Visit the Past but Don’t Linger

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

travels to california

Cali Trip and Travels

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

The Emotions of Going Back

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

Grad School

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

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

Cali Travels and Emotions

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

Final Thoughts

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

Just Write for the Fun of It

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

writing for the fun of it

Just write for the fun of it

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

Why is it fun?

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

Just do it for the fun of it!

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

Final Thoughts

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

Imposter Syndrome in Grad School

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

Hand Touching Glass

What is it?

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

Types of Imposter Syndrome

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

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

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

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

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

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

imposter syndrome in grad school

Ways to Cope with Imposter Syndrome in Grad School

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

1) Talk with others about your feelings.

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

2) Talk with a therapist.

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

3) Stop comparing yourself to others

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

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

4) Question your thoughts

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

5) Aim for Done, Not Perfect

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

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

6) Stay off Social Media

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

imposter syndrome in grad school

Final Thoughts

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

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

Some More Stuff on Imposter Syndrome in Grad School

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

Headspace: Imposter Syndrome

Online Therapy

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

Articles

What is Imposter Syndrome

Contextualizing the Impostor “Syndrome”

YouTube

Traveling in Grad School

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COVID 19 will end one day and it will be ok to travel. I guarantee this. Until then, traveling in grad school right now may not be the best idea, especially if you are not vaccinated. If you are like me, you are feeling the travel bug, bad. Every year since I graduated undergrad has had at least one trip to another country or multiple countries, so I am ready to get back out there. I know for a fact that I am not alone. My girlfriend seems to spend more time on Skyscanner, looking for cheap flights everywhere than she does on work lately lol. I am pretty much the same way right now, so it’s ok.

Traveling in grad school can be quite the experience. First off, you are pretty much limited to travelling places you can afford currently. You might be able to buy that plane ticket to Australia, but I know for a fact you’ll be staying at a hostel lol. Don’t worry, hostels are extremely fun places to stay and you get to meet some amazing people there. I wanted to take this time this morning to share a few places that I thin are really great to visit in grad school. These are all places that I have personally been. I have only been to 7 other countries, and have a ton more to get to. But, I have been to some fairly cool places. So, grab your passport and let’s get into it.

Places to go: Traveling in Grad School

1) Canada-Anywhere

Canada is one of my all-time favorite countries. The people are extremely nice, the food is amazing (and cheap), and best of all, they speak English! I have been to Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City. Out of those four, Montreal is my favorite. If you are able to make a trip over the border, go for it. Each town that I spent time in had so much to do and it was really cheap. I mean, the flights from Orlando to Toronto are like $150 right now so it may be good to go there right now. Below is a picture of an alley way in Quebec City. If you like climbing stairs, I highly suggest visiting here lol

Traveling in Grad School to Quebec
Quebec City

2)Ireland-Dublin

Dublin reminded me of Pennsylvania so much. I was fortunate enough to go during New Years and actually celebrate New Years Eve in The Brazen Head, which is the oldest pub in Ireland. So, that was cool. The town is super fun to explore and the people are some of the nicest. Hostels can be a bit expensive here though, so be ready for that. The flights are not too expensive to get there. I think honestly, travelling to Dublin is the cheapest to get over to Europe, so it’s a good place to travel. Also, you’ll love Ireland, especially if you love the color green. Everything there is green lol.

3) Luxemburg-Luxemburg City

If you have the chance, go to Luxemburg City. This is, by far, my favorite location that i have ever visited. It is a combination of Germany and France. I can’t really say that since I haven’t been to either of those countries, but my girlfriend has and said that it’s pretty much that. The city is straight out of a post card. Let me add one of the photos I took while there.

traveling in grad school to Luxemburg

The city is surrounded by a giant wall as well. It was really cool to just walk around the city, take in all of the sites, and truly just be a peace there. I loved the food as well and loved the pastries especially. French pastries are the best. The hostel that we stayed at was extremely cheap and right down the street from where I took this picture. I highly suggest making a trip here. It is a good 1 to 2 day place to visit.

4) USA-New York City

If you want to experience some of the craziest people, the best food, and possibly see a celebrity walking there dog, New York is where to go. I have only been twice, but have experienced quite a few things in the like 5 or 6 days that I spent there. You may have to save a bit of money for a hotel or try and find a friend that lives up there to stay with but it is so worth it. Once you get there, just walk around the city. Take in all of the sites, sounds, and smells (the good smells hopefully). Grab some pizza and make sure to get a bunch of bagels. Please send me some bagels too.

traveling in grad school to New York

Here is a picture of me in Times Square. This was also the face I had literally every where that I went in New York. If you are a grad student, put this at the top of your list on travel locations. Maybe apply for some conferences up there. Just make sure to bring back bagels for me. Seriously. In fact, if you want to send me bagels, I will personally give you my address to send them lol I love NY bagels.

5) China

I am going to end this list with what started my travels. China was the very first country that i travelled to and it was a gift to myself for graduating engineering school. My girlfriend was going to visit her sister there and asked if I wanted to join. I was hesitant course, but eventually agreed. If you want to feel truly alive, I suggest going to a place outside of your comfort zone, such as China, and immersing yourself in everything there is. This trip was by far, the best trip that I had ever been on. While there, we climbed the great wall of China.

We saw the Terra Cota soldiers

And, we were able to freeze our butt’s off at Shanghai Disney

I was there for a month prior to having to come back to start a new job :(. It was an amazing adventure that I hope to go on again some day. If you want to travel here, you will have to get a visa, so keep that in mind. It can take a very long time to get one too.

Why take a trip?

Grad school is all about growing as an individual and becoming a professional. Traveling in grad school is one of the best ways to grow as a person and get out of your comfort zone. It is also amazing to be able to explore places during your short time on earth. Take the time to just wonder and not worry about life’s problems. Go to places that few people have seen and go explore what life has to offer. The problem is getting started. So, I was completely fine with just doing my thing in the USA and maybe travelling as far as the Keys. Going to China made me realize just how much there is out there to explore. I mean, there’s sooooooo much to explore in this world and really not enough time to explore it all. When you are in grad school, you will have opportunities to go and explore these places. Yes, it will make you poor, but the experience is worth more than any amount of money. Trust me, it’s better to be poor and travel than save money and stay where you are.

Final Thoughts on Traveling in Grad School

Traveling in grad school, well just in general, is the best thing that I have ever done. I have become such a different person. There is so much in this world to explore and experience that it’s almost insulting not to go and experience it. I highly suggest taking a trip as soon as you can. Life is more than work, I promise you that. In fact, a trip somewhere else may make you leave that work life and possibly become a travelling blogger. How cool would that be? In the end, start small and branch out. Explore life because you only get this one chance to. I hope you all have a wonderful day and I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Let’s Bring Compassion Back

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

compassion

Everyone is suffering

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

Be best

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

Be the good you want to see in the world

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

The Holidays

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

Final Thoughts

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

Is Grad School Hard?

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I’ve written about whether or not I think grad school is hard. You can read that here, if you like. The overall answer to whether grad school is hard or not is “it depends”. For some people, this may be the easiest thing they have done. For other’s, not so much. It really depends on a ton of factors. For me, I find grad school pretty difficult, but not the hardest thing that I have done. Today, I want to do one of my new favorite things. Instead of a list, like usual, I am creating tables now! I think tables are way better anyway. So today will be about the easy and hard things about grad school.

Full body of young man in sneakers and jeans pushing and falling boxes saying Work Problems Anxiety Stress and Deadline while fighting with problems

I feel like it is a really good thing to know both ends, especially if you are about to start a grad program or you are just beginning. Things can get difficult really quickly if you are not prepared. This can actually be one of the more difficult things that you experience in grad school, but it can be better if you come prepared. Hopefully I hit a ton of topics on the difficult and easy things about a grad program. This list will be based on my observations of being in a grad program for 4.5 year. Holy cow, have I been a grad student that long?

Table 1. Well, is grad school hard or easy?

The table is self explanatory. To the left will be all the things that I find easy about grad school and to the right will be all that I find difficult. I would love some input from my readers. What did you find easy and hard while you were in grad school. Heck, what do you find easy and difficult while you work full time? Let me know in the comments.

