Walking Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

Love the Journey

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

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

My Journey

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

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

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

Your Journey

journey

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

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

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

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

Working On The Weekend

Working weekends while your friends and family are doing fun stuff can be depressing. You work so hard during the week just to see that you are still behind and can’t enjoy two days off of work. But, it happens to all of us. Heck, some people never stop working and really have no sense of what a weekend is, so be happy you’re not one of them. I am currently 5 hours deep into work and decided to blog a bit to get grad students aware that they will work weekends.

Photo Of Female Engineer Wearing Lab Coat

I am extremely fortunate to have worked a full time job prior to coming to grad school. This taught me a valuable lesson…how to be productive in 45 hours a week. I only had to work one weekend and man that was awful. In the 2 years I worked, I would rarely stay after 5:30 PM. My brain would just shut off at this time and I needed to go home. Also, I am a morning person, so productively is at it’s peak around 10 AM. I brought this with me to grad school. Most days, I will come into my office around 8-8:30 and leave around 5 PM. In that time, everything that needed to be done would get done so I could leave my work at school. There are only a few times where I will stay longer.

This weekend is unfortunately one of those where I did not catch up on work. I did tell myself that I will be done by 5 today so I can at least spend the evening doing something fun. I will have to come in tomorrow, but not as long.

Grad school is difficult because you aren’t really on a set schedule. At first, your classes pretty much make up your schedule, but when you get into research only, everything gets weird. You will work odd hours, eat at weird times, and honestly forget what day it is. This is why creating a schedule, like I have (8 to 5), is essential. It also keeps you from having to spend weekends in the lab, unless you really like that.

Unfortunately, having to work a few weekends to catch up on things is inevitable. You will have to give up plans to come in and run another experiment or, like what I am doing, dilute samples so a half a million dollar machine doesn’t explode. Coming in on the weekend doesn’t have to be that bad though. There are a few perks like being the only one on campus or being able to blast The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack without having someone yell at you to turn it down.

So, if you are in grad school, still make plans to do stuff on the weekend. Remember to rest. But most importantly, be flexible. If you make plans to hang with a friend and then you have to come in to do work instead, be honest with them. True friends will understand. I truly hope that you can get away with only working the week. If you can, please let like 99% of grad students know how to do it lol. But, realistically, prepare to spend a few weekends in the lab. Honestly, it’s really not that bad.

Until next time friends, stay awesome!

Another Day With No Motivation

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

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

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

Just Do it

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

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

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

Make it Fun

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

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

Handling a Rude/Mean Advisor

I have a friend who is in the last year of her PhD. She has been working extremely hard lately because her advisor is asking a lot from her. Unfortunately, it’s a bit overwhelming for her. Her advisor, who may be a great researcher, is a complete jerk. In fact, none of his students like him. I don’t know the man personally, but he does come off a bit pretentious. I have nothing against him but when my friend is hurt due to things he has said to her, I really take offense to that.

She has a rude advisor. Now, I am very fortunate and have an amazing advisor. He is super supportive, incredibly helpful, and also helps me grow as a researcher. These are all really good qualities to look for with an advisor. My friend’s advisor does little of this and it is really affecting her self esteem. I can offer some suggestions if you happen to have an adviser that you may not get along with or is just a jerk. Hopefully you don’t have to deal with this, but it can happen.

Woman in Black Jacket Sitting at Table

1) Talk to your advisor about the situation.

They could be completely oblivious to the fact that they are treating you this way. Make it know that it is unacceptable to be treated this way. This is often extremely difficult to do, so many students will do everything but this. Talking with them may make things much worse. This should be the very first thing you do, but it might be the hardest.

2) Ask yourself if they are actually rude or if you are just thinking they are.

Some things that people think are rude are actually not. I struggled with this for a very long time, especially in grad school. Some times constructive criticism is seem as being rude or mean, when actually it’s really not. So, before thinking your advisor is being rude or mean, ask yourself if it’s actually rude or you are taking it the wrong way. This may save a lot of unwanted suffering later.

3) Talk to the Department Head

Go straight to the boss. This could be the department head or the dean of the college. Let them know about what is going on and see if there are ways to handle this. Your advisors boss may actually talk with them and let them know that they need to be better. This can be very difficult to do as well. But if you are in a position where you feel down all of the time, this might be the best option prior to going to #4.

4) Get a new advisor.

Life is too short to be miserable. After a while, you may realize that your advisor is not the right fit. This is totally fine and you can find a different one. I knew a grad student that was a doctorate student since 2013 and went through I believe 3 advisors until he found the right fit. He is now a research scientist with his doctorate and a great career. His first advisor didn’t care much about him only because the student was being funded by someone else. I thought this was crazy that someone wouldn’t like their student because of funding.

Hopefully you never have to experience a mean or rude advisor. They can really cause a ton of unwanted stress in grad school. If you are in a situation like this, look for help. You do not need to have a bad experience that could have lasting effects. You may have a stressful experience (check out my blogs about anxiety and stress here), but you don’t have to experience a bad and hostile 4 to 5 years.

**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.

Dealing with Office/Lab Mates

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

office

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

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

office mates

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

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

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

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

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

Ways to Fail Your PhD

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

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

Black and White Checkered Paper Bag

1) Not asking for help

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

2) Thinking you know everything

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

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

3) Always agreeing with your advisor

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

High Angle View of Lying Down on Grass

4) Not taking time off of work

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

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

Woman Sitting in Front of Macbook

5) Not controlling your stress

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

Person Holding Red Book With Silver Link Bracelet Round Analog Watch

6) Being afraid to fail

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

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

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

Doing Things Alone is OK

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

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

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

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

1.Ask yourself if your anxiety is justified.

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

Photo Of A Boy Covering His Eyes

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

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

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

Person Laying on Sofa While Reading Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feeling Old in Grad School

I know, I know, I am not that old, but I still feel old on campus. I turned 29 last Saturday which is pretty awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my 20’s, but I am ready to move on. Frankly, some of my darkest days were in my mid 20’s and I want to say goodbye to them. Anyway, compared to my undergrad counterparts, I am a dinosaur.

Feeling old

The freshman are all wearing UF 2025 shirts which makes me realize that I am 10 years older than they are. That is insane to think about and kind of scary. If you are like me, and much older than most of the people on campus, don’t fret. There are plenty of ways to feel right at home and not ancient.

