write this blog to give you encouragement and make this semester the best. We are starting a new semester with hesitation because of Covid (again) and it can cause a bit of anxiety. If you haven’t read it already, check out my blog about transitioning from zoom class to in person. I give great advice how to deal with covid times in college (link here). This is a great way to start this semester, by being ready.

Anyway, I want to give a few helpful tips on how to start this semester off right in grad school. Let’s get started.

Brown and Black Wooden Chairs Inside Room

Beginning of the semester in grad school

1) Get yourself a planner and stick to it

I do this every year but you can get one for each semester. Get yourself a planner and write down all the important dates for that semester. Spend a few hours getting all of the important dates such as deadlines, exams, maybe assignments, and put them in a planner. It saves so much time and frustration later. trust me when I say that you will forget deadlines! If I don’t write something down, I will immediately forget it. This is why a planner is a great investment. The one I linked to in the subheading is only 10 dollars too so they are fairly cheap.

Woman in Pink Crew Neck T-shirt Holding White Smartphone

2) Create good habits such as waking up early, drinking more water, exercising regularly, etc.

I write about this is great detail. I will link to those blogs (here, here). The beginning of the semester is a great time to develop really good habits for later. The end of the semester gets super hectic and usually the beginning is not too bad. Therefore, the beginning of the semester is the perfect time to develop these habits because you have the time and energy. When you do establish these habits, you will find the rest of the semester will be a piece of cake.

3) Hang out with your friends as much as you can

Ask them how they are doing and how their break was. Go do fun activities and really just hang with them. The beginning of the semester can be extremely emotional because people are leaving the comfort of their families, they are coming back from vacation, or they have been alone for so long that they need someone there. These are all great reasons to go and hang with them. Whenever I come back from vacation or break, I always feel a tad bit lonely. Hanging with my friends usually helps a ton.

4) Practice mindfulness and make it a habit

I have this as a stand alone because I truly believe it shouldn’t be lumped in with just create good habits. This habit is especially important. A strange thing happens at the beginning of the semester, we tend to forget how awful the end of last semester is and how hard things tend to get. By practicing mindfulness (meditation, cognitive behavior therapy, journaling, etc), we can continue feeling like we do at the beginning of the semester, all throughout the semester. Mindfulness helps to reduce the stress and anxiety that comes with school and you will notice how happy you are and at peace even when swamped with work. Mindful.org is a great site to check out even more mindfulness techniques. I specifically use this site.

Man in Beige Blazer Holding Tablet Computer

5) Get to know your professors

Find out everything you need to know about the professors you have this semester. Go to their office hours as well and make sure they know who you are. This will help you a ton because the professor will see you in class, know who you are, and this might just get you a higher grade. Trust me when I say this works. I have gotten to know my professors and have seen then bump my grade up almost a letter grade because I showed up to class and they knew who I was. Plus, I do see them outside of class which made getting letter of recommendation way easier. There are a million reasons why getting to know your professor is great, but I thing grades and letters of recommendation are at the top lol.

6) GO TO CLASS!!!!

I am ending it with a good one. Go to class! Research has shown that going to class will lead to better grades. Yes, you need to pass to get your master’s or doctorate. Plus, you may learn something while there! So start the beginning of the semester in grad school by going to class and finish the semester by going to class lol.

Final Thoughts

The beginning of the semester is super exciting. I always love when people come back all refreshed and ready to go. This semester will be like the last with covid taking out people left and right, but hopefully it won’t be too bad. For those starting this week or next, good luck with the start of the semester! You will be just fine. As always, thank you for reading my blog and also, please go check out my blog about how to enjoy life and grad school. (link here).

How to Enjoy Life and Grad School

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How to enjoy life and grad school? Sounds like a pretty difficult concept to write about lol. I have been thinking alot about my life and where it is going next. I have also come to the conclusion that I do indeed enjoy grad school and I am starting to enjoy my life as well. It took a very long time, but I think I have found a few ways to get the most out of the cards I am given in life. My enjoyment does not come from the goals or the money I will make. Heck it doesn’t necessarily come from any materialistic thing. No, it comes from a mindset that has taken me a couple years to finally get to. I want to share some of the ways that help me find enjoyment even when things are bad.

So, like all my really amazing posts before this one, I would like to do a list of the things in my life that have helped to make the past 4.5 years pretty good. I think these things are definitely excellent ways to increase your happiness and overall mental state while in grad school. See, grad school is a pretty long, mostly boring, journey that we must take to do research in academia. You will go through many emotions, especially towards the end f it where you are questioning your time and effort into doing grad school. First off, it’s worth it. Getting an advanced degree is totally worth every penny but you many not see that now. So lets get into some ways to enjoy your life and grad school.