Easy Difficult
Classes. Hear me out. For some reason, the classes in my grad program are pretty easy. There is alot of work but I have a much higher GPA now than in undergrad. You will probably be the poorest you will ever be. This is very difficult especially if you have a spouse or a family that relies on you.
Making acquaintances. Friends are a bit different but you will have a ton of acquaintances. It’s good to even have these so you can talk to someone.Your mental health will be strained. I find balancing my sanity very difficult some days because of all the uncertainty that comes with grad school.
Waking up early. I feel that this has become way easier now since I don’t party at nightIt takes forever to finish. You may even go much longer due to unforeseen circumstances (*cough cough* COVID). It’s a long time and a longggg journey
Getting plenty of sleep. You can only work so long. Grad school is a marathon and you need plenty of rest.You may not make many friends and you may even lose quite a few.
Seeing family. This is easy for me, not so much with other’s. This will also be on the difficult side.Seeing family if you live far away from them. It’s actually really sad seeing some of the international students coming into the office during breaks because they can’t go home to their families. Also, why am I in the office during breaks with them???
Getting the help you need for your mental health. Many times colleges pay for therapy services such as talkspace.com or online-therapy.comWriting your thesis, and manuscripts, and presentation articles, and well just writing.
Getting help with your class work. It seems like professors give special care to grad students more than undergrads. They may treat you somewhat better in most cases and be nicer. Take advantage of thisSeeing your other friends or collages getting high paying jobs and “living their best lives”. I have friends making far more money and working much less than me. It’s hard to see this happening while I continue my pursuit of academic excellence.
Man Relaxing and Working on his Laptop

Overall

Grad school, especially a doctorate, can have very easy and very difficult moments. You need to understand that this journey will test you in a whole bunch of ways and you will come out a totally different individual. I know I have changed so much since I have started and I still have a ways to go. Grad school, essentially, is as hard or easy as you make it. You can make it extremely difficult by being just a bad student. Bad student’s aren’t teachable and they think they know everything. Don’t be this person. You can also make it easy by getting the help you need, creating good habits, and practicing mindfulness. Understand that this journey will not be the easiest but you will make the best of it.

Anyway, I hope you wonderful people have an awesome day. I am going to get ready for office work today. It’s getting close to winter break so things are slowing way down. Also, the undergrads are leaving which means the gym is finally not packed. I think I’ll get a workout in today, sometime.

Who Cares What They Think

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

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

Who cares what they think

No one cares

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

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

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

Some people will never understand

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

Do what you Love

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

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

Final Thought

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

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

Sick Days in Grad School

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Today, I feel pretty terrible. I did this to myself, though, and before you ask, it’s not Covid. I will explain. This whole week I have been dedicating myself to all that is fitness. I am trying to keep up with my walking challenge. Personal training at the stadiums is going on too. And, I have been getting on those early morning workouts, to top t all off. I have been extremely active, and today it is all catching up to me. That is just the source of pain. I feel king of sick because I received my Pfizer booster yesterday. The first two times were easy peasy. Apparently, third times the charm…So, I figured today I will write about feeling sick while in grad school.

Sick days

Oh no, I woke up sick

It probably won’t be like that, though. It will be more like “Ugh, I feel awful”. Waking up feeling sick in grad school can be the absolute worst. Probably the first thing you ask yourself is, ” is this Covid”. That might be the worst thing for grad students, particularly those with lab work, because you need to quarantine yourself. During this time of year, it can be a ton of different things that make you sick, so you might only feel lousy for a bit and then be fine. If it is Covid, and you don’t feel really lousy, it might be a good time to just binge watch every show that you can or get some writing done. See, there can be good things from these situations.

Woman with bracelet taking bath with foam

Treat Yourself

On days where you are feeling a bit sick, make sure to treat your body right. Drink plenty of fluids, try and eat decent foods, rest, and literally everything else the doctors tell you to do. The last thing you want is to feel even worse or have to go see a doctor. Treating yourself also means forgiving yourself for not being able to really do work that day. Getting sick is one of the worst things that can happen, especially if there is a deadline. It may also be a gift because your body is telling you to “stop”. Listen to your body. Work will always be there and you will never be or feel “caught up”. Take a day or two off. Treat yourself to easy activities such as watching Netflix, listening to audible books, heck, if you feel up to it, carve a wizard into a block of wood lol. Just make sure not to push yourself.

Photo Of Person Using Black Laptop

Let your adviser know

Sometimes, you may not see your adviser for months and then, all of a sudden, they pop up. I guarantee one of the days they pop up will be on the day that you feel sick. It’s a fact. Send them an email and let them know that you might not be in today or you may not do any work because you are feeling sick. They will understand. 99.9% of advisers will be happy that you stayed home. They need you to feel good so you can produce data for them, so taking a day off to recover is good. My adviser will send me emails to let me know when he’s sick. Most of the time it’s because I sent him papers to read or something he needs to look over. So, it’s totally fine to let them know you are sick. Your adviser is a person too, not some crazy boss.

Black and white from below background of Relaxation Deadline and Money titles on gray wall

Deadlines

If you get sick and there is a deadline, a hard deadline, then you need to email your adviser right away. If you feel a little under the weather then doing work won’t kill you. But, if you feel awful, you need to let them know that you cannot do work. There are very few deadlines that can’t be adjusted. If you are submitting a paper, those deadlines may not be able to change. For those deadlines, you may need to reach out for help from your adviser.

Deadlines that can be adjusted are good to have in this scenario. It’s easy, just push back the deadline a day or two. In the case of Covid, you may have to go longer. Unfortunately this may create some anxiety, but you have to just accept it. Life is uncertain and getting sick is one of those things that will happen but you don’t know when.

sick days in grad school

What to do then?

I feel like I could write a ton of information on this topic. I’ve had my fair share of sick days in my college career and probably so have you. Grad school sick days aren’t nearly as fun as when you were a kid. I loved sick days (not the feeling sick part) when I was a kid because I could watch The Price is Right as well as Jerry Springer (shhh, don’t tell my mom). I was able to hang out with my dog and eat ice cream all day. Man, those days were amazing. Also, my mom would bring home ginger ale and other snacks. It was nice having someone take care of me. You don’t really get that in grad school. Hopefully you have someone to help, but often times, you are on your own.

As I said before, take the day off! Don’t do anything related to your work because that may create some stress and your body cannot take anymore stress right now. Watch a ton of movies or shows. Heck, watch both. Hang out with your pets. I have my boy, Sirius, to watch over me and make sure I feel fine. Here are a few pics of him with his Slytherin and Gryffindor scarves on.

Also, being sick is a great way to catch up on some reading. I don’t mean for you to scour the literature, looking for research articles. No, read a fun, adventurous book that you haven’t read before. Lay down in a cozy chair or on your bed and spend a few hours reading. It’s easy and will make you feel better.

After your binge watching and book reading, make sure to take a nap. Sometimes, the best way to break a cold is to just sleep. Sleep is extremely beneficial and you’ll feel better afterwards. Take a hot shower prior to sleeping then nap for a few hours. Wake up and repeat the binge watching lol.

Final Thoughts

I hate feeling sick, but I know it will happen eventually. I try my best to eat right, exercise, and stay away from sick people, but sometimes you just get sick. If you are in grad school, you may get sick at a very inconvenient time such as a deadline or when about to go to a conference. This stuff happens and it’s part of life. Unfortunately, it’s not the best part of life. If you do happen to get sick, take a break and rest. Your body is telling you to slow down. Keep your health at the top of your most important things list. Research is important, but you can’t do it if you are sick all of the time.

Anyway, I hope you guys aren’t sick or feeling sick today, if you are, and want to do something, I suggest checking out my whole blog at love-and-bean.com. Go on there and give me some good advice on how to make it better. That would be amazing.

My Experience: Online Grad School

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Man Using Laptop on Table Against White Background

Before I decided that I wanted to go to grad school, I was a civil engineer. I take that back, I did consider grad school, but the thought of making money out of college was really appealing, so I went that direction. After a few months of work (yes only a few months), I decided that I wanted to do a master’s in engineering. I figured that getting a master’s would really allow me to stand out and possibly make more money. I did still want to work full time so the only option was to do an online master’s through UF’s EDGE program. Here’s my experience in online grad school.

EDGE Program

The EDGE program was a cool concept because the live lectures would be recorded and you could watch them on your own time. You would be fully remote, but you would still feel like you were part of the in person class. It also isn’t one of those “go at your own pace” type deals. No, you did the course on the same timeline as the in person class.

I took classes like this for about a year before I decided that I should just go back to school. There were other reasons why I decided to get a PhD and they mostly dealt with my overall satisfaction in life. I was not as fulfilled as I wanted to be and felt pretty stuck. Also, I needed something to get me out of my comfort zone. Going back to school was the only decision, honestly, and it turned out to be the absolute best decision.

Pros and Cons. My Favorite!

I wanted to give some pros and cons of doing an online grad degree. These are all from my experience and it may be completely different for you. I think online grad degrees are just as good as in person, but there are some differences that kind of threw me off. Without further ado, here is my pros and cons of doing an online graduate degree.

