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Achieving doctoral success by maintaining self-care routines

I originally wrote this post for the Bizwacks Unlimited, but since this blog has gone offline, I decided to repost it here.

Most graduate students are hard on themselves: long hours in the laboratory and soldiering through no matter what, while being sleep-deprived and caffeine-fueled.

However, the ultimate goal of a dissertation is to make a novel contribution to your field of study. In other words, we need to do creative work. And for creative work, our brains need to be in optimal condition.

Sleep-deprived? You won’t come up with great ideas…

Over-worked? You won’t be able to find a quiet spot and brainstorm…

For that reason, self-care is extremely important during your doctoral studies. Here is a list of 5 ways you can use to take care of yourself:

While buying fresh produce can be expensive, you should eat your veggies. Don’t live on food from vending machines and your university’s food court – eventually it will wreak havoc on your health and ability to function well in your doctoral studies.

Deadlines, pressure to produce results and hectic conference travel schedules: these might be your everyday fare in graduate school and beyond. But when you are tired, your brain is unable to function at its peak ability. Make getting enough sleep your priority, it can be crucial to your success.


You need to find some downtime in your hectic schedule. Sometimes you need to zone out and treat yourself to a hot bath, a good book or an afternoon by the lake. Letting go of your research is part of the creative process. Once you return to the problem you are studying, you’ll be able to take a fresh look at it.

At least 20 minutes of moderate activity per day are recommended for everybody. So get your bum from behind your computer and move it: bike your commute, go for a walk, practice yoga with YouTube videos or pump some iron in the gym – there are plenty of possibilities to get moving.

Social contact
When all is said and done, don’t forget to nourish yourself with social contact. Hang out with your friends for a coffee, spend a night in the pub – avoid at all cost to become a social recluse!

Now go ahead and schedule some time to take care of yourself, every day of your doctoral studies. Your work will benefit from this practice!

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This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. This is so important. I love reading the \”this is how I work\” interviews, and compare them to my own experience. Bur I became surprised at how many students do nothing else than seat at the computer and work, work, work for 10, 12 hours – and some of them get home at night and work even more. Though I may have done this before important deadlines, I find it counter-productive, not to say unhealthy. The mind neads distractions. The body needs activity. And the soul needs to be nourished. We are people who happen to be studying. Our lives must not be reduced to that part. I decided to become a mom while doing a phd. While I don't deny it is at times stressful to manage all aspects of my new life, I feel ten times more productive by having (even more) limited time for my research. And I continue lifting weights as before! 🙂

  2. Dear Sofia,I agree with what you say, but I also understand every person is different. I feel miserable if I don't have time to work out, read and play music. More than 60 hours of work in a week, and I start to dread my work (as much as I love research). My husband, on the other hand, can keep going 12+ hours a day for weeks on end, no worries at all.Would you be interested in sharing your perspective in a guest post, or would you be interested in being interviewed for the \”how I work\” series?Best,Eva

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