Walking Challenge

Yesterday, I managed to walk a bit over 10 miles. This may seem like a lot but I was trying to catch up to my walking app. The virtual walking app that I use is the Conqueror Virtual Challenge. I started doing this when Covid first started because I did not want to become lazy and a couch potato. Ever since I started, I have completed 5 challenges and have tracked over 1400 miles!

The Conqueror Challenge is super fun and they offer really great medals after you complete each one. Currently, I am walking the Appalachian trail which is 1968.3 miles, which I am currently 33% of the way through. To stay on track, I have to walk 5.6 miles, so that’s why I walk so much.

Here’s a picture of the medal I have so far. Each of those has a distance between 40 and 400 miles, so I have been walking quite a bit since I started. Walking this much has been a huge stress reliever which has been a great incentive to do it so much. Also the medals are a good incentive too.

I do emphasize the importance of exercise in grad school and this is a great way of stay on top of your health. Each challenge requires you to put in how long you think it will take you to finish. Then, it tells you how far ahead or behind you are on that goal. This is great for grad students because it will force them to actually go for a walk so they don’t fall behind. The last thing a grad student wants to do is fall behind on literally anything. Also, it’s super useful in creating habits that are sustainable.

This is not just a great thing for grad students, but also working adults. If you are interested, here’s a link to their website.

Love the Journey

“I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that this is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get.”-Anna Quindlen

I have a pretty bad problem of always thinking about the end goal. I always tell myself that once I get to the end of my PhD, I’ll finally be happy. If I finish something in the future, I will finally have the satisfaction that I have been craving. This is extremely toxic thinking and it has taken me quite a while to actually understand this.

My Journey

I was told about 3 months ago that I would be graduating next May. This really hit me hard because I was finally close to “happiness”. I was finally at the end of my program and all of my dreams would come true. Thinking this way really brought a ton of excitement and a bit of dread as well. I had to starting thinking about careers and where I wanted to live and all the good stuff that comes with big changes. I was excited until about a week ago when my advisor told me that they found funding for me and I will probably be in my program for a bit longer than expected.

All of the excitement that came with thinking that I would be happy soon came crashing down. But, something quite interesting happened. My happiness came back, and fairly quick. This was odd but I understood what it meant. I love the journey. Being a grad student is amazing and I absolutely love the process of getting my doctorate.

I have grown so much as an individual in the past 4 years that people have taken notice. This is the first time in my life where I honestly don’t mind putting in a few extra hours of work or staying up late to figure out a problem that I have. I love what I do and the vast unknown that I am entering in to. This stuff excites me and I am OK continuing to struggle through this program. The struggle is just a component of learning.

Your Journey

journey

I have talked with many individuals about how “we will be better off after college” but frankly, I don’t know if we will. This isn’t supposed to be discouraging or negative, all I mean is we really don’t know what the future holds. I write about uncertainty a lot and this is one of those situations. I really have no clue if I will be better off after grad school. Yes, grad school can suck some times, but I know so many people that hate their careers and dream of being elsewhere.

This is why it is important to find happiness right now. Don’t tell yourself that you will be better off and happy after you hit some goal because you really don’t know if you will be. Find the happiness you desire through the journey. Learn to love the whole process and I guarantee that it will stop being as bad as you think it is. In other words, learn to love the suck lol.

Grad school is a journey that is not supposed to be easy. Learning new things is not easy and this is a time where you will learn more about life and yourself than probably any other time in your life. If you can learn to love this ride, I guarantee that it won’t be as bumpy. I hope you have a wonderful Sunday.

**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.

Another Day With No Motivation

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

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

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

Just Do it

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

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

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

Make it Fun

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

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

Dealing with Office/Lab Mates

If you are in a grad program, more than likely you are going to be getting an office somewhere close to your adviser. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, my office is on another floor than mine. This is good because I don’t have to look like I am working all of the time but can also be bad because I never know when he’s around or when he will suddenly pop up. I have to be on my “A” game most of the time.

office

Unfortunately for grad students, the dream of having your own space, where you can have plants, maybe a TV, and possibly add your own couch, is not a reality, yet. You will be with other students. Some of these will be other PhD students, while other’s could be Master’s or even undergrad students. If you are fortunate, you won’t get too many other people.