ProsCons
The degree shows up as a master’s degree on a diploma.You miss out on the in-person experience. Meaning, you don’t have hands on learning with the instructor. It can be frustrating.
It is convenient and you can do it after work or on the weekends.If you work full time, you will be giving up weekends and nights to catch up on work.
The exams are all take-home (obviously) so you don’t have too much stress from taking it in a room with others.Exams might still be timed so there is some pressure.
You can take one class or several classes at one time, depending on your schedule and time commitmentThis may delay the time it takes to get a master’s. Usually they are 30 credits, so like 10 classes.
It is cheaper to do an online course. Tuition is still the same, but you don’t have to pay additional amounts for housing and food and such. You will be working at the same time too, so you’ll have additional money. You miss out on the college life. It may seem like a good thing to not have to deal with that again, but something about being poor and only focusing on school is exciting and joyous. I don’t know, I’m weird like that lol
The work is the same difficulty and you are getting the same education as being in an actual class.The work is just as hard lol
You can email a professor whenever you like and they can help out.You have to schedule time to see them. This may mean scheduling a time at night to zoom meet with them. My advisor actually did this last night while I was in the lab. It was about 8:30 pm and he was talking to EDGE students since that was the only time they could meet.
You will get really good at using the computer, especially zoom.You will need to spend a great amount of time on a computer.
online grad school

Final Thoughts

I thought doing a master’s online was awesome. I was even able to come to in person classes and take exams and give presentations. It made me feel like I was back in school again and I had a wonderful time doing it. If you are considering applying for an online master’s, I highly suggest doing it. The acceptance rates are extremely high and you can even do your master’s at top schools in the nation. You get the same quality education as in person students get as well. Here is a list of the best online degrees of 2021 from US News. Check it out.

Fall Evenings

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

Picture Time: Fall Evenings

Fall evenings
Fall Evening
Fall Evenings

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

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

Go Outside

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

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

Grad School Experiences

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

Photo of Woman Writing on Tablet Computer While Using Laptop

1) You will experience imposter syndrome

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

2)You’ll be poor but that’s alright

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

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

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

4) You will have to say goodbye often

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

5) You will fail. Then, you will succeed

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

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

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

Shopping on a Grad School Budget

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shopping

Thanksgiving is usually the beginning of the Holiday season. Some people would argue that Halloween is but they are wrong :p. It is going to get busy for everyone in grad school here on out. You are probably neck deep in papers, presentations, experiments, loans, everything. Trust me, this time of year can get crazy just from school, but remember that there are other things that will probably make you say “I quit” such as present shopping and visiting family. The long drives to see family are also crazy and I suggest checking out how to make them easier (blog post here).

I did write about all of the stress that comes from the end of the semester but today is about the stress of the season. As a grad student, you are both an adult and college kid at the same time. It kind of stinks because, while everyone else is going on trips, buying presents, spending money, you are studying for finals, trying to get presents that you can afford, as well as just trying to be able to survive at this time of year. Money is sparse so I want to list off a few things to maybe do to save money and make everyone happy with gifts. Also, you need to be able to treat yourself too. This is extremely important. Here is a list of ideas on how to still save money and have a great holiday season.

1) Get crafty

I highly suggest making people presents instead of buying presents. Unless I really need something, a homemade gift is the best thing to get me. Anything edible is a plus to be honest. Many people don’t really want anything, but we all sort of expect to get gifts. It’s human nature, honestly. So instead of spending hours at a store or online shopping, why don’t you get crafty and make a gift. You can even do some wood carvings ;). If that’s not something you want to do, I highly suggest just baking a cake or cookies or something. It will be extremely cheap and everyone loves a food item.

2) Go to a local shop and buy something homemade

If you don’t feel crafty, taking a trip to a local market or shop is a great way to get gifts for everyone. They will most likely have things that you definitely won’t find on Amazon. You are also supporting local businesses which is a major plus. Bring a friend along and help them find gifts as well. Local shops usually have really high quality items too that are extremely unique and fun. This is probably what I am going to do this Christmas.

3) Stick to a budget

This is so hard to do some times but it is essential. count up all of the people you will get gifts for and then maybe assign a dollar amount to them. Couples are easy because they can count as one person lol. Next, add up the amount you assigned, tack on a factor of probably 1.25 and that will be your amount to stay under. the 1.25 gives you a more realistic goal since you will probably end up paying more for some people. If you can keep under budget, that’s great. Use the left over money to pay for rent :).

4) Try to reduce guilt when buying things

You may feel guilting for buying and not buying things. Some people expect fancy gifts, this does not mean you need to get those gifts for them. If they really want to get a diamond necklace for Christmas, you may need to let them know that you literally cannot get that for them. Spend within your means, please! Plus, if you do buy them something that amazing, they will probably expect that every year. Don’t do that to yourself. You may feel guilting for not buying expensive gifts for other, but just know that you come first. I’d rather not have anxiety because of finances than make people happy with expensive gifts.

5) Limit who you give presents to

Get your family and friends presents, of course. But, you don’t need to get 3rd cousin Charles a gift or the guy that lives 4 doors down from you that said hello to you one day. You can definitely be generous and get them gifts but maybe go with more of a baked goods approach. You don’t need to go broke to please everyone.

These are all things that I am definitely taking into consideration when getting presents for those in my life. Please be mindful about small stuff such as this. You don’t need extra stress in your life. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed during this time, take a step back and get away from the stress. I know that is hard but your mental state is far more important than the stress that comes with the holidays. I hope you guys have a good end of the semester and remember to take many breaks. Also, be kind to yourself. Show more love to yourself and others. That’s what this time is about anyway. Thanks for reading!

Gifts for Grad Students

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It’s Black Friday so of course today’s blog will be about buying things lol. Have you ever wondered what gift to get a grad student? This time of year can be extremely stressful because of spending a ridiculous amount of money and also because you really don’t know what everyone wants/needs. I hate it because I have so many people to get gifts for and it really stretches my budget. If you are buying gifts for grad students then here are a few ideas that will help you find the perfect gifts for grad students in your life.

Here are the Best Gifts for Grad Students, from a grad student himself

1) School supplies For Grad Students

Pens, paper, binders, and literally anything like that are always appreciated by grad students. A really good gift to give them is just a basket full of school supplies. Make sure to include really good pens, sharpies for sure, oh and dry erase markers if they happen to have whiteboards nearby or in their offices. This is a great gift for grad students right here.

2) Pay off one of their semester fees

Crop anonymous person calculating profit on smartphone calculator near banknotes

If someone was to just pay for my semester fees (around 300 dollars) that would make my day/year. Even just paying a little of it is grately appreciated by all grad students. It stinks we even have to pay it in the first place but such is life.

3) A one month subscription to a food delivery such as Misfit Market or Hungry Harvest.

Assorted Vegetable Lot

Here is a link to a blog about the different ranks and which each is good for (here). I think these are wonderful ideas because sometimes it is really hard as a grad student to get healthy food. You often work very weird hours and don’t get to the store as often as you should. Plus, the quality of food choices tends to go way down as you start getting busy with your PhD or Master’s. This is a great way to make sure the grad student in your life stays healthy so they can finish their degree strong.

4) Get them assorted coffee, if they drink coffee.

I think this is one of the best gifts you can get for a grad student. It’s cheap, easy, and they won’t say no to a good assortment of coffee. Read about my favorite coffee flavors (here). If they buy coffee each day because they don’t have a coffee machine, I suggest getting them a Hamiliton Beach single serving coffee maker or possibly just a French press like this one. You don’t have to go crazy and you can get a very small and cheap one. Ask the student if they drink coffee and need a coffee maker. They most often will say yes to both.

5) Toys for their animals

Orange Tabby Cat on Penny Board

This is different but very appreciated. Whenever people buy Sirius gifts, I am the one who is always so delighted. I love when people give gifts to my cat and I would rather have that for Christmas than something that just takes up space. If the grad student has an animal, I suggest getting gifts for said animal.

6) A scooter! or bicycle, but probably a scooter.

Man Riding on Bird Electric Scooter

College towns are getting overrun with those electric scooters all of a sudden. They might seem cheap to ride to school each day on one but the trips add up. I think they are like 80 cents per minute so each day, you might spend 4 to 5 dollars, one way. Why not get to school about the same time and have something that doesn’t cost you anything to start it. I suggest getting a scooter like this one. The Razor A6 is what I have and it’s the best thing in the world.

I can get to my office and back in about 20 minutes. Plus, you don’t have to really abide by the rules, unlike a bike. I can go on sidewalks, in the street, on paths, basically everywhere with it. Bikes are great to have but a scooter is where it’s at. Also, scooters are much cheaper to buy for the grad student.

7) Just take them out to eat and talk with them

Man Wearing White Top in Front of Woman Wearing Blue Long-sleeved Top

Sometimes, the best gifts for grad students are the simplest. I know, personally, if someone just took me out to eat and just got my mind off of working, that would make my whole day/week. Grad students are often isolated and can go a very long time without just talking to people. It creates a ton on mental issues. Taking the student out and talking can be what gives them the strength to not fall into that mental trap. I highly suggest just doing this if you are able to.

8) Pay for some therapy if needed

Free stock photo of adolescent age, adult, chair

This is a gift that you definitely need to be close with the individual to talk about. If the student is truly struggling, maybe bring up that you’ll pay for some therapy. They may take this the wrong way but hopefully not. Maybe they were already thinking about it but were too afraid or broke to start. Offer to pay for a few sessions if you can. That may be the best gift that that a grad student ever gets. Here is a link to online-therapy, the same one I post at the bottom of most of my blogs.