Motivational Quotes

1) Whatever you do, do not compare yourself to others, especially those not in grad school.

This is huge because you will have friends that will advance very quickly at work and make a ton of money. You will be stuck in this limbo state where you are making little advances and even less money. Do not compare yourself to their achievements, instead, congratulate them and be happy for them. You may be very jealous of their advances but they may be extremely jealous of your achievements and how you decided to get an advanced degree. I have met countless individuals that have told me that what I do makes them slightly jealous even though they make tons of money and have really fancy things. The grass is greener where you water it for sure.

Person Walking Between Green Forest Trees

2) Get outside as much as possible, especially when it’s sunny.

My office does not have windows. In fact, it wasn’t even an office originally, but a storage fridge for chemicals. That means that I could spend a whole day there and not even see the sun or another person. You can see why it’s imperative that I focus on my mental health, because if I don’t, I will be in a bad situation. One of the best things that I do, daily, is walk to campus. For 1 hour a day, I am outside and doing some light exercise. I truly think this has helped me enjoy things more. During the walk, I get to experience a ton of really cool things that I wouldn’t if I rode the bus such as the cool breeze of the morning, the sounds, the smells, and most important, the peace. Getting outside and enjoying the free things in life have made my 4.5 years way more enjoyable.

Full body of flexible barefoot couple in activewear sitting on mats in Lotus pose with closed eyes while practicing yoga together

3) Meditation

Yeah, I know, I have written about this countless times. But, it’s something that has helped me significantly. My head, like many others, is a bee hive of thoughts and useless information. It is almost impossible for me to remember anything unless I have a way to calm my brain and extract that info. Meditation has allowed for that to happen. I also suffer from anxiety, which has caused a ton of hardships throughout these years. Meditation has been a key component in reducing those feelings and actually giving me the confidence to overcome the residual anxious feelings that I have towards things. You cannot enjoy life if you are in constant fear of things and worry about things that will or will not happen. Spoiler alert* The things you worry about happening will probably never happen, ever. If you want to learn how to meditate or want to read more about how meditation has helped me, here are a few links to my blog posts (how to meditate here, everything else here).

Relaxed black woman watching laptop near dog on bed

4) Get a pet or a ton of plants

Taking care of a pet or plants can be a bit difficult but sooooooo worth it. When you are in grad school, you spend a ton of time alone unfortunately so coming home to a pet that is super happy to see you makes your day so much better. Plants are great if you don’t have the time or resources to take care of a pet. Just the act of keeping something alive can really help your mental state as well. Also, plants just make you happy. I love having plants in my apartment because they really make everything look pretty. I also love the whole “nature” look that comes with having them. Here’s an article on how plants make you happy. I think a nice combination of both plants and animals has helped a ton.

Men's White Button-up Dress Shirt

5) Surround yourself with good people

One of the hardest things to do is to end a relationship with someone because they are toxic or really don’t bring happiness to your life. I have been here. Having to let someone go out of your life is hard but it has made, at least my life, better. If you have to let someone go because of toxicity, then it is totally justified. Once that is over, surround yourself with non toxic individuals. I have surrounded myself with very uplifting and supportive individuals and I truly believe that has helped me enjoy my life as well as grad school more. You will meet all types of people in grad school so you can almost pick and choose who you want to bring into your weird little world. If you are just starting, try and make friends with supportive individuals and you will see that grad school is not nearly as bad as what you have read on reddit.

Final thoughts

Most importantly, have fun while in school and, well, life. You get one chance to make this the best experience ever so being miserable shouldn’t even be an option. What I have shared today has helped get me out of some really tough mental states. I am such a different person than what I was a few years ago. You can definitely have an amazing life adventure if you take the time to truly enjoy the simple things. Happy Saturday everyone. I will see you in the next post.

Check in During the Holidays

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Happy Holidays everyone! Today, my family is celebrating Christmas together and we are starting with a large breakfast, followed by presents (of course)! My girlfriend’s father has covid so I won’t be seeing them today. In fact, a few people I know have covid today and will not be see their families because of it. It is quite sad but it happens.

sadness during the holidays

Holidays are Hard

I want toe write a short blog emphasizing to check in with people that might be alone this holiday season. This doesn’t just mean friends or family, this includes those individuals that might be in your lab or building (if you are a grad student) who really don’t have a place to go. I know for a fact that like 80% of the grad students in my department are international students. Since flights are getting canceled and regulations are in place, they may not get to see their families this season. Heck, they may not have been back in years to see them. That makes this time especially hard for them.