Having office mates is good and bad. One advantage to them is having someone to talk to. Being in the office and lab all day can get quite lonely. Talking to someone that does the same thing as you really helps. In fact, this is exactly how I’ve made friends. It’s a total win. Also, another advantage to having someone in the office is that they may bring snacks and treats. This is especially true if you tell them when your birthday is!

office mates

The bad things about having someone share an office are actually not too bad. You will have to figure out how to have Zoom meetings with them in the room. You may also have to find a way of reheating the fish you brought for lunch without causing them to run out of the building. One disadvantage that I found was not being able to use the other desks to work on side projects. I used to have my office to myself, which was good and bad. But, I would have multiple different projects going on at once on almost all of the desks. It was nice being able to jump around from desk to desk. I can’t anymore.

These advantages and disadvantages occur in the lab as well. Having someone in the lab with you is nice because you can talk to someone while your experiments are running. This makes lab work a heck of a lot more enjoyable, if your experiments are boring of course. It can also be a pain to have to share bench space with someone else. One of my labs has like 3 different groups using it at one time. Luckily, I don’t work in that lab that often because having that many people in there at once would be a nightmare.

One surprising disadvantage to having someone else in the lab, especially an older grad student is the pressure of doing everything right. Sometimes I feel like I don’t pipette right or sometimes I feel like I don’t allow my glassware to soak in an acid bath long enough. I don’t want to be told what to do by someone else or be told that I am doing everything wrong. I understand that it’s helpful to get criticism, it is just anxiety inducing at some times. Other than that, having a lab mate really isn’t that bad.

If you are working in a lab currently, do you enjoy having others around? What about having office mates? Let me know, in the comments, how you are able to cope with having people in your space. I hope you guys have a wonderful day. Also, if you haven’t checked out my blog about sharing your lab and office with a ghost, then I highly suggest reading about that lol. (link here). It is spooky season!

**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.

Doing Things Alone is OK

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

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

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

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

1.Ask yourself if your anxiety is justified.

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

Photo Of A Boy Covering His Eyes

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

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

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

Person Laying on Sofa While Reading Book

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

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

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

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

I hope you guys had a wonderful day! Until next time, peace!

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

29 Things I’ve Learned by 29

Tomorrow, I turn 29.

Man in White Crew Neck T-shirt Holding Pink Balloons

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

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

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

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

Being Mistaken For An Undergrad

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

Man and Woman Sitting on Concrete Bench Using Laptop Computers

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

Photo Of Female Engineer Wearing Lab Coat

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

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

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

Grad School Weekends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pros and Cons of Grad School

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

Entry level job

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

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

How to Start Each Morning

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

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

Black Android Smartphones on Brown Wooden Surface

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

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

Cheerful elderly man listening to music in headphones

2) Set your alarm to a fun tune

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

Person Writing on White Paper

3) Do a bit of journaling

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

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

4) Only read positive news articles

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

Orange Tabby Cat Beside Fawn Short-coated Puppy

5) Play with your furry friend

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

Person Performing Coffee Art

6) Drink a nice cup of coffee

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

Woman in Red Dress Standing Beside Woman in Green Blazer

7) Count your blessings

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

Woman Practicing Yoga

8) Meditate

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

Two 2 Kg. Blue Hex Dumbbells on White Surface

9) Exercise

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

Boy in Gray Jacket Reading Book

10) Read a book

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

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

Write Often in Grad School

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

Woman Typing on Laptop

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

Blog Letters on Brown Wood

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

Photo Of Person Typing On Laptop

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

Person Writing on White Paper

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

Free stock photo of art, artistic, arts and crafts

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

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

The Unlikely Benefits of Mindfulness

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

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

help

1) People are coming to me for mental health advice

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

teach

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

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

brighter sky

3) I see things a little brighter.

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

sleep

4) I sleep better

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

Kindness

5) I am kinder

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

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

Simple Ways to Reduce Stress Now

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

  1. Exercise
exercise

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

2. Use the massager that you bought

massage

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

3. Drink tea instead of coffee

Tea

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

4. 10 minutes of meditation

Silhouette of Man at Daytime

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

5. Write down your stressors

Person Holding Blue Ballpoint Pen Writing in Notebook

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

6. Play mellow music

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

7. Breathe

Man Wearing Black Cap With Eyes Closed Under Cloudy Sky

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

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

Does GPA Matter in Grad School?