There’s also BetterHelp and Talkspace, which are both really good. Also, seeing a therapist in person is good too, just a tad expensive.

In the End

Gifts for grad students can be easy. Get them anything that will help with their studies and they will be grateful. For me, the best gift that I could receive right now would be school supplies and a thing of Mac and Cheese lol. When in doubt, and if this blog didn’t help with ideas, go with scratch off lottery tickets. You really can’t go wrong with those lol.

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

Finding Happiness in Grad School

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

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

Why this blog?

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

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

How To Find Happiness in Grad School

happiness in grad school

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

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

How Happiness in Grad School Will Take You Places

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yellow and White Alarm Clock happiness in grad school

2) Understanding that everything in life is temporary.

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

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

3) Focusing on the “free” stuff

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

Person in Yellow Hoodie Standing on Seashore

4) Being Myself

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

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

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

happiness in grad school

5) Not comparing myself to others

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

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

happiness in grad school

6) Finding the honey

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

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

I hope you find it

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

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

End of Semester STRESS!

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stress

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

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

1) Get plenty of sleep.

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

2) Limit the caffeine.

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

3) Meditate for at least 10 minutes a day.

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

4) Take breaks and go outside

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

5) Drink more water

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

6) Don’t aim for perfection

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Ok to Treat Yourself

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Grad school is a time where you may get very few wins. By this, I mean you may fail a ton of experiments. The paper you spent months on gets rejected. Your adviser might hate you (hopefully not). Stuff like this makes grad school extremely mentally taxing. I have said this before and I will say it again. You will be desensitized to the word “No” by the time you leave grad school. You will hear it and see it so many times that it won’t even phase you later on. You’ll be numb to rejection.

You may not win all of the time, but you will get victories. Honestly, getting a few wins feels so much better in grad school because of all of the rejection. When you get those small victories, Treat Yo-Self!

treat yourself

Small Wins

Small wins are a great way to boost your self esteem. If you get a good grade, treat yourself to something fun. You don’t have to go crazy and buy a car or something. Maybe go see a movie or get ice cream. Do something to really solidify that win. You don’t get too many in grad school :(.

Big Wins

For things such as passing your quals, or getting a paper published, I suggest treating yourself to time off. Guilt free time off that is! These are huge milestones in your academic career and deserve some time away from work. One thing that I did when I passed my qualifying exam was go to Disney. Something big like this really makes you feel like you did a great thing, well, because you did do a great thing.

One thing that I have notice though, and this is from not just me but others, is that when you do something successfully or accomplish something, it is almost anticlimactic. When I passed my qualifying exam, there was no overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I didn’t feel a wave of excitement come over me like I imagined. It was very, blah. Like, cool I passed, but nothing more. This is how others have felt too. That is why you need to celebrate so you can get that feeling of excitement that might not come from just accomplishing the goal.

Person Wrapping Gummies In An Orange Paper

Just Treat Yourself

Whatever you do, celebrate it. You are working on stuff that is very hard and you are succeeding in it whether you think you are or not. Celebrate the small victories and it will make this time in your life so much more enjoyable. Grad school is what you make it, so choose to make it exciting and fun.

I hope you guys have a wonderful Friday. I am celebrating surviving another week without going insane by having a nice cup of coffee.

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

Driving Home for the Holidays

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driving home for the holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) Plan out your stops

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starting Your Thesis

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I have a friend who is in a bit of a struggle mentally right now. He is currently in the process of trying to get a paper published. In my program, published articles are your chapters, so he is essentially writing one of his thesis chapters. He is experiencing panic because this is the only chapter that he has written and he graduates next year! This is causing a ton of anxiety because what he’s doing is thinking about the future and everything that he has to do. This is a major problem in graduate school.

I have the same problem. I see how much work needs to be done and the timeframe it has to be done in. This has kept me up at night on more than one occasion. Writing your thesis is a herculean task and that’s why not many people go to grad school. Honestly, writing a book practically, on a subject that might be pretty insignificant, doesn’t really appeal to many people. It has to be done, unfortunately.

If you are doing grad school and have to write a thesis, here’s a couple of suggestions for getting started and not going completely insane. I know I haven’t written a list in a while, so I figured I would :).

Grayscale Photo of Man Thinking in Front of Analog Wall Clock

1) Stop thinking about how much you have to do.

This is sooooooo important. When you think of having to write three papers, do experiments, water the plants, feed the chickens, pass your classes, etc., this will create anxiety like no other. Instead of thinking in the future, ask yourself “what do I need to do today?” Start off small because small steps get you places. If you worry about all of the stuff you need to do, you may not even put forth effort to do those things. You are more likely to procrastinate.

Person Holding Blue Ballpoint Pen Writing in Notebook

2) Write a little each day.

This is good for many reasons, but I want to share 2 in particular. 1) writing each day will get you used to writing in general. I have this blog to sort of dust off the cobwebs. Writing takes practice and you need to work your way up to being able to write a whole paper. It’s a hard skill, but over time you get better. 2) You will begin to chip away at the thesis. You do not have to write 4 pages a day, everyday. But 500 words a day will help you finish your thesis is no time. 500 words is also quite sustainable and realistic. That will take you maybe an hour a day. Check out my blog on writing each day (link here). This can help you get started.

Man Writing on Table

3) Never go for perfection. Well, at least at the beginning.

The hardest thing is just getting started. My best advice is to just write. Don’t worry about formatting. Don’t worry about spelling. Just write. Write down everything. This will get you started and going. You can always go back and edit. Heck, if you have an adviser that edits a ton, just write and make them do it lol. Just writing will create the motivation to continue. I have a pretty decent article on motivation and how it’s created by doing something instead of waiting for motivation (link here). This is the same situation. Just write and edit later.

Smiling young ladies in overalls standing near bench with wicker baskets with flowers near gloves and pot with books near trees and green grass in summer day in garden

4) Find someone in your department that is also starting to write.

Be their accountabilibuddy!!! Keep them on a schedule and they will keep you on a writing schedule. You can almost make a competition. One day you write 100 words and they write 200. Well you have to outdo them the next day. Next thing you know, you are both writing 5 pages a day and your thesis is done. I am hoping to try this in the spring. I want to finish by the end of summer so I need to stay on the writing grind.

High Angle View of Lying Down on Grass

5) Make sure to take breaks form writing.

This may be the most important one of all. The best thesis is a finished thesis and you can’t finish unless you are able to write. Burn out is a major problem and taking breaks is how you prevent that. I write about taking breaks in grad school, check it out when you are taking your break! (link here). Rest is essential to continue this journey. Take time off to recoup.

Photo of Planner and Writing Materials

6) Stick to a schedule. This includes a workout schedule!!!

Sometimes it is really easy to just do stuff sporadically. This may work, but establishing a schedule will increase productivity. This means incorporating exercise into your schedule!!! Make a schedule where you work hard from 9 to 5 or something then go to the gym afterwards. If you follow a pretty set schedule, you’ll be productive in multiple ways. I would stick to your phd work as a full time job. 9 to 5 each day then rest afterwards. This works for me, but it may not work for everyone. Try something similar and see what works best for your productivity.

Writing your thesis is exciting! It means you get to finish your degree and you are contributing something to the world. It is a difficult task but you can do it, I promise. If you have questions about starting or just want tips, email me at benswaringen@yahoo.com. I can give you more advice and maybe you can give me some more advice too and I am sure need some when writing this beast of a paper lol. I hope you all have an awesome day. Thanks for reading.

Daily Reminder That You Rock

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

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

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

Grad School Jokes and Comics

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It’s almost the weekend! If you are reading this on a Monday, eh, pretend it’s almost the weekend. So for today, I thought I would share a few comics that I found funny as well as some grad school jokes. I hope you enjoy. For more comics and jokes, check out Piled Higher and Deeper.

Comics

Grad school Jokes
Graduate school Jokes
xkcd: Thesis Defense
Piled Higher and Deeper
I don't miss grad school too much. - Album on Imgur
PHD Comics: How Grad School is just like Kindergarten
Opening Up About Stress In Graduate School
Some of my favorite comics from this person. - Album on Imgur

Jokes

what do you call a cruise full of college graduates?

(a Scholar-ship)

A dentist graduated from Hogwarts…

He’s now known as the “Wizard of Aahhhs”

How many grad students does it take to change a light bulb?

One, but it takes 7 years

A graduate student submits his thesis to his advisor…

A few days later, the advisor returns in with a single note: Needs Improvement.

So the student makes a few changes and resubmits it. Again, the advisor returns it with the single note: Needs Improvement.

This time, the student pores over it, double checks every word, adds every reference he can find, and adjusts the layout to make it more readable. He walks into his advisor’s office and says, “I have done everything I possible can, this is absolutely perfect.”

The advisor takes it from him and says, “Okay, I guess I’ll actually read it this time.”

When I first started college, the Dean came in and said “Good Morning” to all of us. When we echoed back to him, he responded, “Ah, you’re Freshmen.”