If you are alone

Being alone is pretty difficult during this time. You tend to see everyone with their families, happy, and that just makes things worse. If you know someone who is alone this season, reach out to them. If you are alone this season, maybe reach out to the other people that are alone and have a get together or a party with everyone. Spread kindness and happiness because this unfortunately can e a very depressing time of the year.

I am fortunate enough to have many places to go this winter and I am beyond grateful for that but I do feel for those that don’t. I have reached out to a few people and they seem to be ok being alone but they did appreciate that someone was thinking of them. Even doing something like this is a huge deal. Feeling that someone cares can really help and I encourage you to do this. For those in grad school, you know how difficult it is being alone most days or weeks. You know the feeling of isolation so I encourage you to make sure others don’t feel this way. It is a season for joy, so let’s spread it (but let’s not spread covid).

Final Thoughts

I want to wish you a very happy holidays! We have been through so much and we need to realize that this year will be hard, but we don’t need to make it hard. Look for the honey”. Find the good in all of this madness and let’s spread that joy. We are better individuals and we will thrive but we need to help ourselves and others to get to that point. So, please, spread kindness and joy this season and check in with your friends. Also, call your mother please. Happy Holidays-Bean.

Visit the Past but Don’t Linger

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I want to apologize to you guys for not posting the past week. I went on vacation and didn’t really have the time to update everyone on my travels. There was a ton of stuff that I did on my trip and will have multiple posts about it. I also have a ton of really great pictures from my travels that I would like to share with all of you!

travels to california

Cali Trip and Travels

My girlfriend and I decided to take a very last minute (bought the tickets 2 days prior to leaving) trip to go to California. I am originally from Cali, but haven’t been back since I left 19 years ago, so I was a bit excited and somewhat nervous. The reason I was nervous was because I didn’t really know how I was going to emotionally take the trip. I mean, I am going back to where I was born and I had a ton of very great memories there. Because I am so adamant on doing things that scare me, I said ” let’s go!” It was worth it.

The Emotions of Going Back

There were definitely some crazy emotions when I visited my home town and the adjacent cities around Los Angeles. It was a crazy amount of memories that came flooding back and most of them were really good. Some sad, but that’s life, I suppose. Being back in Cali was amazing and I will definitely go back, but visiting my old stomping grounds will probably have to wait for a few more years. If I were to move to California, I’d definitely either go north Cali, or maybe San Diego ways, just to see something new.

Grad School

This brings us to the main subject, visiting the past but not lingering. See, I made a mistake in grad school and that was coming back to the school I did my undergrad in. After 2 years away from it, I was coming back to a school that held very difficult times as well and extremely joyous times. When you come back to something like that after many years, you will have a ton of memories pop back up. It is totally fine to think about them, but please do not get caught up in those memories. And please don’t compare your time in the past to your present time.

Many times I get caught up comparing how amazing my undergrad years were and how I wish I was still in undergrad. This mindset brings a ton of pain with it since you will be constantly living in the past. I understand that things change, and you probably don’t want that. Gainesville has changed so much that the town is almost unrecognizable. But accepting the change and embracing the change is how you get away from the pain of living in the past.

Cali Travels and Emotions

This is how I felt when I went back to Cali. I remember so much from childhood and it was great to see my hometown, but I tried to not fall in love with the past and get upset seeing that things have changed. I went back and visited the past, but I did not stay there. It was nice to relive some of the memories I had though such as baseball, going to restaurants, seeing the surfers, and seeing my old school.

Final Thoughts

In the end, I had an amazing trip down memory lane and I am happy that I visited. California is such an amazing state and I truly missed it. I also missed In-N-Out. Their milkshakes are amazing, if you’ve never gone. As I said, I have a ton to write about and will try and write tomorrow. The pictures that I got of Death Valley are awesome and I am excited to share those with you guys. And because I was talking about not lingering, I want to add a video of lingering lol.

