will provide mini-breaks.
Exercise is not only a good stress
reliever; it’s good for you. Use a fitness tracker or app that monitors your
steps or activity, and try to do just a
little bit more each day. Start a friendly competition with your friends and
encourage each other. Get out into
nature—take a walk around campus at
lunchtime, go to a park for a few minutes in the evening, or go for a hike on
Make sure to get enough sleep.
More time in the lab doesn’t help if
you’re too tired to be productive. Keep
your bedroom cool for sleeping, and
turn your phone to “Do Not Disturb.”
Build consistent sleep habits—go to
bed and get up at the same time every
day. Don’t stay up late during the week,
then “make it up” by sleeping in on the
Create healthy habits. It may be
hard at first, but after a month you
won’t think about it anymore. Maybe
it’s taking a piece of fruit for breakfast,
taking the stairs at work, or walking 30
minutes at lunchtime.
Avoid short-term fixes that cause
bigger problems, such as alcohol, cigarettes, mind-altering substances, or
excess caffeine, sugar, or carbohydrates.
In addition to taking care of your
physical health, there are many ways
you can adjust your mental attitude
and protect yourself during your
The more attention you focus on the
good things, the more of them you
will notice. Start a daily journal where
you list three things for which you are
grateful and three things that you have
accomplished. Write a thank you note to
someone who helped you. Go back and
review the list occasionally.
Let It Go
Get worries and anger out of your system. Write them down or tell someone
about whatever’s bothering you, then let
it go. Forgive others—the person who
cut you off in traffic may have been on
the way to an emergency, so take a deep
breath and move on. Let go of perfection—often 90% is good enough.
Reboot Your Brain
You need breaks—short ones during the
day, and longer ones over the course of a
week or a month or a year. Mini-breaks
can be as simple as inhaling deeply (not
like a chemist) the smell of a good cup of
coffee, or the scent of the outdoors after
a spring rain. Turning your phone off
for a few hours can provide a wonderful
Schedule breaks and fun outings,
rather than randomly falling into time-wasting activities. Put longer breaks on
your calendar, and take them. Planning
a short getaway gives you something to
look forward to, and just exploring possibilities (even in your own town) can
boost your mood.
THE 80/20 RULE
Some people find it helpful to analyze their tasks and priorities using the “80/20 Rule.” It states
that often 80% of the benefits result from 20% of the work.
Here are a couple of articles on the topic:
Diversify Your Life
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, you
will be more productive and happier if
you have more things going on in your
life. Being able to mentally leave a problem and focus on something else lets
you return later with fresh eyes. Often
you will see something new that allows
you to solve the problem.
As supreme Court Justice Ruth
Bader Ginsburg said: “My success in
law school, I have no doubt, was due in
large measure to baby Jane. I attended
classes and studied diligently until four
in the afternoon; the next hours were
Jane’s time, spent at the park, playing
silly games or singing funny songs,
reading picture books and A. A. Milne
poems, and bathing and feeding her.
After Jane’s bedtime, I returned to the
law books with renewed will. Each part
of my life provided respite from the
other and gave me a sense of proportion that classmates trained only on law
studies lacked.” From My Own Words,
by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Seek Out Positive People
Surrounding yourself with positive people will elevate your mood. Block out
time to spend with friends—in person!
You can maintain connections using
electronic means, but in-person contact
builds trust and deepens relationships.
Sharing experiences is wonderful, especially when they are things that involve
conversation and learning more about
Cultivate a wide variety of friends—
some in your research group or department (who are going through the same
things you are), some at other institutions (who can tell you what things are
like there). You even may have some
friends who are nonscientists and who
have a completely different perspective.
Even if you can’t see them often, keeping
not an afterthought ”