Grades

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

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

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

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

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

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

Publishing Your First Manuscript

Free stock photo of brown, business, crumpled paper ball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Ok to Take a Break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helping Others Cope with Stress and Anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Eat Healthier in Grad School

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

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

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

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

2. Shop Bogo deals

Red Sale Tag

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

3. Get a crock pot and use it.

Cooked Food on White Ceramic Plate

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

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

Black and White Dalmatian Dog Eating Fruits

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

5. Incorporate fruits and veggies in every meal

Variety of Fruits and Vegetables

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

6. Buy a rice maker

Photo Of Assorted Rice Grain On Wooden Spoon

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

7.Meal Prep

Flat Lay Photography of Three Tray of Foods

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

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

What to Expect On the First Day of Grad School

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

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

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

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

People on Sidewalk Selective Focal Photo

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

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

Chemical Engineers in Laboratory

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

Is Grad School Hard?

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

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

Grad school can best be described by the cartoon below:

Rachel - ppt download

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here Come the Freshman! How to Handle New Students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 Hobbies to Take Up in Grad School

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

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

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

  1. Cooking
Woman In The Kitchen Preparing To Cook

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

2. Wood Carving

Gray and White Penguin Decoration

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

3.Weight Lifting

Man Carrying Barbel

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

4.Learning a new language

Dictionary Text in Bokeh Effect

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

5. Take up a sport

Man Dunking the Ball

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

6. Blog

Person Holding Turned-on Silver Laptop Computer

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

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

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

New Beginnings: Moving in Grad School

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Prepare for Your Qualifying Exam

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

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

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

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

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

Two Pencils Near Book

Before the Exam

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Remind yourself that you will pass

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

Close-up of Hands

During the qualifying exam

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

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

2.Try not to drink too much coffee

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

3.Tell yourself that you will be fine

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

4.Write until your hand falls off.

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

People Running Near Seashore at Daytime Photo

After the Qualifying Exam

  1. Relax

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

2. Prepare to hear back from your committee

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

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

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

5 Things I Wish I Was Told Before Starting Grad School

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

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

  1. You will experience imposter syndrome

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

2. No one will really care about your work

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

3. You will say goodbye to a ton of friends

Persons Left Hand on Airplane Window

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

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

Assorted Sliced Fruits in White Ceramic Bowl

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

5. You are not in undergrad anymore

Person in White Shirt With Brown Wooden Frame

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

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

How to Survive the First Year of Grad School

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zoom to Classroom: The Great Transition

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

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

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

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

  1. Get Vaccinated

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

2. Talk to someone about your fears

Woman Wearing Teal Dress Sitting on Chair Talking to Man

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

3. Move to the front of the classroom

Brown and Black Wooden Chairs Inside Room

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

4. Learn to meditate to ease your mind

Woman Meditating in the Outdoors

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

5. Wear your mask

White Ceramic Sculpture With Black Face Mask

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

6. Exercise outside

Woman Running On Pathway

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

7. Be Smart

Text

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

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

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

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

Things Not to Tell an Anxious Person

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

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

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

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

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

Habits of a Successful Graduate Student

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

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

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

Oral Qualifying Presentation: Grad School Stress

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

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

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

Learning to Meditate in Grad School. A Guide for Beginners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 7 Phone Apps That All Grad Students Need Right Now

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

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

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

2. Audible

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

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

3. MyRadar

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

4.Spotify with Hulu

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

5.ColorNote or some other notepad app

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

6. Alarm Clock

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

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

7.YouTube Vanced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giving Presentations in Grad School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How a Massage Gun Helps With My Mental State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Do When I am STRESSED

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

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

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

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

5 Stadium Exercises That You Need to Do

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

  1. Stadium Mountains

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

2. Stadium Mountains with added weights.

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

3. Leg raises on the stadium bleachers

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

4. Sprints

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

5. Lunges up the steps

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

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

Must Haves When Going Back to Grad School, or School in General

It is Summer B semester currently and the freshman are back in full force. This will be the first time that colleges will have people back in full, at least here in Florida at least, and that might be scary for a few people. I honestly don’t want people to come back because the gym gets overcrowded. For those coming back to campus, whether it’s for grad school or undergrad, I wanted to put a list with links to stuff that I find very helpful. This will be a short list because I don’t want to be one of those bloggers that post something like “33 must have items to survive grad school” or something like that. I’ll keep the list fairly short but these are all things that I have found to be the most helpful.

  1. A portable monitor to connect to your laptop https://amzn.to/3ADsbLL

So I bought one of these additional monitors that connects to my laptop so I can work literally from anywhere and have two screens. This was a game changer. I use it all of the time when I am out of the office. It’s super helpful for presentations, writing, having multiple tabs open at once on different screens, etc. There are cheaper ones but this is the one I got.