One thing that makes me feel less old is actually asking how old other grad students are. Compared to them, I’m a baby. I know we had one guy that graduated a year ago who was almost 50. Another grad student from last year was almost 40. This definitely helped to make me less sad that I was still in school at my age. I also read that the average age for grad students is 33 (link). So I still have a long way to go.

I want to encourage those that are thinking about grad school to do it, regardless of your age. Honestly, you spend so much time with other people that are similar in age that you aren’t really bothered by the undergrads. I read somewhere about a girl who was contemplating grad school. She was talking with her mother and brought up the fact that she would be 30-something by the time she had her doctorate. This really made the girl feel bad. Her mother told the daughter that she would be 30-something whether she wanted to or not, but at least she would have a doctorate.

So, if you are deciding to go back to school, or thinking of doing a grad program after undergrad, just know that you will feel old. But, that’s a good thing. You don’t want to be part of the undergrad world anymore. Honestly, that time kind of sucks. The parties and friends were awesome, but now you get to work towards your dreams and your future goals. You get to do fun research that might be groundbreaking stuff! You have also matured way passed that phase of your life.

If you haven’t checked out my blog about the pros and cons of going back to grad school, I highly suggest doing so. (link here). I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday, and I will see you in the next blog.

Mindfulness Boosted My Productivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appreciation

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

Brown Wooden Rabbit Figurine on White Surface

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

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

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

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

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

29 Things I’ve Learned by 29

Tomorrow, I turn 29.

Man in White Crew Neck T-shirt Holding Pink Balloons

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

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

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

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

When You Feel Stuck: Experiments

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

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

Portrait of woman in hat and skirt

1) Go far away from the problem at hand.

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

Free stock photo of adult, alarm clock, antique

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

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

Photo of a Sign and Eyeglasses on Table

3) Stay positive.

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

Photo of Woman Writing on Tablet Computer While Using Laptop

4) Keep working at it.

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

High Angle Photo of Woman on Ladder

5) Ask for help

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

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

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

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

My Typical Day as A Grad Student

I wanted to share a typical day as a grad student. This is my typical day and may vary significantly based on many factors. These include deadlines, your adviser, when you wake up, as well as if your lab is available to you during a certain time. Some of these factors are a bit weird but grad students understand.

Black Analog Alarm Clock at 7:01

I usually wake up around 7:30 AM to either my alarm or my cat, Sirius. If you are a cat owner, you understand the struggle of trying to sleep in and not being able to. Lately, Sirius has been letting me sleep longer which is kind of bad, since I do need to get up and do work. But if I do get up at 7:30, I usually have coffee, get ready and get out the door by 8:00.

I walk to campus instead of riding the bus. I found out that it takes about 10 minutes more to walk than ride the bus so it just makes sense to walk. Also, Gainesville has been absolutely beautiful this time of year, so the walks have been amazing. Walking takes about 30 minutes and I tend to listen to music or audio books on the way over. (Link to audio books that I listen to).

I will get to my office at about 8:30-8:45 and make a second cup of coffee. I really love coffee, if you guys didn’t know already (lol). So after my second cup, I am usually ready to tackle the day.

My days consist of either writing or lab work mostly. On weeks where I do lab work, I come in at really weird times. Depending on the day, I may get to lab at 7:30 AM or noon. So, for this blog, the day I am referring to is a writing day.

Around 9:00 AM, I start off with a blog post. So blogging has had many benefits, and one that I have noticed is that it warms me up for scientific writing. There are days where dissertation writing is difficult, so blogging beforehand gets me ready to do even more writing later. I have noticed that writing articles has become easier and I have blogging to thank for that. I usually am done with this writing by 10:30-11.

Lunch is at 11 and then start actually writing for the day. I try to get at least 500 to 1000 words in a day. When writing, I don’t focus on the flow of the paper, or the grammar. I mainly focus on getting the words out. If I focused so much on perfecting my writing then I would maybe get 100 words in a day. Going back over what I wrote later and correcting is way better than correcting as I go.

I usually write until about 2 PM. I do need a break, right? 2 is usually a good time to either get coffee or go on a walk. Some days I will have meetings at this time, so it’s a good time to change up the day. I will also go to my friend’s office and talk to her for a bit. PhD students don’t always work. We may complain that we do, but there is plenty down time.

I will usually get back to work around 3, after coffee, of course. From 3 to 5 PM, I usually write a bit or read some papers. My research topic doesn’t have too much to read about, so I will branch out and maybe read about physics or other engineering topics. Reading bores me easily, so in that time, there is plenty of phone time.

I will usually leave my office around 5-5:30 to go to the gym or do stadium workouts (check out my blogs about those here). My brain just shuts off at 5:30 for some reason. If I don’t get the work done by this time, it won’t get done haha. I think it is because I conditioned myself to not think of work after 5 when I was a full time civil engineer. Of course, if there is a deadline, my day does not end at 5-5:30, but those occasions only happen once in a while.

After the gym, I usually go home and hang with Sirius. Lately, I have been just playing with him for an hour to wear him out. I think this might be the reason he doesn’t get me up at 7:30 anymore. He has been sleeping a ton. I will usually make dinner at this time too and possibly catch up on email reading.

I know this isn’t too exciting, but this is a typical day for me, when writing. If it’s lab work, well that is a different story. I will probably make a blog about that one of these days. If you are just starting off and are trying to compare your day to other PhD students 1) Don’t do this because people will lie and maybe make you feel like you aren’t doing enough and 2) if you really want, look at reddit forums (here‘s a good one). Just know that a PhD is different to everyone. Some people will work constantly and other’s won’t.

I would suggest keeping a schedule that does not keep you in the lab/office forever. There is a whole life for you outside of work and it is very easy to forget that. Do not feel like you need to work on something constantly because that will burn you out faster than you know. Make time for friends and family. Join a club or sports league. Make sure the hours after 5 PM really count. You will have busy weeks but way more slow weeks. So occupy the time with things that make you happy.

The Uncertainty of Grad School

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

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

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

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

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

African man with frown look sitting under red light

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

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

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

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

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

My Favorite Quotes

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

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

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

My Experience With Therapy

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

Free stock photo of adolescent age, adult, chair

My experience

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

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

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

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

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

Smiling Muslim woman waving hand and having video call

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

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

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

Being Mistaken For An Undergrad

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

Man and Woman Sitting on Concrete Bench Using Laptop Computers

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

Photo Of Female Engineer Wearing Lab Coat

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

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

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

It’s OK to be Nervous

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

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

Comfort zone

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

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

I find these visuals to be so motivating.