Then he explained:

“When you walk in and say good morning, and they say good morning back, they’re Freshmen.

“When they put their newspapers down and open their books, they’re Sophomores.

“When they look up so they can see the who’s talking over the tops of the newspapers, they’re juniors.

“When they put their feet up on the desks and keep reading, they’re seniors.

“And when you walk in and say good morning, and they write it down, they’re graduate students.”

Have a great day

I hope these jokes and comics have made your morning or afternoon a little bit better. I thought some of these jokes were quite funny. If you haven’t already, go check out my blog about the must haves when going back to school (link here). I hope you have a fantastic day!

Something to Think About

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good and bad

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

I hope this makes sense

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

My choice led to some cool outcomes

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

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

What’s your path?

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

Forgive me for rambling

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

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

What to Watch on Your Down Time

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

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

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

Movies and Shows

1) Good Will Hunting

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

2) My Octopus Teacher

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

3) The Buddha: The Story of Siddhartha

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

4) Chef

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

5) Jungle Cruise

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

Let me Know

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

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

Homesick While in Grad School

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Photo Of Woman Sitting On Floor

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

Homesickness

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

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

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

homesick

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

Methods that I hope help with homesickness

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

I hope this helps

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

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

Is Grad School Worth It?

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

goals to determine if grad school is worth it

So Let’s Consider Some Things

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

Your Goals Will Determine if grad school is worth it

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

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

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

Why I chose graduate school

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

is grad school worth it

Is Grad School Worth it? Things That Make Grad School Worth it

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

1) You meet a ton of really intelligent people.

You also get to network with scientists that may have come up with some of the concepts that you studied in college. I have met many people that have revolutionized the field that I am studying, water chemistry. You will get to interact with professors, scholars, and other grad students alike. Going to conferences is just a meet up of a ton of really intelligent people that are there to learn even more. It can be slightly intimidating, but know that you are there because you’re just as intelligent.

2) You get to make long lasting friendships with like-minded individuals.

The friends that I have made these past few years are some of the best friendships that I have ever had. Sure, you can meet people outside of grad school, but it can be very hard to find people just like you in this huge world. College brings all of these people together and almost makes it easy to find them. Grad school kind of forces you o interact with those in your department and you will definitely spend a ton of time with them.

3) You will obtain a master’s or PhD at the end of it.

These degrees last you the rest of your life and can open up doors that you never knew existed. This is a huge perk to grad school. You are here for the degree, right? Well, you’ll get it in the end and it will be worth it. As I stated before, you have the title of a master or doctorate for the rest of your life. You can put that bad boy on your resume and you’ll definitely be competitive in the working world.

4) You get to work on some really exiting projects.

If you do a thesis based grad degree, you may get to work on some cool scientific studies. For me, I get to play with water, lead pipes, and some super concentrated acids. I also get to work on projects that can help make people’s lives better. That makes all the work I do extremely satisfying. If you are doing research, you will most likely be pulled into a bunch of different projects. You don’t have to, but it does look cool when you can type your name into google and a bunch of scientific papers pop up. Some projects will be boring, but many are exciting and will help you develop better research skills.

5) You can go on trips to present your work.

Conferences are a huge part of grad school. You might go to one, you might go to 50. Each one is unique and you get to meet some really cool people from around the country or even the world. I have only gone to one, but I learned some cool things about similar research and got to talk with other PhDs about their experiences. I made some friends too. If you are able to go to at least one conference, i highly recommend it. Try and go to the really big conferences in your field, they have the best free stuff lol.

why grad school might not be worth it

Some other things to Consider for Graduate School

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

1) Is Grad School Worth the Cost?

I don’t know about your schools, but UF is 1.5x undergrad tuition. It’s expensive to go to grad school. Luckily I have a tuition stipend so it’s paid for, but master students pay out of pocket, mostly. If you are an international student, you are paying much more. This can be quite difficult for people because they just don’t have the money or any way to fund their studies. Often, people go for a PhD just so their research is funded and they can afford school. Many people will go for a PhD then leave once they obtain a master’s. Unfortunately this happens more than you think.

2) You may be very far away from friends and family.

I am fortunate enough to only be about 2 hours away from my family, but I am about 6 hours from my girlfriend. This is always extremely hard to deal with. Some people move half way across country from grad school and spend months or years away from loved ones. I know many people that go to school thousands of miles away from their family and friends. This is hard, especially if this is the first time being that far away from people you care about.

3) Is Grad School Worth the Coffee Addiction?

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

4) You’re mental health will be put to the test.

If you have mental health problems already, grad school may cause those to be worse. It is extremely stressful in 1000 different ways and will stretch your mental health to the limit. If you don’t have mental health problems, you might get some unfortunately. Read up on if before applying. Here is a great place to start.

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

5) You might hate it.

Grad school can often be an acquired taste. Sometimes you get a terrible adviser or your project just doesn’t go anywhere. These happen but you are taking a risk by going to grad school. And, you probably won’t go anywhere if you don’t take risks. I have found many bad things about it that have made me reconsider grad school. the thing is, you’re are bound to find bad things about everything that you do. You might absolutely hate grad school and everything that is there. If so, finish with a master’s and leave. Before you do that, though. Try and find good things about grad school and focus your attention on those specifically. you might have just had a bad semester. That doesn’t mean you need to leave school all together. If you get to grad school and absolutely hate it, try finding things that make it bearable and focus on that. For me, it was kickball. For other’s, it could be really anything else.

is grad school worth it

In the end, Is Grad School Worth it?

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

If you are thinking about graduate school, and have questions, send me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. I’ll try my best to help you out. I am trying something new and posting grad school memes at the end of the post as well. I hope you enjoy todays meme. Also, check out my other blogs on my website. Until next time, peace!

Making Each Day an Adventure

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So, as many of you already know, I bought a razor scooter. I blogged about it a few weeks ago and you can read about that here. I wanted to share with you quite an awesome experience that really made me appreciate life.

Yesterday, I decided to go for a very long ride and try and see Paynes Prairie before it got too dark. The weather was extremely gloomy which kind of made the whole experience that much cooler. The ride from my apartment to the spot I wanted to go was about 4 miles, so not a bad distance, but still a distance. Getting there was easy because it is mostly down hill. I barely did any work.

The journey

It took me about 30 minutes to get where I wanted to go, but it was totally worth it. Something about the weather yesterday really made it one of those moments where you just feel at peace. I honestly have a hard time describing the feelin, but it was a good one. If you have never gone through the forest during the days when it’s gloomy and drippy, I highly suggest trying it. Make sure to listen to music that fits the mood as well.

Ouch

Unfortunately, I hurt myself when I got to the destination. I forgot that the friction coefficient of wood drops fairly low when wet. In other words, I slipped. The scooter’s brakes don’t work well when you are going fast and slippery wood is hard to brake on. I did catch myself, but man does my arm hurt. Totally worth it though because I got some memorable videos and pictures.

This is after I fell. You can see how wet the dock was

I posted most of the journey on my snapchat. Unfortunately, my phone is being a jerk and not allowing me to share those here. When I got there, I didn’t see anyone. As I walked on the dock, there was one person off in the distance. The overall setting made it pretty creepy so I stayed away from them. Didn’t want to get murdered lol.

It was such a cool experience to be in nature in this weather. The ride home was all uphill and wasn’t as pleasant as the ride there. Plus, the wind was in my face.

I suggest trying it

The whole experience was pretty much like a meditation for me. I focused mainly on my kicking, and whenever a thought came into my head, I acknowledged it then went back to thinking about pushing my scooter. The exercise also reduced my anxiety and feelings of depression that I had. I highly suggest trying something like this ever once in a while.

I just wanted to spend some time today sharing a cool experience that might be beneficial to you to try if you are feeling a bit anxious or down. Getting into nature is quite helpful and there’s scientific evidence that it helps mental health. Here’s a link to a paper about it (here).

I hope you all have a great weekend, I am spending mine in my office, but it’s alright. I want to get some work 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.

Winter Weather and Lack of Motivation

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I’m starting to think that I write way too much about having a lack of motivation. Honestly, this is such a common occurrence in my life that I can’t help but talk about it. I am quite sure that this is a common problem that all grad students face and it’s about to get a lot harder in the next coming weeks. See, it’s the end of the semester which means a couple of things 1) Thanksgiving break 2) Finals and 3) graduation (if you’re lucky) or winter break. What do all of these things have in common? They all bring a lack of motivation to do work for class. Heck, you’ve probably already calculated the bare minimum score for your final to pass and plan on aiming to get there.

Gloomy weather

Another reason why the end is so difficult is because of the weather. We have some crazy weather events that occur in winter, down in the swamp. We get pretty decent cold fronts that cause for extremely gloomy weather. today is one of those days, you know, the type of day where you binge watch Harry Potter and drink coffee in bed. Yeah, this is that type of day. Below is the current weather radar. Looks like today and tomorrow will be pretty unproductive.