Just Write for the Fun of It

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I sat down at my desk this morning, ready to write a very thought provoking article. I had caffeine, I made sure good music was on, and opened up my blog page. Nothing popped in my head. I usually spend the 1.5 mile walk to my office to think of things that I can blog about. Today was different. In fact, the only thing on my mind this morning was my very long drive down to Miami today. My girlfriend and I are going to California tomorrow morning, so I have to leave Gainesville after my experiments and drive to Miami. For some reason, flying from Miami is a decent amount cheaper than Orlando. Anyway, I do not have a crazy insightful post today, unfortunately. Todays post will be about how you should write for the fun of it.

writing for the fun of it

Just write for the fun of it

Today, I just want to talk about how writing doesn’t have to have a purpose. I feel like many people are turned off because they were forced to write poetry or essays in school. When you are forced to write, it takes the fun out of it. I started writing this blog as a helpful tool for grad students. I think it is helpful, maybe not, I don’t know, but I found that writing has turned into a bit of a hobby for me. Writing has become fun!

Why is it fun?

One reason that I think it has become fun is because of a small dopamine hit that I get each time I write a blog post. That comes in the form of likes or comments. So, I want to thank all of you for at least getting me started. After a while of doing this, the likes and comments didn’t really persuade me to blog, it was purely out of the love for writing. Blogging became extremely fun for me.

Just do it for the fun of it!

If you are someone who struggles with writing or English language in general (my English grades show I was baddddddd), then I think just taking up blogging our journaling as a pastime is an excellent way to get into writing. With journaling, you do not have to write for an audience. This is good if you really are struggling and just want to get a ton of practice in before going into the world. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Blogging, on the other hand, introduces you to a world of writers that will help you acquire writing skills as you go. I jumped head first into this one and man have I learned a lot.

Final Thoughts

In the end, just have fun with it. Life is too short to really care what others think. People may tell you that your writing is terrible. I don’t see that person writing for an audience, though. Also, writing for the fun of it is just, well, FUN! You can just write gibberish, but as long as you are having fun, that’s all that matters. So for those that are starting their writing journey, go for it! Don’t aim for perfection, aim for having a fun time and learning as you go. People will love what you write and you will gain so much from it. I know that for a fact.

Imposter Syndrome in Grad School

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There are a few things in a grad students life that really affect them. The approval of their adviser,. finishing their research, having enough food to eat, and lastly, feeling like they belong and good enough, are all very really things that dig into a grad student’s soul. For the most part, we can handle these things, but sooner or later, we are more than likely going to have to tackle one of the hardest things in grad school, IMPOSTER SYNDROME!!!!

Hand Touching Glass

What is it?

So, imposter syndrome is the feeling of self doubt. You tend to feel that you are not good enough and that you do not belong. This feeling is heightened in grad school because you are surrounded by individuals from all over the globe, who went to really prestigious schools. On top of that, you may meet professors with curriculums vitaes the length of CVS receipts. No wonder there is a feeling of self doubt. Plus, it’s even worse the first couple of years because you are still comparing yourself to your peers. Please, please, please don’t do this.

Types of Imposter Syndrome

Superhero: So this person completely overworks themselves to try and show that they are not inadequate

Natural Genius: This individual sets extremely high goals and feels crushed if they do not meet them.

Expert: This one isn’t too bad. It’s an individual that is never satisfied with their level of understanding and are always trying to learn more.

Perfectionist: Self explanatory. This individual is not happy with their work and focuses on flaws instead of strengths.

Soloist: This individual works alone and never asks for help because of fear that others will say they are weak or incompetent.

If you have read any of my blog posts or literally just have gone to school and met grad students, you can see that grad school is definitely a place where all of these people exist. I have experienced every one of these the first year of grad school, heck, the first year of undergrad. I have also found out that professors experience these feelings just as much as grad students do.

imposter syndrome in grad school

Ways to Cope with Imposter Syndrome in Grad School

If you are just starting grad school and are afraid of imposter syndrome or if you are in grad school and dealing with it currently, there are a few ways to combat it. Let me share with you some ways that I have found extremely helpful to combat imposter syndrome in grad school.

1) Talk with others about your feelings.

This is a great way of letting other’s know that you truly care about your mental health and it opens the floor up to them telling you about their feelings. More than likely, your other classmates and lab mates are experiencing the same feelings you are. This is a great thing to talk to them about because you might help them feel less terrible too.

2) Talk with a therapist.

This helped me a ton. I used talkspace because it was covered in my insurance. My therapist helped me realize that my thoughts were not necessarily telling me the truth and I did belong in grad school. This boosted my confidence greatly. Talking to a therapist is the best thing I have done. You can read more about it in my blog (here).