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

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

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

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”

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

Make Sure Your Friends Are Ok

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

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

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

Two Women Sitting Near Trees

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

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

fight

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

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

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

Grad School Weekends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pros and Cons of Grad School

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

Entry level job

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

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

10 Facts about Grad School

I thought I would add something fun to my collection of blogs today. There are hundreds of facts that can be posted about grad school, but I want to focus on 10. These are facts that surprised me and were just down right interesting to know. I hope you enjoy the list.

1) About 13.1% of the population has an advanced degree. This includes Master’s, Professional Degrees, and Doctorates.

2) On average, a Doctorate program takes about 8 years to complete. This varies significantly from field to field.

doctorate

3) Doctoral attrition rates in North America are estimated to be about 40-50%. Half of the people that start will not finish.

4) The United States has more doctoral graduates than any other country.

5) Individuals that hold a master’s degree earn about 38% more than those with a bachelor’s degree.

Focused African American teenage chemist working on formula in scientific center

6) One average, only about 1.1% of the world’s 25-64 year olds who have been to university, have a PhD.

7) Walden University has the most graduate students as of 2019-2020 academic year.

8) The most common type of graduate degree is a Master’s.

Person in White Shirt With Brown Wooden Frame

9) There is a Master’s in Imagineering which you can get at Breda University of Applied Sciences, in the Netherlands)

10) There are nearly three times as many men and women becoming attorneys as there were earning a medical degree (MD)

This list was extremely fun to look up and share with you guys and gals. Do you happen to have any interesting facts? They don’t even have to pertain to grad school, I just like reading weird and interesting facts lol. If so, please share them in the comments. I would love to read them. Also, take a look at my other blogs about education (link here). I am sure you will find some other very interesting facts in those articles.

How to Start Each Morning

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

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

Black Android Smartphones on Brown Wooden Surface

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

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

Cheerful elderly man listening to music in headphones

2) Set your alarm to a fun tune

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

Person Writing on White Paper

3) Do a bit of journaling

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

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

4) Only read positive news articles

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

Orange Tabby Cat Beside Fawn Short-coated Puppy

5) Play with your furry friend

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

Person Performing Coffee Art

6) Drink a nice cup of coffee

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

Woman in Red Dress Standing Beside Woman in Green Blazer

7) Count your blessings

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

Woman Practicing Yoga

8) Meditate

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

Two 2 Kg. Blue Hex Dumbbells on White Surface

9) Exercise

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

Boy in Gray Jacket Reading Book

10) Read a book

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

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

Financial Stress in Grad School

I wanted to write about something that is hitting hard for quite a few of us lately, financial stress. That is the stress of being poor in grad school. I have written about dealing with finances in grad school before and how to reduce spending (link here)(here‘s another great resource). This blog is about dealing with the stress that comes from grad school finances. Being poor for many years is part of the process, unfortunately, and I am here to tell you that your concerns are justified. It may be tough now, but I promise you that it will be worth it.

Couple Sitting on the Couch

One of the biggest anxiety triggers that I have are my finances. Even something as small as taking my cat to the vet caused me to have a panic attack at 2 am. Luckily, I am skilled in coping mechanisms so I was able to reduce anxiety enough to get back to sleep. I am not in the worst financial situation by any means, but I know many people in grad school that are. Financial stress can really lead to many problems and ultimately cause an individual to leave the program altogether. Something that none of us want to happen.

Macbook Pro Beside Papers

The graduate union on campus recently posted a survey about the financial struggles that graduates face. The results were extremely alarming and extremely sad. People were taking multiple part-time jobs on top of working full time just to pay fore housing. Many people couldn’t even afford groceries because they had to pay for other expenses first.

U.s. Dollar Banknote Lot

Grad school stipends are extremely low. I remember receiving my appointment letter and freaking out because I was going to make about 40% less money by going to grad school than staying at my job. I told myself that 1) receiving a PhD will be worth it and 2) this will be quite a great adventure. Man, was I right about both. I think a huge stressor is seeing people that we graduated undergrad with getting senior positions and making six figures while we eat leftover pizza and ramen. It is a struggle.

For those that are reading this and struggling to make ends meet in grad school, you are not alone. It is something that we are all facing and will probably continue to face. I promise you that this will pass and you will get a career that pays you fairly. This is a learning experience and will be beneficial, I am sure of it. There are many resources that I am sure your college provides. I suggest taking a look to see what resources there are and taking full advantage of them.

One benefit is you will know how to manage money really well, a skill many people do not have. You will also know how to shop bargains, have fun without spending money, and I believe you will find happiness in small things, rather than large, fancy, things. This is something that I found to be 100% true. I have started to really appreciate all of the free things in my life such as long walks, trail hiking, and spending time at my pool (I know it’s not free but you aren’t spending any extra money).

This chapter of your life is quite hard. Will it be the hardest part? I don’t know, but it will be difficult in many ways. I hope that financial problems do not cause any extra stress in your life, like it has with me. One day, we will all be OK.

Write Often in Grad School

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

Woman Typing on Laptop

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

Blog Letters on Brown Wood

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

Photo Of Person Typing On Laptop

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

Person Writing on White Paper

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

Free stock photo of art, artistic, arts and crafts

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

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

The Unlikely Benefits of Mindfulness

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

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

help

1) People are coming to me for mental health advice

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

teach

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

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

brighter sky

3) I see things a little brighter.

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

sleep

4) I sleep better

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

Kindness

5) I am kinder

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

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

Simple Ways to Reduce Stress Now

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

  1. Exercise
exercise

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

2. Use the massager that you bought

massage

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

3. Drink tea instead of coffee

Tea

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

4. 10 minutes of meditation

Silhouette of Man at Daytime

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

5. Write down your stressors

Person Holding Blue Ballpoint Pen Writing in Notebook

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

6. Play mellow music

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

7. Breathe

Man Wearing Black Cap With Eyes Closed Under Cloudy Sky

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

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

Things Not To Tell a Law Student

I am surrounded by law students. My friend’s girlfriend is a law student, same with my other friend’s roommate, my roommate is, and my girlfriend is a lawyer. By default, that makes me a lawyer, right? It is funny because I actually have considered law school, but watching my girlfriend as she went through it really turned me off on that idea. I will stick to what I am good at, playing with chemicals and praying I don’t destroy my lab.

There are a few things that you should never say to a law student or a fresh lawyer, unless you want them to really go off on you. I have learned my lesson and figured it’s best to let you guys know. Some of these will be generic things not to say and other’s will come from the perspective of a PhD student.

