Doing research is mentally challenging. Scientists have to cope with many failures, frustrations, and uncertainties. In addition, the highly competitive academic environment, constant evaluations, and grant deadlines are not helpful. Mental health problems in academia are more common than many scientists want to admit. Here, I want to share a few scientifically-proven tips on how to keep and nurture your mental health.
Take a break
You can´t do big discoveries without clear thinking, so take a break and refresh your mind regularly. Set your work-hours 9-5 and then leave the lab or office and enjoy the life outside the lab. The results are not about how many hours you spend working on it. It is more about the quality and productivity of your work.
Follow your biorhythm
The biggest advantage of academia is that it usually allows flexible work hours. Listen to your body and follow your biorhythm. Start early if you are an early bird or come after lunch if your inner night owl is most productive at 2 am. Also schedule your activities using the same principle, e.g. maybe your best time for writing is the early morning when your mind is fresh, after lunch you prefer to stay active doing experiments, and in the evening you only have energy to analyze data. Everybody is unique and thus follow your own pattern.
Science is not enough for a happy life. Keep your hobbies and do them regularly. It is a great way to relax your brain and think outside the box. You have probably heard about some of the biggest discoveries being made in the shower, during long road trips, jogging or playing with children.
It is scientifically proved that rich social interactions and being part of communities are linked to longevity, a happier life, and good mental health. Of course, everybody is different and prefers various intensity and frequency. And thus, find your own best social interactions with your partner, family, friends, and/or colleagues. When you move to a new city, step out of your comfort zone and explore the new social groups. Check the internet, you will definitely find many opportunities.
Stay physically active
Good physical health is directly linked to mental health, but don’t panic! You do not have to start weight lifting or running marathons. Find your favorite physical activity. It can be walking, jogging, work out in the gym, playing basketball with your friends or attending an online yoga class. If you think you do not have time, think twice! You can always involve more physical activity during your normal daily life – take the stairs, walk during long calls or go for a stroll with your friends instead of sitting in cafes.
Eat and sleep well
This is absolutely basic and you have heard it so many times. However, it is essential. A good whole-food diet and enough high-quality sleep are the best medicine. And good news, you do not need special and expensive supplements for boosting your energy or feeling better. Changing your daily habits are often enough. And again physical wellbeing also keeps you mentally healthy!
Written by Pavla Hubalkova