2. Good pens. https://amzn.to/3dTSy6q

Ok these pens may be cheap on Amazon but they are by far the best pens that I have ever received, and they are cats. They write so well and they give you a ton so you can share with your friends…if that’s what you want to do lol.

3. A “to-do” list/Planner https://amzn.to/3ys69to

This is all you need right here. Something super easy and simple. You can go out and buy a fancy one but I like simplistic planners. I personally bought this one ad use it every day since I forget to do stuff constantly.

4. A good water bottle https://amzn.to/36jUjFL

This is a must have, especially on campus when you are running from class to class. I was buying water bottles from the vending machines and wasting so much money and plastic. I bought a water bottle, the space one to be exact, and have been quite happy with it. It is a bit difficult to clean so you may want to shop around for an easier one to clean.

5. Last, a Watch or Fitbit https://amzn.to/3dW2pse , https://amzn.to/3hkOwGa

Ok I apologize for this one. These are quite expensive so they really don’t follow my grad school on a budget lifestyle so you may need to wait until there is some money to use to get one. I received the Active 2 for Christmas and it is probably the most important thing I have on me, other than my phone. Since I am a personal trainer, this has been extremely helpful. If you are trying to lose weight, I would say the Fitbit is the way to go.

I hope this list was interesting for you. These are just essential items that I have that have helped me survive this long in grad school. What things should be added to this list that has helped you? I would love to know.

Grad School Fitness on a Budget

Let me start off by assuming that you are like me….and poor. I don’t mean “living on ramen noodles poor” though. I mean making enough money to get by but also not enough to save up for the future or buy a house, like every single person I went to school with is :(. Grad school is tough and much tougher with the stipend that we are given. This adds even more stress to our lives that we can’t afford to have. Well, this blog post is for the all of the grad school students that want to get fit without having to stress about money, high gym cost (I saw one where its $50 a month 0.o), or those very expensive stationary bikes that I made the mistake of looking up their price. No, you can get fit and not have to worry about spending that much money at all. I will include some links to things that I think are essential for the busy grad student that wants to get fit.

First off, if you are able to use the local school gyms, or apartment gyms, do it! Technically, you are paying for those gyms so take full advantage of them. They can get crowded though, especially school gyms. This is a main reason that I hear, at work, why people tend to just workout at home or outside. Totally valid reason so the rest of this post is for those that don’t want to go to the gym.

Do stadium workouts or track workouts. You can really do a million different workouts at the stadium and or on a track. Usually schools will have one available to you to workout at. If not, find yourself an open field. For these workouts, you can do body exercises or even incorporate resistance training as well. I bought these resistance band https://amzn.to/35Y7UT2 and they have been amazing, especially when everything was closed during the pandemic. Using these will help to build muscle and lose weight, which is always a plus. If you can, go on YouTube and look up resistance band exercises. There are a million to choose from. I recommend HASfit (https://www.youtube.com/user/KozakSportsPerform). I followed all of their exercises and saw significant results.

Yoga is a big thing in college. All of the yoga classes tend to fill up so quickly. I guess people really enjoy it? I tried it and it kicked my butt, mostly because I was not used to stretching in weird ways and I used muscles that I had never used. If you want to do some yoga and don’t want to go to classes because….covid, then I suggest getting a yoga mat and watching more YouTube videos. Man, YouTube is amazing. I bought this mat https://amzn.to/3A4WGda and I watch MadFit https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpQ34afVgk8cRQBjSJ1xuJQ. She is super good and extremely challenging. If you want ab workouts, she’s the one to watch. There are also a hundred more yoga instructors on the site that you can check out.

If you are like me, you love lifting heavy weights. This is a bit tricky to do without a gym, but if you want to spend a little more, I recommend getting a weighted sandbag like https://amzn.to/3x2FF1r. I bought one along with the resistance band and Oh My! I believe mine goes up to 45 pounds, so it’s a pretty significant amount of weight. You fill smaller sand bags and stuff them inside a much larger bag so the weight can be adjustable. This was a great buy! I specifically like it for arm workouts as well as back and shoulder workouts.

The last little bit of exercise “equipment” that I want to share are posters. They have posters that go over different exercises that you can do with weights, resistance bands, bodyweight, etc. I have quite a few in my office at school that I studied prior to getting my personal training certification. These were the ones that I got https://amzn.to/3dig4JW. These are great because they help you visualize a workout and expose you to many different other workouts that you may have never seen or heard of. They are fairly cheap and super helpful.

