the science of stress… or is it the stress of science?

I’m not surprised that it’s been two months since I pledged to blog more. On the other hand, I’m impressed that I’m actually writing a blog post and only two months have passed! I tend to think about blog material at the most inopportune times – usually I’m out riding my bike and thinking about how great life is and that I should totally go home and write about it. But, the reality is, is that when I get home I usually have some sort of obligation to attend to, whether it’s feeding Balo (the cat), checking email, grading papers, feeding myself, washing dishes, reading the latest publication… you get the idea. Grad school is tough. Everyone knows it’s tough. And everyone knows that it takes a certain balancing act to maintain your sanity as you accomplish each benchmark. Earlier this week I attended the science of stress (… or is it the stress of science?) workshop that was hosted by UNH’s Women in Science group. It was an excellent workshop that emphasized the importance of being able to cope with the stress that comes with pursuing a degree in higher education, especially in the STEM fields. From this workshop I was able to gather information about the health and counseling services that the university has to offer. I was truly impressed. After the workshop’s closing remarks, I rushed back to my computer and made an appointment right away to chat with a mentor about how to manage my stress. I also booked a massage for next week. Yes, UNH offers massages! Fantastic, no?

Since starting grad school at UNH I have intentionally made time to care for myself. After learning the impact a toxic environment can have on my mental and physical wellbeing, I have made it a priority to incorporate some sort of physical fitness into my daily routine, and so far it’s paid off tremendously. I’m not quite sure how I ended up stopping all forms of exercise during my last few months in Knoxville, but I did and I made all kinds of excuses for not moving my body. I think my decline in exercise started out gradually and continued to deteriorate over the course of a few years and I think it was the result of a combination of many things.

Fortunately, I pressed the reset button (for real, this time). Upon entering the NRESS PhD program, I made three semester goals that are (mostly) unrelated to academic goals: 1) run a trail half marathon (check!); 2) join the cycling team (check!); and 3) be more open about talking about the emotional and mental struggles that come in the grad school package. There’s a lot of taboo in our society that revolves around discussing mental health. Up until recently, I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it, mostly because I fell into the camp that perceived mental health struggles as a weakness. I also think I didn’t talk about it before because I didn’t realize or understand that I was (am?) actually experiencing negative impacts from being under so much stress. So, here I am; talking about this stuff! I’m one step closer to accomplishing Goal Number Three and one step closer to managing my stress more efficiently.

I want to emphasize that by taking an active stance toward bettering yourself, be it physical or mental, is not a weakness. On the contrary, it reflects strength and personal growth.IMG_5983

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