3) Stop comparing yourself to others

This one might be hard to do and you have definitely heard it before. There is truth in it, though. As humans, we tend to only look at the highlights of other individuals. We also love to share our highlights too *cough cough Instagram*. Of course this would make us compare ourselves to others. I have heard countless times how someone thinks their life is bad because they aren’t on a crazy adventure somewhere or they are still in school while everyone else is at a job, making real money. It took me years to finally cut the habit of comparing my life to other’s. I had to to reduce my imposter syndrome. Everyone goes through struggles and everyone’s life is different.

You may meet some of the most successful and brightest people in academia, while in school. I guarantee their lives are not as amazing as you see it. They have also worked countless hours to get where they are. You will get to that point eventually, but it will take time. If you compare yourself to other people’s highlight reels, you’ll always feel inadequate.

4) Question your thoughts

This was covered in my blog about cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). I didn’t cover it in too much detail (potential blog post?). Anyway, one of the best things that I learned in therapy was to question my thoughts. When I start thinking that I am not good enough to be in grad school, I ask myself why I feel that way as well as is it justified. Am I actually a fraud or do I just feel like one at the moment? Does my adviser really think I am a terrible student or am I just frustrated right now and a bit overwhelmed? Question your feelings every time you have something come up that is negative. You will quickly realize that you mind likes to exaggerate things.

5) Aim for Done, Not Perfect

This was one of the single best pieces of advice that I ever got. I think it was from R3ciprocity, but I am not sure. Either way, go check out that channel on YouTube. It’s worth it. Anyway, go for done, not perfect. This is what I do with my writing. If you aim to be a perfect writer, you will never finish. Yes, you want to give your best, but do not obsess over one sentence or paragraph. In fact, just write out whatever pops in your head and just get it on paper. Then you can edit later.

This is the same with everything you do. Aim to get it complete and not perfect. First, you will get comfortable with the thought of not being perfect, and second, you will actually be moving in the right direction with your studies. You will develop skills along the way that wil hone your skills and perfection will naturally come. It may take a while, but it will happen.

6) Stay off Social Media

Social media, especially twitter, can be terrible when it comes to having imposter syndrome. One of the things that people tend to do when starting grad school is get a twitter and add every person with a PhD. This seems like a good idea until you spend hours reading about all of the amazing things that they have done and the projects that they have completed. Then you start comparing yourself to them. This can cause a ton of anxiety and feelings of self doubt. I am not saying to not follow these people, but just do it sparingly. If it is affecting your mental state, please, please, please just delete it. Your mental health is way more important than twitter.

imposter syndrome in grad school

Final Thoughts

Remember that you are not alone. You are an amazing individual that DOES deserve the recognition and praise for all you have done. Imposter syndrome does not have to affect you. you can combat it and thrive in a place where it is so common. I promise you, if you are experiencing imposter syndrome in grad school, it is only temporary and will go away. That is if you do something about it, and I know you will. If you have any questions about grad school imposter syndrome or just want to say hello, email me at benswaringen@yahoo.com. I’d be happy to share more insight with you.

**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.

Some More Stuff on Imposter Syndrome in Grad School

I want to add some additional resources that you can use if you are experinecing imposter syndrome in grad school. Below are some links that I think are super helpful.

Headspace: Imposter Syndrome

Online Therapy

The Imposter Cure: Escape the mind-trap of imposter syndrome (link to book here)

Articles

What is Imposter Syndrome

Contextualizing the Impostor “Syndrome”

YouTube

Let’s Bring Compassion Back

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When I make long drives, I tend to listen to quite a few things on YouTube. Music, scary stories, and my favorite, Buddhist talks from the Buddhist Society of Western Australia. I am not a Buddhist but I enjoy listening to the teachings of Buddhism. Many of my posts actually bring up the teachings that are part of the religion. Any way, I was listening to Ajahn Brahmali talk about compassion today and I felt like it was a good thing to bring up, especially this time of year. At the end of this post is the video I was listening to.

compassion

Everyone is suffering

Everyone is going through some form of suffering. Some have it a lot worse than others, but we are all going through battles that can be tough. For me, I am very fortunate to be able to go home to my family. Many people aren’t so lucky and will be spending the holidays by themselves. We need to show other’s compassion because life is very hard for everyone. You may look at someone and say, “They have everything. What suffering do they have?” Little do you know that that individual maybe suffering from depression or emotional trauma.

Be best

I know quite a few individuals that look like they have everything right in their lives, yet they feel anxious all of the time or are really hurting emotionally. This is why showing compassion for everyone is so essential. Think about it, the people that have really been hurt, or who have gone through a tough situation in their lives usually are some of the kindest people. They could totally be complete jerks and bitter, but they aren’t. They try and help other’s because they do not want anyone else to go through what they have gone through.

