With the start of another year, comes the pressure to ditch bad habits and buckle down on the PhD. But with this whole ‘new year, new me’ attitude it can be easy to forget about the importance of giving yourself a wee break and practicing self-care. So this year, instead of focusing on how we intend to improve ourselves in the upcoming 12 months, Pubs and Publications committee members are sharing how they relaxed this holiday period and came back to their project refreshed and rearing to go!
After 3 Christmases staying home in Scotland with my partner’s family over the holidays, my mum finally put her foot down: it was time to come back to the States! I completed my ethics application the day before I left, and with that I could completely relax. All I could do was wait, so I switched off my email alerts and grabbed some cheesy novels and headed to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
My partner and I tried ALL the local craft beer in Denver, visited aliens in Roswell, and wandered through the largest cave system in Carlsbad. As well as doing all the touristy stuff, I got to see all my family, with some adorable new additions (see picture), and even got a white Christmas! Taking this time off over the holidays is so important to our wellbeing, and you might as well because no one is going to respond to your emails anyway! So switch off and take this feel good feeling with you into the New Year!
Let’s warm up! This is what Christmas is about, right? Warming up heart, soul and body – thanks to good hugs, good time and good food. However, going back to Italy – I must say it, with all the apologies for making you jealous – really warmed me up, thanks to a three weeks non-stop sun session (pretty unusual for Italian weather too, actually). I was pretending to be a sunflower. Photosynthesis completed, I hence got back to our lovely Edinburgh, but I’m holding in a happy place of my mind all the smiles I collected at home. Dear PhD students, give yourself the time to warm up, when you have the chance to!
Christmas always comes as welcome relief for me. The PhD can be all consuming and the holiday break is a perfect opportunity to forget academia, just for a little while. For me, the best way to switch off is to let something else – something fun – consume the majority of your time and thoughts. I spent much of late December engrossed in the exploits of various Christmas princes, time travelling knights, and switched princesses. Cheesy and terrible Christmas films are an excellent vehicle to totally distract you.
Christmas was also awash with lots and lots of football. As a diehard (and currently exceedingly happy) Liverpool fan, the Christmas period allowed me to spend much of my time plonked in front on the tele cheering another win. When I was watching Trent Alexander-Arnold’s screamer against Leicester my research was incredibly far from my mind! My advice for PhD students looking to switch off – at Christmas or at any other time really – is to transfer the obsession many of have for our doctoral projects onto something else, something fun!
As many students, over the winter break I went home-home, to visit my parents. More importantly, I went to visit my little dog, Rio. As a big proponent of blocking out many hours in my diary for doing absolutely nothing, I followed the same rule during much of December, too. I spent two or so weeks doing very little, although I did ensure to find some time to look after myself by spending time with close friends and going on freezing-cold, long walks at the beach.
After more than a year away, Pennsylvania seemed to be beckoning, so it was home for the holidays for me. Not only had I been missing my friends and family, but I was also beyond excited to show my Kentish boyfriend all that York County, Pennsylvania has to offer. So, for an entire two weeks, I stepped away from all things PhD, and I didn’t even feel guilty! I knew that the piles essays on my desk labelled ‘to be marked’ wasn’t going to get any smaller, and I knew that the word count my next chapter wouldn’t be getting any higher, but it was more important to me to completely engage with the people I love while I had the opportunity.
So, instead of scoffing down leftovers in front of my laptop, I ate my body weight in Philly cheese steaks and my grandma’s snickerdoodle cookies. Instead of highlighting my way through JSTOR articles, I read The Gruffalo with my goddaughter. Instead of stressing about getting to the gym after work, I hiked around Gettysburg National Military Park with my boyfriend and scored a touchdown in the King Family Christmas morning football game. And most importantly, I allowed myself to enjoy every minute of it! Even though I may not have been entirely ready to return to normalcy, I came back to my desk feeling refreshed and maybe even a little bit excited to start writing again. Who knew time away could do that to an academic?!