  1. You’re not a Doctor
Lawyers Posing for a Photo

Do not say this!!!! I made the mistake of telling my girlfriend that she can not call herself a doctor because it is not a true doctorate. Getting a law degree is 100% a doctorate and they are doctors, though they probably won’t use the label. Just because law student’s don’t follow the same college structure as a PhD, that doesn’t mean it’s not a doctorate.

2. Asking them if they are starting to prepare for the Bar.

Close-up of Hands

Save this one for after they graduate, please. Asking a law student about this while they are still in school will likely cause a panic attack for them. They have enough stress already and the Bar is probably the most stress they will experience, ever. I remember when my girlfriend was studying for it. She spent 12 hours a day, every day, studying for it. This was also during the initial quarantine phase (Tiger king, bread makers, and lots of free time). When law students graduate, ten you can ask them. Some may take some time off, others go right into it. Just don’t ask them when they are still in school.

3. Asking them about legal advice

Businesspeople Talking

Sure, law students really only talk about lawyer stuff, like all of the time. I know more about the court system now then I ever have or ever wanted to lol. Asking them to give advice on some legal troubles you may have or someone you know has will be more detrimental to you and not them. The law students I have in my life love dumping all of their knowledge on the subject, all at once. You may ask for some advice about getting a permit for you house and next thing you know, you’re learning about a Supreme Court decision from 1987.

It’s wild how much they know. Also, they are students, remember! They do not have the license and skills yet to really help with any problems. If you really need advice, I suggest saving up money for a year and go see a really good lawyer. You’ll definitely need that year’s worth of money lol.

4. You’re going to pass

Happy African American remote worker tossing papers in air happy to get rid of boring paperwork while sitting in green park

I wish someone told me this a long time ago. I know this is supposed to help give the law student some confidence, but it doesn’t help. Those tests that they take are long and difficult. That may be their only grade in the class too. Just imagine you studied every day of the semester, was told you were going to pass, then you took one test and failed. That would be devastating, and that is also what many law students experience. This also pertains to the Bar. Imagine studying for 2 months straight, never taking off a weekend, and fail the Bar exam. Now imagine someone assuring you that you will pass. That would hurt a ton, so I would advise just not saying it unless you want one of those 50 pound law books thrown at you lol.

These are a few things that I learned while being surrounded by lawyers and law students. If you know someone that is in law school, I suggest sending them a care package of candy and perhaps their favorite coffee. Also, be supportive but please try not causing them any more stress than they already have. Law school is a hard three years.

Some Days Will Be Hard

This blog post will not just be for graduate students, but for everyone. You will have very difficult days and you may struggle to find the strength to continue what you are doing. You may find yourself doing anything and everything not to focus on your work. This is 100% alright. Everyone has bad days, even bad weeks. I have bad months, frequently, but know that it will pass.

Working on something can and will be hard. In grad school, you will find even the easiest tasks can be equivalent to climbing a mountain. This is normal and part of the process. The best thing to do is be kind to yourself and just try and push through. You may lose the motivation that you once had along the way to getting a doctorate. This is part of the process too, which means that you are right where you belong. There are so many ways to get that motivation back, and that will happen. I posted about habits of a successful grad student. It goes over how to create motivation which will help you on those really hard days. Here‘s a link to that.

Person Climbing on Mountain

Other days, motivation is not what is causing it to be a bad day. It could be just a bad mental health day. These are the days you need to be especially kind to yourself. The problem, at least that I have with these types of days, is how to go about talking to someone. Many of my friends, family members, and loved ones don’t experience these problems like I do. Because of this, I am not able to talk to them so I saw a therapist. Therapy helped to lessen the bad mental health days by a ton, so it may be something to look in to. These mental health days are a great time to brush up on meditation skills as well as cognitive behavior therapy skills. Check out more about that in my Mindfulness and Meditation (link).

Desperate evicted male entrepreneur standing near window

I want everyone to know that you will have bad days. You will have days where waking up is extremely difficult and going to work can be exhausting. This is totally normal and everyone has these types of days. You don’t need to beat yourself up because of it. Honestly, these are the days where your body is telling you to rest. Maybe we should all listen to our bodies these days.

Green Ceramic Mug on Person's Feet

I hope that you get the rest that you need and become more refreshed. I highly recommend taking vacations or just play hooky and go see a movie and c guarantee that you will feel refreshed and revitalized, ready to tackle anything that comes your way. Hopefully you all have a wonderful rest of your week and I’ll see you in the next one.

Does GPA Matter in Grad School?

Grades

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

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

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

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

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

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

Publishing Your First Manuscript

Free stock photo of brown, business, crumpled paper ball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dealing With The “Lab Ghosts”

If you do research in a lab, you will be fairly familiar with lab ghosts. Every time an experiment goes wrong, it’s because of the ghost that haunts my building. It’s not because of me and my mistake. No….never! lol. But for those that have ghosts in their lab, here’s a list of how to stop them from causing trouble. If you have goblins or trolls, this guide will not be able to help. That’s a very different problem lol. This guide will only protect you from lab ghosts and nothing else.

  1. Bring in offerings.
Assorted Fruits on Baskets

I often bring in cookies to make sure that my lab equipment works that day. I mean, my graduation depends on my equipment working. The lab ghost of my building often causes things to go terribly wrong unless I bring them something fun and delicious.

2. Bargain with the ghost.

Photo of Two People Shakehands

If you are constantly getting upset over your machines failing, make a bargain with the lab ghost. I find that ghosts really mess things up when you decide to stay and do work at night. Maybe tell the ghost that you will only work early during the day and leave before it gets too late. I had to agree to not work nights in my lab with my ghost. Every once in a while I have to go in late but that was part of the agreement. Haven’t really had a problem since.

3. Scare the ghost away

Get yourself a ghost in a bottle (here‘s a link to some). It is guaranteed to scare away any ghost that tries to mess up your experiments. I have one on my desk after all of my experiments started to fail. Like., I was getting terrible results before I received one of these as a gift. My data has never looked better now that my ghost in a bottle is here to protect me.

4. Sage your office.

Ceramic Plate with White Sage Smudge Stick

You have probably heard about burning sage to cleanse the area of ghost. 100% true. I just use sage scented spray (here). It works just as well, and afterwards, you’ll definitely feel like a ghost has left the area. Spray it near your experiments when you desperately need good results. This will make you happy, your adviser happy, as well as the peer reviewer for your paper happy. Good results make everyone happy, unless they are so perfect that it looks like you made them up. Then no one is happy.