Be the good you want to see in the world

I personally try and help as many people as I possibly can to overcome the hardships of grad school. Yes, I have had it a bit rough here and there but not nearly as bad as other’s. I am very fortunate to have the experience that I have had but that does not make me not want to help other’s. Grad students, especially the older ones, really need to show some compassion for the younger ones. You have gone through a tough transition and helping other’s will make the department and the world a little bit better. Just because you had it bad doesn’t mean that the rest of the students should have it bad too.

The Holidays

For those celebrating the holidays, spread kindness and compassion. Listen to what people have to say and don’t try and one up them with your own problems. Give hugs when possible and show love. If someone is really having a hard time in life, offer them support. Send them a post card or text saying that you are thinking about them. Heck, just take them out to lunch one day and try and distract them from what they are going through. Literally one hour away from pain is worth the world.

Final Thoughts

I hope everyone has a wonderful Friday. I am heading to Orlando this weekend for birthday celebrations. Try and show some kindness and compassion this weekend. Call up a friend or talk to quiet person in your office. Bring in cookies for the office or, better yet, volunteer your time somewhere. Let’s make this crazy life a bit better. Thank you all for reading.

Who Cares What They Think

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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.

Who cares what they think

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.

Do what you Love

Whatever you love doing, keep doing it. There will always be people in your life that just won’t understand why you are doing things. Recently, I was caught off guard because an employer asked my why I was getting a PhD in engineering when it really wouldn’t make a difference. I was taken aback by this comments. What I really wanted to say was “the reason I am doing my PhD is to not get stuck in a position like the one you are offering”. I held my tongue. I love doing research and I love engineering. Why can’t I get a doctorate in engineering?

What I really am trying to say is do what you love and you will find your path. People may tell you that what you do is dumb, but one day, you might make millions because you are doing what you are passionate about. Also, who the *&^# cares what other people think? They are just jealous that you found something that truly makes you happy and they haven’t. So please, don’t care what they think.

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

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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

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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.

Finding Happiness in Grad School

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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 Find Happiness 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.

How Happiness in Grad School Will Take You Places

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!

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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 (my all time favorite brand).

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

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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

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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

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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

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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 Grad School Worth it?

Is grad 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.

goals to determine if grad school is worth it

So Let’s Consider Some Things

I would say that grad school is definitely worth it in most cases but not all. Also, the types of grad degrees will have to be taken into consideration at as well. So Let us talk about your goals and why that is one of the biggest components in deciding whether grad school is worth it or not.

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.

You have to really take a look at your goals and see if those will need an advanced degree. If you want to teach at college, then you need a PhD. If you want to just work in an office and have a secure position, grad school might not be worth it. I would write a pros and cons list about grad school and whether you should go or not. I have an article that goes over just this method. Check that one out here.

In todays blog post about if grad school is worth it, I will present a perks and,well, bad things about grad school. This can help you decide.

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.

is grad school worth it

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. You will get to interact with professors, scholars, and other grad students alike. Going to conferences is just a meet up of a ton of really intelligent people that are there to learn even more. It can be slightly intimidating, but know that you are there because you’re just as intelligent.

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. Grad school kind of forces you o interact with those in your department and you will definitely spend a ton of time with 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. You are here for the degree, right? Well, you’ll get it in the end and it will be worth it. As I stated before, you have the title of a master or doctorate for the rest of your life. You can put that bad boy on your resume and you’ll definitely be competitive in the working world.

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. If you are doing research, you will most likely be pulled into a bunch of different projects. You don’t have to, but it does look cool when you can type your name into google and a bunch of scientific papers pop up. Some projects will be boring, but many are exciting and will help you develop better research skills.

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. If you are able to go to at least one conference, i highly recommend it. Try and go to the really big conferences in your field, they have the best free stuff lol.

why grad school might not be worth it

Some other things to Consider for Graduate School

Unfortunately, there are some other things that you need to consider first before going off. Honestly, going to grad school should not be a decision you make in one day. This is something that will take a good portion of your life, so you want to make sure that grad school is worth it before applying. Here are a list of things that might make you reconsider going to grad school.

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. This can be quite difficult for people because they just don’t have the money or any way to fund their studies. Often, people go for a PhD just so their research is funded and they can afford school. Many people will go for a PhD then leave once they obtain a master’s. Unfortunately this happens more than you think.