I hope these suggestions help a tiny bit. If you want some advice from me, reach out and I will happily help. Most importantly, just stay active. It helps in more ways than you can think of. Trust me when I say that staying active in grad school is not just essential for your physical health, but also or your mental health. I have been in grad school for a very long time so I know 😛

See ya later everyone

My Favorite Things on Days I Feel Sad

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Talk about Anxiety Triggers

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

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

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

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

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

Peace

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

How I Deal with ANXIETY

I used to have to see a therapist because my anxiety was getting way too bad. Fortunately, my health insurance covered the use of Talkspace for no additional cost, and I took full advantage of that. Another great site to use in Online-Therapy. I highly recommend either Talkspace or Online-Therapy. My therapist was so helpful and really changed the way that I look at anxiety. She told me that there are a few things that you should always do when having a panic attack, and I would like to share these with you guys. These are 5 methods that have helped me deal with anxiety.

1. Give your anxiety a name

My anxiety was called Ang. She told me to do this because it convinces your brain that anxiety is a thing and not just a state of mind. Then you can “stand up” to it like you would a bully. I have used this method a few times, mostly to acknowledge that my anxiety is there.

2. Keep exercising no matter what

I walk a ton throughout the day and do my virtual races (see my previous posts). I also go to the gym almost every day. Staying active decreases muscle tension and diverts you from what you are so anxious about. I mean, you can’t really be worrying about something if your doing stadiums lol.

3. Meditate and practice mindfulness

This was a major point that my therapist brought up. Train your mind to be able to cope with things and to be able to calm down in situations where you are anxious. This is a daily activity but so beneficial. I try and meditate right after lunch each day, using my Headspace app. I have seen such a reduction in the severity of my panic attacks and anxious moments. Even last week I prevented a huge panic attack because of meditation. I will have another blog post going over methods to do this so hold on a bit 🙂

Here’s a great book if you are interested https:/amzn.to/3vSo8HR

4. Cognitive Behavior Therapy.

Look this bad boy up on the computer RIGHT NOW! This has saved my life multiple times and I am such a genuine person now because of it. This method focuses on changing cognitive distortions and behaviors by challenging your thoughts. There are so many YouTube videos on this so I won’t get into too much detail, but just know that it works but it takes time. Remember that this is a marathon, not a race.

5. Be kind to yourself

I think this may be the most important thing that you could ever possibly do. We have some really unrealistic expectations of ourselves and beat ourselves up if we don’t meet those expectations. My grad school marathon has been just that and I was miserable. I found that being kind to myself, laughing when I mess up, and being kind to others has helped me become less anxious and happier.

These are just a few of the many methods you can try. I hope that at least one works out for you. Remember, if you have questions about this, message me. I would absolutely love to talk about it. Don’t just deal with anxiety, learn to live harmoniously with 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.

My Fitness Journey

 I love to work out. I mean, I LOVVVVVVEEEEE to work out mostly because it makes me feel like I accomplished something for that day. I do mostly lifting but I do kill myself some days and have a “fitness class” stadium session. First off, if you are not familiar with stadiums, they are practically the devil’s work. You run up and down these really steep bleachers and pretend like you are enjoying it. I am fortunate enough to have Ben Hill Griffin Stadium right down the street from me so I go there to do workouts. I usually just run up and down the stairs and then maybe do lunges or pushups.


 My fitness class that I spoke about early consists of a few friends and sometimes some coworkers. I am a certified personal trainer so of course my friends want me to teach them workouts. This is a ton of effort, but honestly, I love it. Plus I get to make them run up and down stairs, so if they are mean to me, I can retaliate (lol). 


We have two gyms on campus that I frequently go to. There is SW Rec and Student Rec. SW Rec is by far the superior gym, but it’s packed constantly. Student Rec is a nice little gym that has everything I need. I will usually take about an hour and a half lunch break and go over there to get a workout in. This is the beauty of being in grad school, I can go do stuff whenever I want, for however long I want. 

As I said earlier, I am a certified personal trainer. I do not really train people for money right now, but hopefully I can in the fall. UF’s RecSports hires personal trainers each year and that is what I am aiming to do. I took their course last fall and they offered me a position as a Wellness Associate. It’s a fun job and I get to interact with a ton of people. It is also like 1 or 2 days a week so it does not interfere with my PhD duties. I will definitely blog more about workouts and what I do. Honestly, I workout so much because grad school is stressful and this is an outlet. I made sure it’s not an outlet that becomes an addiction, though. Hope you guys are enjoying my blogs so far.

PEACE