5. Sacrifice an Undergrad’s experiment.

Person Holding Laboratory Flask

This one should be the last thing you do. I understand that undergrads are just not as cool as grad student, but remember you were one prior to grad school. Also, they may have a very good experiment, and losing that to a ghost could be very detrimental to a lot of people. If it comes down to it, sacrifice their experiment. Try and convince the ghost that your experiment is less important and boring. The ghost will start messing with the undergrad’s after this. According to the Law of Haunting, section 34.6.7 paragraph 4 “Ghosts can only haunt one experiment at a time.” You won’t have to worry about failed experiments ever again.

If you truly believe your lab is haunted, follow these guidelines. I promise you that you can convince the ghost to leave you alone. I have had quite a bit of success with these methods and so will you. For other ways to make sure your experiments go well, check out my other blogs (here). I’m sure you’ll be a research master in no time.

It’s Ok to Take a Break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best YouTube Study Music Playlists

I often listen to very calming music to help me focus on work as well as calm the anxiety that I feel from said work. It’s amazing how simple tasks can become so complicated because of anxiety. Study music is my go to method to calm myself and get in a very relaxed state to hopefully complete the task that I am working on. I want to share with you a few channels that I think are definitely worth listening too as well as some music mixes that can help brighten your day and make you extremely productive.

The first one I want to tell you about is Lofi Girl.

This channel is wonderful and defintiely helps to keep my attention. I put this channel on when I write since it’s uplifting and there are no lyrics to any of the songs. If you are like me and just want something that you can listen too in the background, this is the channel for that.

The second channel is the Studio Ghibli Relaxing Jazz playlist on Café Music BGM channel.

I usually play this when I am not really feeling good, mentally. The music is very uplifting and definitely helps with those days where I feel a bit down. I think I will add this playlist to my blog post “My Favorite Things on Days I Feel Sad”. Check that post out here. This playlist is also perfect afternoons when you need something to get you going. After lunch, when I am full and sleepy, I’ll put this on for a bit of an energy boost.

I am a huge Legend of Zelda fan, and if you are familiar with the games, you know they have an absolutley amazing soundtrack. Frequently, especially when it’s raining, I put on “a storm of songs || zelda ost + thunderstorm ambience”. Here’s a link to that playlist.

The combination of music and rain is extremely soothing. This is another one that I will put on when I am writing. Be warned, you may fall asleep to this one lol so I suggest listening to it if you aren’t on a tight schedule.

When I am doing experiments, I have very long periods of just waiting. It’s usually like 30-40 minutes of just waiting, so I sepend that time watching movies or shows. One of the latest movies that I watched wat Interstellar. If you haven’t seen it, please stop everything you are doing and go watch it. It’s absolutely amazing. Anyway, Hans Zimmer does the soundtrack to that movie as well as many others and you can listen to those soundtracks on YouTube. Interstellar’s soundtrack is by far the best and really get’s you motivated to do work. I’ll put this on when doing dilutions or prepping samples. A good channel to listen too is Timeless Music channel and listen to The Hans Zimmer Ultimate Mix (here)

This music will motivate you to do literally anything. As I said earlier, I’ll play this soundtrack to give me some motivation to do dilutions or sample preparation. Honestly, without this, I’d probably get nothing done.

I’ll leave you with one last one. When you are having a tough day, or you just aren’t in a happy mood, the music you need is Disney music. I am not the biggest Disney music fan, but something about Disney music on the piano just puts me in an amazing mood. kno Piano Music channel has a playlist of songs that are all on the piano. I highly suggest checking this out and playing it when you are working/studying/relaxing. Here’s a link to that playlist.

I’ll be listening to this playlist for the rest of the day.

Whatever you do during the day, listening to good music can always make it an awesome day. I hope you check these channels out. They have really helped me focus at work and have been super helpful to help me relax.

Helping Others Cope with Stress and Anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Eat Healthier in Grad School

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

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

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

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

2. Shop Bogo deals

Red Sale Tag

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

3. Get a crock pot and use it.

Cooked Food on White Ceramic Plate

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

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

Black and White Dalmatian Dog Eating Fruits

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

5. Incorporate fruits and veggies in every meal

Variety of Fruits and Vegetables

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

6. Buy a rice maker

Photo Of Assorted Rice Grain On Wooden Spoon

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

7.Meal Prep

Flat Lay Photography of Three Tray of Foods

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

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

Always Take Vacations in Grad School

Selective Focus Photography of Yellow School Bus Die-cast

I’m writing this because I am in desperate need of a vacation, and you probably are too. I am finishing my qualifying exams next week. The exam consisted of writing a proposal, defending the proposal, and taking 5 written exams, one from each committee member. I will have a post on how to pass (hopefully not fail) your qualifying exam very soon. I wrote about preparing for your qualifying exam. Check it out here.

Anyway, let’s get back to why we are here, vacations. Now, school just started for many individuals this week. But for the majority of grad students, this week is just the same as any other week. There is an influx of students but that’s the only difference. Summer is the time to get work done for many grad students. In fact, it could be the only time of the year where you get research done at all (looking at you people who teach each semester). With the constant stress and pressure of having to do a lot of work at once, it can really lead to burnout, or worse…getting kicked out!!!

This is why taking a vacation is so important. This also pertains to those who work for a living too. I’ve been in your shoes and know that about half the day is day dreaming about being somewhere else. So this post is for all of you. Vacations are a time where you can relax and not be bogged down with the stressed of work. We live in a society that thrives off of telling people how busy they are? Why is this a thing? Anyway, this is extremely toxic and can really cause problems mentally. A vacation is a good time to get away from this.

Look into vacation days for grad students. Usually, they allow 5 days of paid vacation each semester, sometimes more. These days are separate from holidays so I would suggest taking time off around holidays so you can spend more time away from work. I tend to go places or take time off around Christmas and at the end of summer. My spring semester tends to be really chill towards the end so I may take a few days off then, but more-so during winter break.

The main reason to take vacations is so you do not burn out. I believe I wrote a very long time ago that attrition rates for PhDs was roughly 50%. Like holy cow. Many of these students leave for various reasons, but a great deal of them leave due to burnout. Here’s a good article to read about burnout and drop outs (here). It’s sad that some professors don’t see that this is a problem. I had one professor tell me that, because they had to work all the time, their student had to as well. This is flat out wrong. One needs time to rest, because if they are constantly working 1) they will not be productive and 2) they will snap.