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. I know many people that go to school thousands of miles away from their family and friends. This is hard, especially if this is the first time being that far away from people you care about.

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). Caffeine is a huge concern for me at least. am currently writing this while drinking coffee, mostly because I need it to function. Many grad students get addicted to caffeine and other stimulants because they need them in order to do work. This can cause some problems, especially with sleep. You might be laughing and thinking to yourself, “being addicted to coffee isn’t bad”. It actually is, especially when it get’s harder and harder to function without it. You get to a point where you can’t wake up unless there’s coffee and that can cause you to work less. Working less=graduating late.

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.

My blogs started with helping grad students with mental health. All of my early stuff dealth with problems that I was currently facing. Your mental health might decline. In fact, the odds are against you as many grad students will deal with a mental health issue. In one study of a little over 2000 individuals, 39% responded that hey were experiencing moderate to sever depression. So pretty much 2 in 5 individuals will experience depression. Well, maybe not that, but the findings of this study are significant.

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. I have found many bad things about it that have made me reconsider grad school. the thing is, you’re are bound to find bad things about everything that you do. You might absolutely hate grad school and everything that is there. If so, finish with a master’s and leave. Before you do that, though. Try and find good things about grad school and focus your attention on those specifically. you might have just had a bad semester. That doesn’t mean you need to leave school all together. If you get to grad school and absolutely hate it, try finding things that make it bearable and focus on that. For me, it was kickball. For other’s, it could be really anything else.

is grad school worth it

In the end, Is Grad School Worth it?

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 grad school is 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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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).

How To Stay Motivated in Grad School

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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.

how to stay motivated in grad school

Motivation is a Tricky Thing in Grad School

How the heck do you stay motivated in grad school when you do repetitive things constantly? 5 years of a PhD is a long time and keeping the motivation can be a difficult thing to do. Staying motivated in a master’s program can be tricky too, especially towards the end. So, how do you stay motivated while in in grad school? I have a few ways that may help you keep that motivation. These aren’t always the solution but they may help. They have helped me significantly. You won’t know until you try, right?

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.

There will be days where this just doesn’t work, honestly. I have had days where I was super motivated the night before and then I come in and get nothing done. I’ll start my projects and things just don’t get rolling. You have to be patient with yourself and show a bit of compassion. Jut getting started on the motivation train might not how you stay motivated in grad school. You may need an extra boost of motivation.

courses on how to stay motivated in grad school

Maybe take a Course on Getting Motivated

There are plenty of ways to stay motivated. There are actually a ton of courses on the web that you can take that deal with ways to stay motivated. One of my favorites is ineedmotivation.com. They have so many courses that will help you boost motivation as well as stay motivated. I took a few of their courses and they have really helped a lot. Of course, as a grad student, I really couldn’t afford too many courses so I stopped. They helped to get me started but it was up to me to stay motivated. If you are looking for a good course to take, check out this link. It might be the extra boost you need to stay motivated while in grad school.

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.

I find that motivation is often increased significantly if you make the task fun. Just imagine you have to write your thesis and the last thing you want to do is literally write your thesis. You ca have a negative outlook and that makes the process more difficult, or you can have some fun and make it a game or something. Say, for every 500 words that you write, you get to watch a Netflix show. That’s fun. It is also a really good method to keep you going because of the task and reward system you have going on.

staying motivated in grad school by taking a break

Take Time Away From Grad School

There’s a major problem that occurs n grad school that might be what is causing you to be very unmotivated. That, of course, is burnout. You might be feeling unmotivated because you have done way too much and pushed yourself too hard, for too long. One way that I find best to prevent burnout and keep motivation in grad school is to take time off. Taking a long weekend or even a vacation is one of the best ways to stay motivated and continue on. Time away from what you are doing can be the difference between finishing and not. Trust me, you do not want to lose motivation because of burnout.

Final Thoughts

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. Some times just thinking about the project or problem is the hardest part. That is what is going to keep you back from finishing whatever it is that you want to get done. Doing it is the easy part, thinking about it is what is difficult.

I hope you all have an amazing day and week. If you haven’t already, go check out my blog about the best gifts to get a grad student. The link is here. Thanks for reading!

How to Fail a PhD

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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.

List of Ways to fail a 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. Burnout 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. One way to absolutely fail your PhD is being afraid to fail, period. 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.

Final Thoughts

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.