For those that are finding it hard to get work done, I get you. I really do. Honestly, you’re motivation to get anything done is going to dwindle pretty quickly. This is normal and everyone, even those working full time, are going to experience it. Just keep on keeping on and be kind to yourself. Doing any work on days like today is an accomplishment that deserves a Harry potter binge watching marathon.

Some motivation

If you are truly unmotivated to do anything, I suggest checking out my blog on how to get motivation and create it yourself (link here). This is probably a good time to hone those skills before the end of the semester hits you. For me, and most PhD candidates, the end of the semester doesn’t mean too much. We usually don’t follow that schedule. For master’s students, this is a stressful time. Make sure to take care of yourself during these times. Also, take plenty of breaks. If you get burnt out during this time, there’s not much time to recover.

Winter is coming

Another thing that might show up during this time is some form of the winter blues. The weather, lack of sunlight, and stress of completing the semester could be a recipe for disaster. I am not sure if this is something that would work for you or not but I recently bought a light therapy lamp (this one). I know, I know, I live in Florida where it has more sun than the rest of the states. This is true but I leave my apartment relatively early and get some late. Also, my office doesn’t have windows so I need a bit f help. I have read great things about these. This might be something good to get to help you through these next few weeks.

I am going to leave you with a video on seasonal affective disorder by my favorite therapist, Emma McAdams. I’ll always send you guys her way. As always, I hope you have a wonderful day. It’s Friday, so do something fun after work or relax.

Panic in Grad School

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This morning, I woke up around 4 am to a panic attack. These happen every once in a while, so I’m usually well prepared. Usually, what sets them off, are just random little things. Things such as not being able to go to the gym that day, or will I have enough money in 20 years to eat dinner. That last one was actually something that set off a panic attack. Anxiety is weird sometimes. Last night’s panic attack was set off by a significant worry that I have, writing my thesis.

How do I start?

I am not the type of person to procrastinate. They say that many PhD candidates wait until the last 3 months to write their thesis. I was looking into how I could start writing mine the first week of grad school lol. Procrastination gives me too much anxiety, which in this case is a good thing, and often makes me feel ever worse. So, instead of waiting for the last minute, I get it done or start tackling it right away.

Now my thesis is well underway, but I still have a few more chapters to write. Luckily for me, my papers that I submit for publication are my dissertation chapters. Many students not in a STEM field may have to write papers but their thesis is completely different. That is actually something that my friend is currently dealing with. Her dissertation is much different than the papers she is publishing. So she has a lot of writing to do if she wants to graduate next spring.

Is it so scary?

Woman in Gray Tank Top

I have read many horror stories about writing a thesis. Unfortunately, when you read very negative things about something, you start to look at it in a negative manner. This is how I am starting to look at my thesis, at least at a subconscious level. Waking up with a panic attack because of a writing assignment is nonsense, but it did happen. There are some things that I am going to try to reduce the chance of this happening again. Let me share with you what I am thinking of trying. Oooooo another list from Ben!!!

List of changes that I am going to try

  • Write at least 500 words a day. This is a good start and very easily done. Many of my blog posts are about that and that takes no time at all. As long as I don’t try and make everything perfect, I think I can hit this goal.
  • Every other day, format or rewrite sections of my dissertation. Eventually, I will have to proof read my thesis, so might as well do it along the way. After I write 500 words of course.
  • Take a break from writing ever once in a while. I do this with blogging. Writers block is such a terrible thing to experience whe you are close to a deadline. I don’t want to experience too much of this so I’ll take many breaks.
  • Be kind to myself when I don’t hit my goals. Writing a dissertation is hard. Doing the work is hard, but doable. By beating myself up, I am accomplishing nothing. I want to make this a good experience since it is really a major milestone in my life.
  • Waking up early to go to the gym so I can write at night. When I get home,I tend to make dinner, go to the gym, then watch tv or play with Sirius (I do both at the same time mostly). By switching gears and going to the gym in the morning, I can have the evenings to write, eat dinner, and hang with my favorite cat. I won’t have to worry about getting to the gym either. Also, my sleep schedule will be better.
  • Lastly, I am going to try and get to sleep much earlier than I have been. Mornings have been hard since I go to sleep so late now. Time to switch up my schedule a bit and start my days off early. I have a bad habit of staying up late that stems from undergrad. See, I was a partier so staying up was necessary. I gave that up long ago, but the habit stayed with me.

I think that these are some good changes that might set my anxious mind at ease. Graduating is my goal, but I have to conquer this herculean task. If you are trying to write your thesis, and you are having trouble or pretty anxious about it, maybe try some of these things that I am going to start doing. They might help. If you have any other tips for me to try, please leave them in the comments. The next few months might be stressful for me, but I know I can handle it. I hope you all have a wonderful day. Also, if you haven’t read my blog about what to do when stressed, I suggest taking a look. the link is here. Also, below is a really great presentation on writing your thesis. I suggest checking it out. It is very long.

**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.

Everyone Gets Nervous

I was going to write a different blog post today, but I think this is an important one to write today. I had a pretty big meeting today with everyone on my research project. They told us that it was “informal” yet everyone had pretty pre-rehearsed presentations and pretty well put together slides. I had to present my data that I have collected over the past year and present them to a bunch of pretty big named researchers. It was kind of nerve wracking, but I made it through, thanks to the skills I have written about (here).

Holy smokes

Anyway, I noticed something that really caught me off guard. My adviser was showing signs of nervousness. Now when I say this surprised me, I mean “holy cow! he actually gets nervous!?!?!?” My adviser has been a professor for 20 years and every presentation that I have seen him give, he’s very relaxed. So, see him somewhat nervous actually made me less nervous. I realized that give presentations to literally anyone can make you nervous.

Seeing this made me realize even more so that we are all human, and that is wonderful. Now, I want to specifically address grad students. Your adviser is human. They have gone through everything that you have ever and will ever do in your academic career. They still get super nervous during presentations and I guarantee they experience imposter syndrome. Nerve feel like you are alone when feeling this way. It is the process of becoming a scholar. Even the “giants” that we are supposed to be standing on have all been nervous or anxious.

Overall, it was a good day

Today was a good day, not because I got through my presentation without any questions, but because I learned something about people, specifically my adviser and the other researchers. We are all human and trying our best and that is something to be proud and grateful for. It was also a good day because I got orange chicken from panda express :).

I want to leave you with a YouTube video of ways to reduce nervousness/anxiety. As always, I hope you have a wonderful day!!

About Me

So, I have been blogging for a few months now and was just informed that I really don’t have an “About Me” page. That actually surprised me because it is one of the first things that you should do when creating a blog. So for today’s adventure, I will dive deep into my personal life and share with you stuff about me. Hopefully that sounds fun, if not, I suggest checking out my blog on things that make you happy (link here). That is way more fun.

Let’s See, Let’s See

So first off, I started this blog as a way to improve my writing skills while in grad school. The other main purpose of this was to help students and non students cope with anxiety. Yes, this is focused mainly on grad students, but remember that grad students are pretty much full time employees that get paid far below the poverty line.

I wanted to share my experiences with those that are just starting off in grad school. I constantly get asked questions from new students about the stresses that occur, so I know everyone has the same problems that I have had. The one year of therapy that I had really helped to find creative and effective ways to help, not just myself, but my colleagues. Grad school is hard and you can develop some pretty nasty mental health issues. This is why I wanted to create this blog, to help those that really need it.

About Me Now

So my name is Ben and I am a 3rd? 4th? 5th? year grad student. I’ve been in school so long that I don’t even think they consider me a student anymore lol. I am studying environmental engineering with a focus on water chemistry. My research primarily focuses on lead solubility in water. Think about Flint, Michigan. I am trying to understand more about the chemistry involved to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

I am an avid fisherman, which is weird that I haven’t really blogged about that. Hmm, maybe tomorrow. I love the outdoors and everything that comes with it. My main hobbies, other than fishing, are cooking (check out my recipe blog here), scootering (blog here), as well as wood carving (blog here). I am truly passionate about helping the planet and hopefully one day I will be a lead scientist on a project that helps solve one of the many problems we have.

Message Me or Comment

I love to hear (read) feedback about my blog, well, as long as it’s nice lol. If you would like to suggest a blog post for me to write or if you just want to say hello, comment below or you can reach me at benswaringen@yahoo.com. If you want to ask about grad school, please reach out to me. I have been here for a very long time and can most likely answer any question that you throw at me.