When you start grad school, remember that it is a very long process. In fact, it can be much longer than your undergrad. I am finishing up year 4 and could potentially go well into year 5 without finishing. 5 years is a long time to just continuously work and be miserable. Plan to go one trip. Go see friends that you haven’t seen in a while. Go to a new country and explore all of the food places there. But most importantly, just go do something that is not work. Life is so much more than spending your day working on something you probably hate. Life is a gift that was given to you and you need to go out and make the most of it. Grad school is a great way to make your life better, but the journey through grad school needs to also be good.

Most of your best ideas that you will have will come when you are not working. In fact, all of the ideas that I have come up with have been while walking, going to Miami to see my girlfriend, or on a boat, fishing. You give your brain to actually focus on problems subconsciously, and you get the best ideas this way. If you are struggling with a problem, I would suggest you go on a miniature trip somewhere and try and forget about school and that problem. I will bet money that some form of solution will arise. Just make sure to write it down when it does pop up lol.

It’s a great time to start planning your next vacation. First, get vaccinated for covid so you don’t risk spreading that to places you go. Next, plan your trip wisely. It’s not a good time to travel to other countries, but going to see your family, that can be an awesome vacation, as well as a cheap one. My next vacation will hopefully be to Canada. I absolutely love going up there during winter and it isn’t that expensive either. Whatever you do, make sure that you commit to it. It is so easy to work all of the time, but that’s not healthy. Live life and I guarantee that you will not regret it.

Make Your Workday More Joyous

I spend a great amount of time in my office. This is quite a common thing to do for about 99% of the population, it seems. Office jobs are extremely common, and , well, quite boring. There are a significant amount of people out there that love spending time at their desk, but I am not one of them. For grad students, desk work will take up about 75% of their week. The rest of the time is in the lab, or crying in the bathroom. The hours spent at a desk are quite long and can often be boring if you are waiting on experiments to finish or your adviser to email you back. People do not realize that practically 1/3 of your life is spent at work, so have fun while you are there . I have written about the things that make me happy (check it out here), but not about what makes me happy while sitting in my office lol. Here are a few things that I incorporate into my work day that makes it quite fun.

  1. Random dancing.
3 Men Jumping on Top of Building

Random dancing. Now don’t laugh at this one but it really does bring excitement to my work day. No one is so busy that they can’t spare like 5 minutes to just dance it out in their office, or if you are really gutsy, your lab. Play really uplifting music and just dance away. Heck, if you have office mates, get them to dance with you too. It’s good exercise and will just give you that boost of happiness to make your day that much better.

2. Desk games

Laughing male constructor showing thumb up at working desk

Now this one is good if you have a desk. If you are working at like a restaurant, you can’t really do this. I would suggest going to amazon and just typing in “desk games” (here, I did it for you) and pick out a few that you would find fun. The desktop tiki toss is my favorite. I absolutely love the ring game, but there are so many to choose from. It is also fun to have your office mates come by and play when they can. You’ll be the most popular and fun person at your job in no time.

3. Get a standing desk

Contemporary computer with headphones hanging on monitor placed on table with laptop keyboard and mouse at convenient workplace in room

When I was doing civil engineering work, I spent all of my time at my desk. People don’t realize how exhausting sitting all day is, and when I got home, the last thing I wanted to do was go workout. So, I bought a standing desk so I didn’t get stuck sitting all of the time. I was gaining weight fairly quickly and needed a way to burn a bit more calories during the day. I bought this one and a comfy mat to stand on as well. Standing desks are amazing and they keep you moving. The fun aspect comes when you realize you can dance literally all parts of the day. In fact, that’s exactly what I did. And if you are not having fun, you’re already standing up so you can walk right out of the door and go somewhere to have fun!

4. Play music

Photography of Woman Listening to Music

Listen to your favorite music. Try and see if you can name off the name of the song as well as the artist. If you have a job where you can play music out loud, see if you can quiz your office mates. I do this all of the time and it helps bring happiness to the office, as well as some competitiveness.

5. Wear funny socks

I did this everyday when working in an office. We had to dress up professionally except for our socks. Everyone had super funky socks too, which was awesome. I would go online and order the craziest designs as well as some humorous ones too. I have a pair of socks with sharks on them, a pair with Bob Ross, and one that has Bigfoot. You would be surprised how just something as simple as socks can bring you so much joy throughout the day.

Person in Blue and Red Socks Lying on Hammock

What are some things that you incorporate into your day that bring you joy? This is just a small list as I try and find as many things as possible to make my office time a little less, boring. I’d love to know how you guys spark joy in your day. Post those in the comments!

Wood Carving Reduced My Anxiety

I took up wood carving when the pandemic first started last year. While most people were enjoying making bread in their new bread maker, I was learning how to hold a knife and not cut myself (spoiler alert: I cut myself). I don’t really know what caused me to start making wood carvings. It just piqued my interest.

The start of quarantine was quite an amazing time since we spent more time inside with loved ones. We made bread like crazy. The Tiger King was…well king. And, it gave us more time to try out new things. I remember that after buying a wood carving set, some chisels, and gloves (make sure to get gloves). If you are interested, these are the ones I bought (here and here). I then started watching Doug Linker’s Youtube channel, and basically followed step by step with what he was doing. Even if you aren’t into wood carving, I suggest watching some of his videos.

It only took maybe a week of practice to understand the basics. I bought a whole bunch of basswood (like this) and just carved as much as I could. I eventually got good enough and made a few little figurines for my parents and my girlfriend.

Here are some of the figurines that I made. Each took about 4 hours to make but four hours flies by when you are carving. Each one is about 3 to 4 inches tall, so they are relatively small, but super cute lol.

As the days turned into weeks, I started kind of getting bored with just carving small figurines. So, like any reasonable wood carver, I got bigger tools and started making even bigger carvings.

This was a chunk of wood that I found, about one foot tall, that I carved an owl into. I wanted a bigger project to work on, since I really didn’t have anything else going on, especially in my PhD program. This carving was done with a dremel and then I painted the inside to really make the owl POP!

Well, after getting a taste of something bigger, I wanted to go even bigger. My goal was to learn how to carve with a chainsaw. Now, I am not trained in using a chainsaw so I had to watch a ton of videos on how to do it. The people made it look so simple on Youtube, but looks are deceiving. I bought myself an electric chainsaw (I am a college kid and poor, please remember that), and set out to carve a tiki. The tiki was a Christmas present so I wanted it to be amazing.

