How to manage your academic stress

31 01 2022

Feeling like the stresses of academic life are getting to you? Here are some handy tips for managing your stress (modified excerpt from The Effective Scientist)


As professions go, being an research scientist probably doesn’t top the list for most stressful, although if you are drilling ice cores in Greenland, photographing deep-sea life from submersibles, setting up seismography equipment on the slopes of active volcanoes, diving with sharks, or scaling 75-metre trees in the Amazon rain forest to collect beetles, then stress is just part of the job. However, I am not going to discuss that kind of stress; rather, I am referring to the day-to-day stress of a demanding academic environment.

‘Relieving Stress’ © René Campbell renecampbellart.com

The stress of the career scientists is insidious and multifaceted. The cumulative stress of academia grows as one progresses from being a student, through postdoctoral life, to early-career lectureship, and all the way to tenured professorship. Will I be awarded that grant? Will the editors accept my manuscript? Will I be promoted? How long will I have a job? How do I make sure my lab members succeed? Will I be invited to that conference? Do my peers respect me? How do I recover from that critique of my research?

If you do not learn how to deal with these stresses along the way, you are likely setting yourself up for a big crisis somewhere down the track. I will provide some tips that my colleagues and I have found to be useful in that regard.

E-mail

In the day-to-day routine of being a scientist, one activity in particular is simultaneous a blessing and a curse — e-mail. E-mail — rather, the messages delivered by it — can be an immense source of stress. There is the stress associated with pressure to respond quickly to urgent requests, the stress arising from e-mails that you really should have responded to weeks ago, but still haven’t yet, and stress from messages that are nasty, vindictive, or even libel received from angry colleagues or misinformed members of the public.

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11 things academic research and surfing have in common

2 05 2019

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Our very own surfing scientist, Dr Katharina Peters

(originally published on the GE.blog)

The last time I went surfing the waves were very slow and between sets I had a lot of time to contemplate life. This was when it occurred to me that the pursuit of a career in academic research was similar, in many ways, to trying to catch waves. Here are 11 surprising things surfing and academic research have in common:

1. It’s a constant struggle and a long, hard slog to get past the white water

Paddling out through the white water, having wave after wave come crushing down on you while trying to turtle-roll through the biggest ones, can be a real challenge. Likewise, in science it takes most people years of study, work (often unpaid), long hours in the lab, the field, and at the desk, to establish themselves and potentially secure employment for a period longer than a year or two. You find yourself working late finishing papers from research you did years ago (again, usually unpaid), or volunteering to get more hands-on experience because you know how important these things are. But you power on, always trusting that, just like paddling through the white water will help get you the stamina and shoulder muscles you need to catch waves, all this work will lay the foundation for your career and make you a better scientist.

2Academia

2. Women are underrepresented and often treated badly (but it’s changing!)

Whether you look around you in the line-up at your surf spot or at a scientific conference, women are underrepresented. Many women I know have experienced discrimination related to their gender, as women are often not assessed based purely on their ability to shred or do high-quality research. Indeed, reviewers have an unconscious bias against women in science, and in surf competitions men get to compete when conditions are optimal whilst women are relegated to whatever is left. Nevertheless, slowly but surely, things are changing for women. It will still take many years to reach an equilibrium (if there is such a thing), but people are becoming more and more aware of the gap, and female researchers and surfers are pushing that glass ceiling.

3. Others always seem to be performing better than you

This is probably true for many areas in life! It always looks so much easier when others do it, and we tend to only see those who do better than us (also, imposter syndrome, anyone??). I guess it’s a lifelong task to learn not to compare yourself to others, to stay focused on your path and try to take inspiration from the achievements of others, rather than letting them demotivate you. Read the rest of this entry »








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