Anyone doing a PhD or other graduate programs would be aware of the startling and concerning statistics regarding mental health and students and while there is much more awareness about this everywhere there are still some major hurdles every student has to overcome.
What I am feeling at the moment is what I am calling mental fatigue.
I have been doing my PhD for nearly two years now, and since I started I haven’t had more then a couple days off in a row and recently, I have been into the lab every day for the last two or three months. Sometimes it is not for more then a couple hours, but it adds up…especially when I look at my bullet journal and see everyday has some hours shaded in that I have spent at the lab.
While I do like what I do and love my project, it is tiring and ethically, I have to go into work on those days to check on my animal experiments so I unless I have no daily checks to do, I am always down in the basement collecting more data.
I also went straight into my PhD from honours, having about two months break and the most recent holiday was a weekend in Melbourne which was amazing but over a year ago and I have certainly earned myself at least a couple of weeks of holidays with all of the long days, nights and weekends in the lab. I am planning to head to America over the Christmas break and I am excited (I have yet to ask my supervisors though )
But I digress, I was supposed to talk about mental fatigue which all of the above, plus the usual high workload and pressure that comes with a PhD has lead to me feeling very unmotivated for the last two weeks.
I had just finished a major experiment that required nearly two months of animal monitoring (half of that involved daily checks too), weekly flow cytometry staining and analysis and on top of the other three major experiments I am working on. I have collected some interesting data but the next steps is to repeat the major experiment in a different cell line and set up an even more complex experiment to work out some mechanisms. I am so excited to see what we find, but thinking about how much work it will be. Especially as the honours student who was assisting me with the majority of the monitoring will be finished soon. I also have to finish my review paper that is nearly two years in the making (and I should have published it last year) and stress about getting some extra things on my CV for future post docs and fellowships.
So this week I haven’t had the most productive of weeks. I have slept in until 9 am every day but Monday (and the only excuse is that on Monday I have my fortnightly supervisor meeting) and got into the lab at 11am. Today I left at 2:30pm as I felt so uninspired sitting at my desk and had gotten my lab work done and planned some next steps.
I have not done any more work on my review, read any papers and just feel like everyone else is doing so much more then me. I will also be at Jury Duty next week (I have no idea how long it will take) so next week feels like i’ll not accomplish much either.
But I am recognising that what I am feeling is normal and to be expected considering how much work I have put in. I treated myself to some lunch and coffee at a cafe to come up with a plan…while watching the office for the first time. As i’ll be in and out of the office next week due to Jury Duty, I’ll give you an update in two weeks time to see how I am going and share with you all what I did to try to overcome this.
Please let me know if you are a student, or were a student, or know a student who has gone through this or is tackling this at the moment. I would love to hear how other people deal with this and also other peoples stories!