Doing Grad School For the Money

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

First Job

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

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

Time for Change Sign With Led Light

The Change

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

New Beginnings

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

It’s Ok

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

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

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

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

Handling the Good Days

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

My Morning

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

Bearded Man Holding Cup of Coffee

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

Be Grateful

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

Silhouette of Man Raising His Hands

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

One Last Thing

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

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

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

Starting a Hobby :Wood Carving

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

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

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

YouTube Videos

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

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

Tools

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

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

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

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

Wood

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

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

Have Fun

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

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

Money Can Buy Some Happiness

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

Getting a Scooter

Man Riding on Bird Electric Scooter

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

The Hawthorne Trail

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

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

Happiness

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

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

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

Do One Thing That Scares You

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Lately, I have been really trying to find ways to be a productive as I can. For about a month, I was just running on fumes practically and going with the flow. My motivation to really do anything was lacking and I just wanted to stay home, watch TV, and go to sleep at 8 pm each night. The reason for this was because I hit burn out. PhD students take a comprehensive exam/qualifying exam as well as an oral presentation. I have written about it (here and here). This was a month long stress fest that ended in burn out. In fact, they have a name for this specific burnout called Post-Qual Slump (PQS). They even made a comic about it too (here). Luckily, that lack of motivation has passed.

Because of all this extra productivity that I strive to achieve, I have come to some scary situations that actually aren’t that scary. For someone who is more introverted than extroverted, I tend to get anxious about simple things that require me to venture out of my comfort zone. These include 1) emailing my advisor 2) asking for help 3) calling someone 4) going to things alone and so on and so on. Literally things that are really not that difficult are actually quite terrifying.

Man in Black Shirt and Gray Denim Pants Sitting on Gray Padded Bench

I am not alone. These are very common things that make grad students anxious, surprisingly. So, to make them less scary, I have decided to tackle these head on. Well, I’m starting small by only tackling one thing at a time. Each day, I have been doing one thing that scares me. So for example, this morning, I reached out to someone about information that i need. I asked for help, essentially. Honestly, it wasn’t that difficult to do, but for a minute, I was a bit anxious. I did it anyway.

What I am trying to do is convince my brain that there really isn’t any danger with what I am doing. I am facing a fear, convincing myself that it wasn’t scary or dangerous, then later, my mind will remember that it wasn’t bad. Boom! Less anxiety. This is the same concept that they teach in a speech class. Presentations are one of the scariest things that you can do, if you aren’t adventurous lol. My speech professor told us the best way to get over being nervous and scared is to just do it. This is how I was able to conquer that fear.

Each day, find something that makes you nervous, like calling somebody, or going to the movies alone (surprisingly common fear). Start small and you will start feeling more confident in everything you do. Soon, you’ll realize how easy things are and how not-so-scary they actually are. Below is a great video on how to face your fears through exposure.

I hope that you are able to face all of your fears and take back your life. Have a wonderful day.

How to Become a Morning Person

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

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

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

1)Go to bed earlier

Person Lying on Bed Covering White Blanket

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

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

2) When you wake up, drink water

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

3) Schedule a workout session each morning.

Woman Doing Exercise Inside Gym

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

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

4) Create a night time routine and stick to it

Free stock photo of blank, blank notebook, blank page

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

Overview

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

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

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

100 Things to Be Grateful For

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The title says it all. There are many things to be grateful for and here are 100 of them. This very post will be my lucky 100th blog post. Well, technically yesterdays post was, but I deleted a blog post to make this post my 100th! Hurray. Anyway, I have come a very long way since starting this journey, and I have a heck of a long road to go. But, I am super excited to what this road brings.

Today, I want to focus on 100 things that I am grateful for in my life. I have written about things that I have learned throughout these years (link here), but I have only touched up on the things I am grateful for. So today, I am going to tackle this behemoth of a list and post all of the things that I am truly grateful for. Here we go

The List of Things to Be Grateful For and What I am Grateful For

  • My Girlfriend
  • Coffee
  • My family
  • Grad School
  • Waking up at sunrise
  • Going to bed at a reasonable time
  • My cat, Sirius
  • The ability to mess around in my lab and call it “science”
  • The many nights of just talking with my friends
  • My friends
  • Key lime pie from Blonde Giraffe
A Person and a Layered Cake
  • My therapist
  • Talkspace.com
  • Fall weather in Gainesville
  • The Florida Gators
  • My advisor
  • Good deeds
  • Nice people
  • Even mean people (it makes me appreciate the nice people more)
  • The Florida Keys
  • Fishing
  • Engineering
  • The time spent with my family
  • Weekends
  • Lab work
  • My committee members
  • Being able to say I am a PhD Candidate
  • A good show on Netflix
  • That Good Will Hunting is a movie
Brown and Green Grass Field during Sunset
  • Sunrises
  • Sunsets
  • Waking up each morning
  • being alive
  • Long lists
  • Productivity
  • Good memories
  • My apartment
  • The scooter that I just bought from Amazon
  • Vanilla cake
  • The University of Florida
  • The many people that have helped me in my doctoral journey
  • My boat
  • Having an income
  • My health
  • Personal training
  • Being able to do stadium workouts
  • Experiencing the struggles of life
  • Walking!
Blue Body Water
  • Mother nature
  • The beach
  • The ocean
  • Travelling
  • Being able to carve wooden figurines
  • Knowing how to do calculations on excel
  • Not being afraid to give presentations
  • Ajahn Brahm
  • Being able to listen to really good music
  • Trees!
  • Dogs, especially both of mine, Loki and Thor
  • Alligators. They’re cool
  • Turtles
  • My office mates
  • Random strangers that say hello as you walk by
  • Puppies
  • Kittens
  • Being able to get fresh food from the store
  • Technology
  • The washer and drier
  • Being able to look out a window (you appreciate this more if you have an office without windows)
  • Audible books
  • Google Pays
Close-Up Photo of Person Holding Pizza
  • Pizza
  • Literally any food that has cheese
  • My brain
  • All of my senses
  • The feeling you get when something just makes sense to you
  • Silence
  • Meditation
  • Life lessons
  • My failures
  • All of the teachers that I have had
  • All of the heart breaks that I have gone through
  • Finding happiness in every situation
  • I really appreciate the influx of skateboarders on campus
  • Electricity
  • To add to that, AC
  • My car
  • Water
Frozen Margarita
  • The occasional margarita
  • Kickball leagues
  • My name
  • My future
  • Being able to go home to a really comfortable bed
  • Growing in everything I do
  • The good days
  • The bad days
  • Mindfulness
  • Seasons
  • Blogging
  • My readers

This is a very long list of the many things that I am grateful for. Let me know in the comments of all the things you are grateful for, well not all, just put a few lol. I hope you guys have a great day.

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

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“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.

How To Stay Motivated in Grad School

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

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

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

how to stay motivated in grad school

Motivation is a Tricky Thing in Grad School

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

Just Do it

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

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

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

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

courses on how to stay motivated in grad school

Maybe take a Course on Getting Motivated

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

Make it Fun

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

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

staying motivated in grad school by taking a break

Take Time Away From Grad School

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

Final Thoughts

Whatever you have to do, just start. Grab a nice big cup of coffee and start. It doesn’t have to be much but at least you will see that you are moving in the right direction. I hope whatever stuff you have is easy and get’s done quickly. Some times just thinking about the project or problem is the hardest part. That is what is going to keep you back from finishing whatever it is that you want to get done. Doing it is the easy part, thinking about it is what is difficult.

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

Dealing with Office/Lab Mates

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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

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

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

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

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

1.Ask yourself if your anxiety is justified.

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

Photo Of A Boy Covering His Eyes

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

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

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

Person Laying on Sofa While Reading Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

29 Things I’ve Learned by 29

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Tomorrow, I turn 29.

Man in White Crew Neck T-shirt Holding Pink Balloons

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

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

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

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

Being Mistaken For An Undergrad

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

Man and Woman Sitting on Concrete Bench Using Laptop Computers

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

Photo Of Female Engineer Wearing Lab Coat

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

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

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

Grad School Weekends

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

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

grad school weekends

What “should you do”

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

grad school weekends

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

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

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

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

weekends in grad school

Do PhD Students Work on The Weekends in Grad School?

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

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

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

weekends in grad school

What To Do on The Weekends in Grad School

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

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

What I am Doing this Weekend

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

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

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

Pros and Cons of Grad School

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Grad school is a huge investment. You will spend many years and many paychecks paying for a few years of education. Before you even consider doing grad school, take the time to look at the pros and cons of going to grad school. In this article, I want to share with you many of the pros and cons that come with going through the grad school experience. Keep in mind that they are my personal pros and cons list, but yours may look very similar or the same.

Why Go to Grad School

There are various reasons why you should consider grad school. Financial gain, higher learning, getting away from the corporate life, the list goes on and on. Really take the time to think of why you are considering grad school and how it will benefit you, personally. For me, I knew from an early age that grad school was for me. I knew that I wanted to get a doctorate and that was enough to send me right back into school, even after spending 5 years in engineering school. If you are like me, you’ll have a very good reason to go back to grad school. Though, sometimes it may not be worth the time or effort. This is why, when considering grad school, make a very thorough pros and cons list. It will make your decision so much easier.

Why You Shouldn’t Go to Grad School

There might be a thousands reasons to go to grad school and a thousand and one reasons not to. Remember, it is a commitment. It is not an easy journey as well. Many programs in grad school are significantly harder than undergrad programs and require an extensive amount of knowledge and time. Other programs are cake-walks. I don’t want to call those out because I will have to deal with the hate mail lol.