It turned out pretty awesome, though, taking pictures of it didn’t really show all of the contours and shadowing that made it really stand out. I will update this post the next time I go to my girlfriend’s dad’s house, where it currently resides.

Through this whole experience, I was also doing therapy. I brought up wood carving almost every session and my therapist kept encouraging me to make more carvings. She told me that having a hobby such as this was an excellent way to calm an anxious mind. I totally agree with that statement because:

  1. Carving allows you to focus on one specific task at a time. If you get distracted, you may cut yourself pretty easily.
  2. It keeps you off social media
  3. If you carve outside, there is a sense of peace that comes over you and you become “one with nature”
  4. IT KEEPS YOU OFF SOCIAL MEDIA!!!

I found that the more I carved, the less anxious I was in that moment. Carving is like meditation, you focus on one thing and stay in the present moment. Instead of focusing on the breathe, like in meditation, you are focusing on the cutting and not getting cut aspect of carving. Soon, you get in almost a trance like state, and all outside distractions tend to disappear. I feel like you can almost use wood carving as an alternative to meditation, that is, wood carving that doesn’t require a chainsaw lol.

College, especially grad school, can be a very overwhelming time and cause a ton of stress. I found that doing a simple task can help significantly. I wrote about how hobbies are great to take up in grad school. If you are looking for a way to pass time, be creative, and get some much needed anxiety relief in, then I suggest checking wood carving out. It is super easy, fun, and inexpensive, which is always a plus. It has done wonders to my mental health and I know it can help with yours.

What to Expect On the First Day of Grad School

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

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

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

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

People on Sidewalk Selective Focal Photo

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

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

Chemical Engineers in Laboratory

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

Is Grad School Hard?

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

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

Grad school can best be described by the cartoon below:

Rachel - ppt download

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here Come the Freshman! How to Handle New Students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 Hobbies to Take Up in Grad School

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

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

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

  1. Cooking
Woman In The Kitchen Preparing To Cook

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

2. Wood Carving

Gray and White Penguin Decoration

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

3.Weight Lifting

Man Carrying Barbel

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

4.Learning a new language

Dictionary Text in Bokeh Effect

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

5. Take up a sport

Man Dunking the Ball

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

6. Blog

Person Holding Turned-on Silver Laptop Computer

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

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

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

New Beginnings: Moving in Grad School

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Prepare for Your Qualifying Exam

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

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

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

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

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

Two Pencils Near Book

Before the Exam

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Remind yourself that you will pass

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

Close-up of Hands

During the qualifying exam

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

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

2.Try not to drink too much coffee

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

3.Tell yourself that you will be fine

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

4.Write until your hand falls off.

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

People Running Near Seashore at Daytime Photo

After the Qualifying Exam

  1. Relax

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

2. Prepare to hear back from your committee

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

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

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

5 Things I Wish I Was Told Before Starting Grad School

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

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

  1. You will experience imposter syndrome

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

2. No one will really care about your work

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

3. You will say goodbye to a ton of friends

Persons Left Hand on Airplane Window

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

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

Assorted Sliced Fruits in White Ceramic Bowl

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

5. You are not in undergrad anymore

Person in White Shirt With Brown Wooden Frame

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

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

Things That make YOU Happy

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

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

  • Being able to doing meaningful research
  • Really good music
  • Long walks in the Florida heat (I know, I’m weird)
  • Going to the gym
  • Fishing
  • Writing blogs that people actually read!!!!
  • Reading other people’s blogs
  • My girlfriend
  • My family
  • Wood carving (Hmmm maybe I’ll make a post about this next)
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  • Getting data back from experiments that actually makes sense
  • Drinking a really good cup of coffee
  • The smell of fall
  • Going on trips to Canada in the Winter
  • Taking my boat down to the Keys
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  • My friends
  • A cold glass of tea with lemon in it
  • Pizza
  • Ice cream
  • Chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick from Blonde Giraffe
  • Monkey Forest in Bali
May be an image of Ben Swaringen and smiling

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

How to Survive the First Year of Grad School

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zoom to Classroom: The Great Transition

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

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

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

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

  1. Get Vaccinated

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

2. Talk to someone about your fears

Woman Wearing Teal Dress Sitting on Chair Talking to Man

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

3. Move to the front of the classroom

Brown and Black Wooden Chairs Inside Room

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

4. Learn to meditate to ease your mind

Woman Meditating in the Outdoors

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

5. Wear your mask

White Ceramic Sculpture With Black Face Mask

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

6. Exercise outside

Woman Running On Pathway

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

7. Be Smart

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

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

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

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

How Writing a Blog Can Help With Mental Health

Today is an important day for me. Today, I will have written 50 blog posts. That may not seem like many, but trust me, it’s a ton for someone like me. I started writing blogs as a form of outlet, almost like journaling. My anxiety was creeping back, even though I had a significant arsenal of coping mechanisms. Journaling was not one of those methods that I had tried before. Also, I wanted to give back to the world somehow. There is already too much suffering in the world and I wanted to add a contribution to help, even just one person, suffer a little less.

I received an email today about my blogs. I was so overwhelmed because it was an appreciation email. They loved my writing and wanted to let me know that they loved it so much, they couldn’t stop reading. This is what it is all about, my friends. Blogging is more than just writing about my problems, it’s finding solutions and helping those with the same problems, solve their problems. So many people in this world just care about themselves. I completely understand that mentality because life had me feeling this way for a very long time. I found this was helpful to get what you wanted in life, but you aren’t really contributing in the best way you can.

Two months ago, I decided to take a journey to help people, rather than just help myself. I wanted to help graduate students that were experiencing mental health and giving helpful ways to cope. I also wanted to help with their fitness, but soon found that focusing on mental health needed more of my attention. Don’t worry though, more fitness blogs will surely follow. I found that the more I wrote, the more feedback I received, the less anxious I became. Journaling is a good coping mechanism, but mixing it with giving helpful advice, well that’s a recipe for success.

I have found a little place in this world of blogging, my niche. And in so, I have found that my anxiety, my stress, my depression, have been reduced to levels I haven’t seen in years. I wish I could go back in time and just tell myself that it will be a long journey, but one where you find yourself, at least I have found 28 year old Ben. I may be a lot different in 5 years ;P.

