Self-care tips to beat the November blues
With November being here, so is the start of the short days and long dark hours, cold and (even more) rain. I love the run-up to Christmas, but it just doesn’t feel like the run-up to Christmas until the beginning of December, despite what all the shops seem to think!
November feels like long nights, going to work in the dark and heading back home in the dark. If I have a full day in the lab as well, it means I get to spend all day in the basement, so I basically never see daylight. Our body clock depends on the daily rhythm of sunlight and darkness to determine when we are awake and when we sleep, so if we aren’t exposed to enough light during the daytime hours, our circadian rhythms can become messed up. This all can make it quite easy to go down a spiral of tiredness, feeling unproductive and unmotivated.
In our previous articles about self-care, we talked about the benefits of exercise, be it training for a race or simply cycling to the office, as well as shared some your self-care tips. And often, being more productive with your research involves switching off at the end of the day and taking regular breaks!
Of course, if you are struggling with coping with your PhD, staying on top of your research and are finding yourself more stressed than usual, talk to someone. That someone can be your office and lab mates or your family and friends from outside your PhD. UofG also has a counselling service, and if you feel like you need their help, don’t hesitate to make an appointment.
I know that the main thing that affects me is the lack of daylight hours, so I’ve decided to try and take a half an hour walk at lunchtime to take advantage of some of the light hours. I know it often rains a lot, but as someone suggested to me, a short walk in the rain could be quite refreshing. I am also trying to keep a fairly consistent exercise regime. Nothing too fancy, but I do try to go to the gym for half an hour about four times a week. I definitely found that sticking to this has really improved my productivity throughout the day.
Similarly to that, I try to spend most of my weekend outdoors. A weekend away camping has actually been shown to reset the human body clock, resulting in less tiredness and overall stress. If it is too cold for camping, given the time of the year, you could just take a long walk in one of Glasgow’s many parks as going hillwalking far away could become a bit dangerous in the more unpredictable weather, temperatures and with the early sunset. However, I do try to explore a new place if it’s possible. I recently went to Arbroath to explore some of the cliffs on the East coast, and it was one of the nicest coastal walks I’ve done. The sunshine and mild temperatures certainly helped with my impressions of it as well!
Another thing I’ve started doing is eating more fruits and veggies. I’ve always liked them, but with the cold and dark I find myself wanting to bake and eat all the chocolatey results even more than usually. Of course there is nothing wrong with baking and enjoying cakes and chocolate, but I know they tend to make me a bit sluggish - and we need to try and eat our five-a-day as well! So to get me to regularly eat more fruits and veggies, and try and cook with new ones more often, I’ve decided to stick a blank A4 sheet of paper on my fridge and try fill it up with as many stickers from fruits and veggies as possible. Hopefully by the time we all get into the winter holiday spirit, I will have an A4 sized sticker made out of lots of colourful stickers!
I’m doing more things that make me happy on a daily basis, and I encourage everyone to try and do this as well. I love reading, and I usually bring a book with me everywhere and read on public transport. I call my grandparents at least once a week, drink hot tea to warm myself up and wear colourful hats.
These are some of the things I love doing, and I’ve started doing them more and more and trying to turn them into habits to make sure I stay on top of my research, reading and writing, but also that I enjoy my time as a PhD student, stay passionate about my research and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
There is a lot of science suggesting that getting more daylight and having a regular routine of exercise and sleep has a positive effect on our wellbeing. Of course, different people have different self-care tips, so if you don’t like any of these ideas maybe have a look at the tips other PGR students have shared in our #PGRSelfCare competition that we’ve ran on Twitter, and read the blog post written about it here.
How do you feel around this time of the year? Does the change in seasons affect your productivity and your happiness? What are your self care tips and what are you doing to stay on top of everything? Let us know in the comments!