Make time for you
There can be many pressures on a researcher to work long hours. The need to have papers written or results to present at a conference; deadlines for funding applications. In some research institutions a ‘long hours’ culture can develop, where researchers routinely stay on site well beyond their contracted hours. In these circumstances, pressure from your peers or even your line manager can make you feel that you have to do the same.
The ‘long hours’ approach is rarely very efficient or effective, if it becomes a habit. It can develop into a source of stress and have an adverse effect on your health. Take proper lunch breaks. Make plans to do something completely unrelated to your research in the evenings. This will help you to leave work on time and avoid the ‘long hours’ trap.
- join a sports club or exercise class
- take up a creative activity – such as art, crafts, creative writing, or playing a musical instrument
- do some voluntary work – ideally, somewhere that is unconnected with your university or research institute
- plan an evening out or in with your children and/or partner
- keep in touch with your friends
These activities will stimulate different parts of your brain, and help you to maintain all-round mental wellbeing. They can also boost your energy levels, helping to reduce stress and improve creativity and productiveness.
Get away from it all
One of your employment rights is the right to time away from work as annual leave. It is surprising how many researchers are reluctant to use their leave allowance, or feel pressured into not taking the holidays that they are entitled to.
It is a truism that “a change is as good as a rest” – most researchers return from leave feeling mentally refreshed and better able to tackle the stresses of the job. A holiday can help you to regain a healthy perspective and a sense of what is important in life.
Eat healthily, stay fit
It may seem obvious, but looking after yourself means eating regular meals, enough fruit and vegetables, and being aware of your intake of alcohol, fat and sugar.
Regular exercise and sufficient sleep are also important to keep the mind and body at its most effective and to maintain a balanced outlook.
And last but not least:
- learn to say “no” to unrealistic demands on your time
- challenge the “super hero” myth. You don’t have to be able to do everything
- enjoy a daily technology-free break to sit quietly and reflect or to make time for something that requires a slower pace (e.g., reading, painting, gardening, or yoga)