You are the one to decide all of the reasons not to go to grad school. Remember, this is totally and absolutely your decision. If you find significant reasons not to go then please don’t feel pressured into doing grad school. It really might not be beneficial, depending on your goals.

Let’s look at the Pros and Cons of Grad School

So, let’s 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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Whether you are in high school, undergrad, or working full time and considering grad school, creating a pros and cons list, based on your life, is essential. Grad school is such a commitment and takes time to really decide whether it is best for you. I know many individuals who have gone to grad school and ended up doing the same thing as before. I know people that are extremely successful and didn’t go to grad school because it didn’t benefit them in any way. If it is something that you need to reach your goal, then I feel like a pros and cons list probably isn’t needed. If it’s something that might help you, bust out the whiteboard, write pros on one side and cons on the other and get to work. Figure out what you want in life and write until you can’t think anymore.

For those of you that are considering grad school and just need a little extra boost, please don’t hesitate to reach out to be at benswaringen.com. I have had a number of individuals come to me for advice and I absolutely love helping. Also, the advice is free, unlike some of these other people lol. As always, I hope you have a wonderful day, week, year, life, and I will see you all in the next one. Peace!

How to Start Each Morning

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

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

Black Android Smartphones on Brown Wooden Surface

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

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

Cheerful elderly man listening to music in headphones

2) Set your alarm to a fun tune

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

Person Writing on White Paper

3) Do a bit of journaling

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

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

4) Only read positive news articles

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

Orange Tabby Cat Beside Fawn Short-coated Puppy

5) Play with your furry friend

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

Person Performing Coffee Art

6) Drink a nice cup of coffee

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

Woman in Red Dress Standing Beside Woman in Green Blazer

7) Count your blessings

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

Woman Practicing Yoga

8) Meditate

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

Two 2 Kg. Blue Hex Dumbbells on White Surface

9) Exercise

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

Boy in Gray Jacket Reading Book

10) Read a book

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

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

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

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

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

help

1) People are coming to me for mental health advice

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

teach

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

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

brighter sky

3) I see things a little brighter.

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

sleep

4) I sleep better

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

Kindness

5) I am kinder

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

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

Ways to Reduce Stress In Grad School

I want to touch on some simple ways to reduce stress in grad school. 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.

Before we get started, I want you to know that grad school will be stressful and these methods will significantly help you. Of course, you may need to go with other methods such as professional help. in order to fully reduce your stress levels. I am currently at the end of my PhD and am seeing the full effects of stress in grad school. Trust me when I say, using methods to reduce stress can be a lifesaver.

1. Exercise

reduce stress in grad school with 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. Exercise is a great way to eliminate all of that pent up aggression and stress that you have. A 30 minute walk or run, or an hour at the gym will most definitely put you in a better and more relaxed mood. Stress can also give you a ton of motivation to do a really intense workout.

What’s good about stress when it comes to exercise is it gives motivation to workout then is reduced because you workout. You build up really great habits of stress reduction this way as well.

2. Use the massager that you bought

reduce stress in grad school with a 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. I was pleasantly surprised how well a massager helped me reduce my stress. It helped me relaxed significantly and all of the stress that I held in my body just disappeared. It is a great way to reduce stress quickly.

3. Drink tea instead of coffee

how to reduce stress in grad school with 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. Reduce stress in Grad school with 10 minutes of meditation

Silhouette of Man at Daytime

One of the best ways to reduce stress in grad school is by meditation. 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. I have found that when I am stressed, taking 10 minutes to just breathe has significantly helped to relieve my stress and put me in a productive mood. You will experience many stressors in your time in grad school. This is one way to tackle them and graduate on top.

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. This is a great way to find the root cause of your stress in grad school and tackle it. 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).

I like to play music that is familiar and soothing. For me, music from childhood video games always helps. It brings me back to a simpler time and relaxes me. If you haven’t tried that out, I would highly suggest it.

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.

8. Go on a mini vacation

I know that it can be quite difficult to go on vacation during a stressful period of your grad school. This is something to do if you have the time to be able to do it. If you are about to defend your thesis, I wouldn’t suggest going on vacation. But if you are just stressed from work, during the year, maybe taking a few days off is best. I recently came back from vacations, and it has helped me so much. I feel well rested, motivated, and ready to finish my doctorate. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is take time away from the stress of grad school and get away for a bit. It might just be the best thing you do to reduce stress in grad school.

Final Thoughts

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?

does gpa matter in grad school

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 Does Matter in Grad School. Here’s Why

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 adviser 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.

Grad school is about learning how to do research. The classwork is there to teach you hard concepts and give you tools to help you succeed in whatever research you are doing. You will take many classes that will cover a ton of topics that just don’t really matter in your research. Focus only on the stuff that will help you and less on the stuff that doesn’t matter. You need these tools to to help you learn how to be a researcher, which is the overall main focus of grad school. If you focus primarily on passing a class, you will lose out on why you are even in grad school in the first place.

Does GPA matter in grad school at all?

It is more important in undergrad

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 undergrad, you are probably fairly focused on getting a job. One way to get a job and stand out is to show that you did fairly well in school. Many internships and entry level jobs had “Overall GPA” in their application. The companies are trying to weed people out at this point, especially for large corporations that receive hundred of applications for positions.

Also, if you are wanting to go into a graduate program, GPA is very important. I know law school, medical school, PhDs, and MBA programs all require a higher than average GPA. For many top schools, they want the top students. This is understandable, but once you get into the program, GPA won’t really matter. Just stay above the minimum requirement and you are good to go.

Reasons why gpa doesn't matter in grad school

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.

does gpa matter in grad school

To Wrap It all Up. Does GPA Really Matter?

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.

When going into a grad school program, the main focus will be your research. If you get so caught up in research that you forget to do an assignment, then that is totally fine. Don’t stress yourself too much because you are trying to pass a class on ecological studies of marine estuaries when your focus is on air contaminants. Get the bare minimum grade in the class, take whatever tool you need from that class to move on in your research and continue on the academic journey. The further you get into it, the less you will care about your GPA, I promise.

Final Thought

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). I do want to emphasize that I have not been asked once about my GPA while applying to jobs with a graduate degree. Not many people have a Master’s or a doctorate, which is the really reason you will stand out. When applying for academic jobs, I found that the research you have done is the deciding factor on whether you will get the job or not, not your GPA.

I hope this post was clear enough. If you are worried about getting good grades in grad school then you are missing the point of grad school. It is not like undergrad. In some cases, like law school, getting high grades may benefit you. In degrees such as a PhD, grades do not matter. As long as you are above a 3.0 GPA (which is fairly easy) then you will be fine. Anyway, I hope you all have an awesome week and an awesome day. I’ll see you in the next post.

Publishing Your First Manuscript

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publication

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. Getting a publication is part of the process, though.

It’s required

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.

Pay attention

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.

Where to send it

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.

What’s next?

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.

After peer review

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.

How did it go?

If you have gone through the publication process, 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

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

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

Find your productive time

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

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

Learn to say “No”

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

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

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

Helping Others Cope with Stress and Anxiety

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

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

Grad school….sheesh

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

Help others with their anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thought

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

How to Eat Healthily in Grad School

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Let me preface with saying that I am not a nutritionist. Eating healthily in grad school has been a challenge for me but I have a few recommendations. 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.

Tips on eating healthily 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. Fruit is a great way to eat healthy in grad school.

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.

Final Thoughts

Eating healthily in grad school doesn’t have to be hard. 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

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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.

Adviser First

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.

It can be overwhelming

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.

Research and lab stuff

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?

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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.

So, Is Grad School Hard?

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.

The Hardest Part about Grad School

So, I’ve been in grad school quite some time. The hardest part of grad school is overcoming imposter syndrome. If you aren’t sure what this means, let me explain it to you. imposter syndrome is basically that little voice in your head that convinces you that you are not worthy to be in a grad program and everyone will soon find out you’re a fraud. Ever single academic has to deal with this. I find this to the the hardest part about grad school. Yes, the loneliness is difficult. The lack of money makes thing very hard. But, in my honest opinion, trying to convince yourself day after day that you belong is the hardest thing you’ll experience in grad school. The work is fairly difficult, but if you got to this point, you can handle any amount of work that’s sent your way.

Final Thoughts

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!

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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. Grad school is all about new beginnings.

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.

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

Hobbies in Grad School to Try

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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. Hobbies can help. Here are a few hobbies to do in grad school.

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.

Why Pick up Hobbies in Grad School?

It is essential to pick up hobbies 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.

Which Hobbies to Pick Up in Grad School?

Today, I want to list out 6 different hobbies in grad school that I truly believe are amazing to pick up. I do most of these and can assure you that they are amazing stress relievers as well as just fun. As I said above, these can be dark and stressful times. you need something to help keep your mind off of negatives and something to really make you want to get up in the morning. I hope you are able to pick up a few of these.

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.

Final Thoughts

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

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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.

The move

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.

Stress

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.

Always pay attention to the good

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

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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.