These were 6 ways on how you can fail your PhD. There are way more but I think these are the top few that really stand out. The journey is long, but at the end of it, you can be proud of what you accomplished. Also, the title “doctor” stays with you for life, which is kind of cool. Let me know in the comments of any other ways in which you can fail a PhD. I will update the post with your suggestions! Until next time, peace!

Doing Things Alone is OK

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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

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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

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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

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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 in Grad School

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I have written quite a few pieces where I emphasize the importance of therapy, especially in grad school. 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.

therapy in grad school

My experience with therapy in Grad School

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

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.

What I Didn’t Like about Therapy in Grad School

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.

What I really Liked about Online Therapy

I think there are more pros than cons when it came to my experience with Talkspace. Yes, I posted some things I didn’t like, but everything has things you don’t like. I absolutely loved my time doing therapy. My therapist was so kind and helped me walk through all of my fears, anxieties, and mental strains. She was able to really dive deep into who I am and get to know me on a personal level. She helped me overcome quite a few things such as depression and anxiety so I can live a normal life. In fact, I am still in a very positive place now ever since therapy ended.

I ended my therapy sessions in the spring of 2021, after almost of year of seeing my therapist. 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.

therapy in grad school

Pros and Cons of Doing Online Therapy

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.

So Will it really help you?

Therapy will most definitely help you. Though, you have to find something that fits best with you. For doing therapy in grad school, being able to just zoom meet was a blessing. In grad school, it might be inconvenient to drive to a therapist and have an hour session in between work. Doing these online sessions gives you the freedom of doing therapy literally anywhere.

I know for a fact that therapy helped me overcome quite a few things in grad school. I am certain that it can help you or at least get you on the right track to get better. Therapy was probably the best thing I did to deal with the stresses of grad school as well as the stresses of life.

Final Thought

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. Also, if you are still on the fence about doing therapy, whether in person or online, please send me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. I would love to talk with you and we can figure out what is best. You can also email me for any questions related to grad school or therapy. As always, I hope you all have a wonderful day/week/month/year and I will see you in the next blog.

Being Mistaken For An Undergrad

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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

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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

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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

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Weekends in grad school 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.

grad school weekends

What “should you do”

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.

grad school weekends

Do Master’s Students Work on The weekends In Grad School?

I have had many master’s student s work on my project with me. The thing that they all have in common is they only work on lab stuff max 3 days a week and never come in on the weekends. This was my experience with them, but it is different for everyone. If there is a huge deadline approaching, you know that they will be working on the weekends with me. I haven’t really had that occur though.

Master’s students are primarily focused on their studies. If they are going to take a weekend to work, it would most likely be because they have an exam coming up or they need to catch up on homework. That is their main focus, getting school work done. Of course many do research as well. These are the select few that you may see in the lab on the weekends.

So, do master’s students work on weekends in grad school? Yes, they are going to give up a few to work, but it will only be when they truly need to or if they just absolutely love working on the weekends. For the most part, if you are in a master’s program, you will have plenty of time to take off during the weekend to have fun and a life.

weekends in grad school

Do PhD Students Work on The Weekends in Grad School?

So, this is a bit different than a master’s. PhD students are all about the research. In fact, they are obsessed with research. If not, then they will become obsessed. But are they obsessed enough to work on the weekends? The answer is, like a master’s student, yes and no. I know PhD students that work every weekend and I know some that have taken off every weekend off and managed to graduate on time. It really depends on a ton of factors. Your adviser is one of them. How demanding are they and how much do they want you to work. I find assistant professors to be harder than tenure because they are trying to publish enough to get tenure. That means that you’ll be working on weekends, trying to catch up on work that they give you.

People that have to teach may have to work on weekends as well while in grad school. They have to prepare for classes, grade homework and exams, and answer emails. So, yes, they will have to work on weekends. A PhD is an apprenticeship so you will be working hard to learn how to do good research. This will mean giving up some weekends so you can learn more. If you are choosing this path, working a ton, not all, weekends will probably occur.

If you are able to, take off as many weekends as you can, though. I stated above that you might go crazy if you work all of the time. Burnout is a real thing and it will affect you if you aren’t careful. Mental health will also tend to decline if you work all of the time. Just think of the Shining. All work and no play will make you literally go insane lol.

weekends in grad school

What To Do on The Weekends in Grad School

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.

I would suggest doing something each weekend that just makes you happy and keeps you from thinking about grad school. Work and school will be there after the weekend is up. So, spend your weekend not worrying about it and enjoy yourself. Make grad school a fun experience.

What I am Doing this Weekend

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

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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

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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