Scientists, and graduate students in particular, are extremely susceptible to mental distress (Elisabeth Pain, Science). I’m by no means immune to that. On the contrary, I make an effort to be public about this. We all struggle. There’s no shame in that. And I applaud those who recognize that they need help. I hope to destigmatize seeking help–in whatever form that may be, by being honest about my own imperfect life.
In graduate school, we’re told that your research comes first, your academics come second, and the rest of your life comes third. And here is where I’m in complete disagreement. Your health, your well-being, your life–should be a priority. By putting yourself first, you can produce better science and therefore, be an even better graduate student.
I still spend plenty of time on my research and my academics. “Lunch breaks” are simply the time when you can find me shoveling a salad into my mouth while reading up on some statistics or trying to get my code to run. But, true breaks are necessary. Vital, some might say.
As a graduate student in the Fisheries and Wildlife Science Department, I’m a part of the FWGSA (Fisheries and Wildlife Graduate Student Association), which has already helped me immensely. These students understand what I’m going through and can commiserate when I need to vent and give advice when I seek wisdom. Oh, and they’re also a bunch of super cool (nerdy) people who recognize the need for breaks. They organized a campout in the beginning of October where about 25 of us spent the weekend in Umpqua National Forest, exploring the great outdoors, playing games, and letting loose. Sure, we all have full plates, but we also are human and need some fun!
I encourage everyone to seek out friends, family, colleagues, who can help you be in a better place. Sometimes that means a phone call, other times, that means getting off the grid for a weekend hiking around Crater Lake. No matter what it is, remember: you matter, your mental and physical health matter, your happiness matters.