PGR Self-care

Sometimes it can be hard to switch off from your studies, but it is important to rest sometimes. Here, Jie Zhang (a 2nd year PhD student in the School of Education) shares her top tips for making the most of your break from work.  How to rest?

As PGR students are keen to better understand ‘How to Study’, they pay less attention to ‘How to Rest’. However, it is important for them to realise that learning ‘How to rest’ will support them in their studies.

It is common for PGR students to feel guilty about not achieving anything for a day. It may be the case that they jump between ‘focused’ and ‘distracted’, circling between these states again and again. However, how much time we spend working is not, necessarily, linked with how many tasks we can achieve—efficiency is the key to achievement!

Having a rest is a great way to make you work more efficiently. For instance, the Pomodoro technique (available as an app on your phone or laptop) helps you to focus your work into short 25-minute sessions separated by five-minute breaks. These breaks are not wasted time, they help you clear your mind and prepare you for the next study session. Be Focused App, a similar software, manages time more flexibly than Pomodoro, as you can set the length of the sessions and breaks to whatever works best for you.

Small changes, big differences

As learning ‘how to rest’ could help you study, let’s see some examples of taking a rest. Generally, the actions you take do not have to be big to have a big impact. Instead, in my view, even small changes will make a big difference. Here are just a few of the things I do:

1) Breathe some fresh air

PGR students spend plenty of time sitting in front of a computer. Going out and breathing fresh air will bring new blood into your brain. Having a walk outside can make me feel calm and relaxed, which helps me to focus when I return to study. It doesn’t need to be a long outing: Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow botanic gardens or any garden near your workplace or home would be a good choice. For example, I took part in the ‘Walk and Talk’ activity offered by the School of Education. It was a great opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of our neighbouring Kelvingrove Park and socialise with other PhD students and supervisors in a more comfortable way. The ‘Tuesday PGR Lunchtime Walks’ are another great option, where you can go for a walk around our lovely campus and share your PGR experiences with other people. Both activities only take a short time, but it is absolutely helpful to breathe some fresh air and freshen your mind. If you are interested in a longer, one-day trip, Student Tours Scotland can be a good choice. This local tour company offers day trips to destinations such as the Isle of Bute, Oban and Inveraray and Loch Ness.

2) Try something new

Making some new food is something I always want to do, but rarely have the time. I have a habit of taking notes on what I am interested in trying, but often forget about them after some time. However, from time to time I try to persuade myself to try one of them. For example, I recently liked the look of a dish when I saw a picture of it, so I noted it down and then searched for recipes and tips online for how to make it. I am always happy when I manage to make the time to try something new, which I am proud of myself for doing. It doesn’t need to be anything complicated, you can just try a new sauce or a new way of cooking. If food isn’t your thing, there are lots of alternatives: the University’s gym has lots of different exercise classes, and there are student clubs for almost every hobby you could want to try.

3) Have the eye to capture beauty

Most of the time, what we lack is the eye to capture beauty. As long as you have the eye to notice and explore, there will be many beautiful things around you at the UofG. It can be a cute dog in the park, a lovely child running on the street or someone saying "hi" with smile. One day I took a photo of the sky when I was walking back home; such a beautiful sky! However, sometimes we may need something to remind us of the beauty around us. The UoG Facebook account, for example, constantly posts photos of our beautiful university campus. They also share the experiences of others, showing how proud they are of our university and how much they love it.

These three examples may give you some ideas on how to relax yourself. However, time always flies. We need to take care of ourselves, to make ourselves happy—what works for me is to make every day special. Again, it doesn’t need to be a big action. Have an open heart, embrace everything in your life and try to enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! Make every day special to you! Once you start doing that, it will make a big difference to your studies and your life!

These are some great ideas from Jie. How do you unwind from the stresses of PGR study? Do you take regular breaks throughout the day? What do you enjoy doing? Share your stories and ideas in the comments below or on Twitter (@UofG_PGRblog).

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