If you are suffering from anxiety, depression, any form of mental health, I want to add one more coping mechanism to your toolbox, and of course that is blogging. It has helped me to express myself and openly to other people. There are so many people in the writing community that have been so supportive. Honestly, the blogging is a way to cope with my anxiety, but, you, the reader, have helped to significantly reduce my anxiety. Thank you so much, blogging community! I owe you more than you know.

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

How to Deal With Anxiety Caused by Covid: My Grad School Experience

We are in the worst pandemic that probably any of us will see in our lifetime. It has been a year and a half since states started to shut down and that’s so crazy to realize. Honestly, the beginning of quarantine was amazing. People started actually spending time with their families. We had Tiger King to binge watch. Bread making was at an all-time high, and toilet paper production was at an all-time low. Those were simpler times. After a while, though, isolation started to take its toll on our mental health. I remember talking to my therapist and she asked how Covid affected my mental state. I hadn’t even considered that was a major issue until she asked. She then told me something that really surprised me. Most of her clients were coming to her because of anxiety due to isolation and just constant worry.

We are all struggling with something in our lives. Now having a deadly virus, mutating, and causing hospitals to hit max capacity just adds even more anxiety to our lives. The media does not help at all. In fact, one of the best things to do is turn off your TV during this time. Just a helpful tip. But seriously, these past months have been some of the darkest for many people. People that had never experienced severe anxiety and depression are not having panic attacks because of quarantine. Grad students, especially me, are being faced with extreme uncertainty about when they will graduate or even if they will. Children are seeing their parents stress which is leading to the child to experience emotions that they shouldn’t at their age. These times are hard.

I want to urge you to get help if you are feeling any form of anxiety or depression due to Covid. Getting help and understanding the main causes as well as gaining the skills to cope will help you significantly. We will see many more individuals experience mental health issues because of Covid. That’s a fact that we are starting to see. The CDC even has a page on learning how to cope with stress from Covid. Some of their recommendations, which I will share here, are as follows: Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, Meditate, Eat Healthy Food, Get Sleep, Get Vaccinated, Connect With Other (Therapy), and Help Others Cope.

I want to expound upon that last point “Help Others Cope.” We are all facing these hardships. You are not suffering alone and there are thousand, even millions, possibly billions of people that are not doing well mentally. If you have a method of coping, share that with the world. Share those methods with your neighbor who just lost their wife or husband to Covid. Share your coping methods with the child whose friends are all sick because they were forced back to school. Share these coping methods with one of your classmates who is so scared to go back to school but has to in order to graduate. Helping others is what we need to be doing. We need to share love and compassion, rather than hate.

There are so many different ways that we can get help. We need help during this time. Don’t be stubborn and think you can handle it alone. That’s when mental problems occur the most. I hope that you, the reader and my friend, will look out for yourself and others during these pretty dark times. Mental issues will be on the rise in the next few years but we can reduce the chance that will occur to us or a loved one by finding methods of coping. I started this blog to help bring peace to grad student’s anxious minds but I also want to help others who may just need a way to deal with mental pain. Please, if you are having a time, seek therapy. I can’t express this enough. Getting the help you need is such a priority. Please take care of yourselves. I love you all.

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

Habits of a Successful Graduate Student

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

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

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

Oral Qualifying Presentation: Grad School Stress

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

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

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

Having a Part-Time Job in Grad School:6 Jobs for Busy Grad Students

You started grad school and realized that you are poor, but you have the hopes of not being poor one day! Your stipend is the only income that you will unless you work another job. Now, I want to say that school is your main priority. Please keep this in mind when getting a job on the side. Also, some grad program prohibit having a job on the side. If this is the case then this blog won’t really help you too much, but I will try and include something for you. Here’s a list of 6 jobs that I believe are perfect to have in grad school, if you are able to find the time and energy.

1.Waiting tables or bartending. This is a great job to have that will get you quite a ton of money on the side, especially in a college town. You get to meet quite a few people and working in a restaurant is definitely an interesting experience, one that everyone needs to do at least once in their life. This job can be extremely part-time so you can spend your day working on your studies.

Person Holding Pastry Dishes on White Ceramic Plates

2. Tutoring. This is a perfect job because you know the material and can really tutor any subject. Tutoring is also a great way to hone your teaching skills in case you need that for your career or if you just so happen to be teaching a course that semester to get a stipend.

Serious female teacher wearing old fashioned dress and eyeglasses standing with book while pointing at chalkboard with schemes and looking at camera

3. Grade Papers. I get emails every semester of professors looking for graders for their classes. They usually pay a decent amount and you only have to put in about 10 hours a week, max. One professor was advertising 10 hours at a rate of $15 per hour. $150 a week or and extra $600 a month is rent money right there. You can also do this work any time of the day. Say you are waiting on lab results, grade some papers instead of just sitting, scrolling on Reddit. Get paid and feel more relieved that you have enough money to eat this month.

Student with documents and laptop happy about getting into university

4. Work as a Personal Trainer. I added this one because this is a side gig that you can do and you do not have to tell your adviser that you are doing it. One hour a day, 3 times a week and you can make about $60 extra. $20 a session per person is not bad at all and people are willing to pay that. All it takes is getting a certification and then insurance. Afterwards, you are good to go. Just find a client by posting fliers around campus and the clients will come.

Woman Doing Exercise

5. Teaching Assistant. For my program, to be a TA, you must be a masters student. They do not allow PhD students to do this since we already work for our funding. This is a great opportunity to gain experience in the classroom as well as meet people. Often times, being a TA will pay for your tuition as well as give you a bit of a stipend too. Grad school is super expensive so working for free education is ideal.

Cheerful young female home tutor with sketchpad in hands

6. Blog. I highly recommend blogging your journey through grad school. First off, writing is essential to be a good/decent grad student. By blogging, you will be writing each day which will make your thesis writing a piece of cake. You can make some money by ads and affiliated marketing. You won’t see a ton of money at first, but by the end of your first year, you may have another couple of dollars in the bank. Plus, blogging gives you freedom to express yourself and that’s what college is here for, right?

Person Holding Turned-on Silver Laptop Computer

I hope this list was inciteful. I recommend trying to find an easy way of making money that doesn’t rob you of the grad school experience. Let me know if you have a part-time job and what it is. Until next time, peace!

Learning to Meditate in Grad School. A Guide for Beginners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 7 Phone Apps That All Grad Students Need Right Now

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

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

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

2. Audible

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

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

3. MyRadar

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

4.Spotify with Hulu

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

5.ColorNote or some other notepad app

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

6. Alarm Clock

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

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

7.YouTube Vanced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giving Presentations in Grad School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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