As summer is drawing to a close and the new academic year is approaching, fatigue and disappointment may be lurking nearby. Maybe you didn’t take all the trips you had dreamed of or you didn’t check off all of the items on your summer to-do list. Perhaps you are finding that your work is dragging on and taking longer than you once hoped for, leaving you feeling frustrated and tired. The academic summer is one that is usually spent trying to make large leaps of progress due to less obligations that are typically demanded during the academic year. However, for those of us living in wintery climates, summer is a time when we want to be outside to refresh and recharge ourselves before winter comes again. In the end, we may end up with incremental progress on our work and only 50% recharged for the upcoming academic year.
Now, have you ever considered why you end up in this tired and slightly disappointed state of mind about mid-August? A factor that may be contributing to these sensations is our unwavering work ethic and work-centric academic culture in the US. I consider myself blessed to be exposed to many culturally diverse people throughout my scientific training so far. Our conversations about different work attitudes and perspectives on life around the world have been very eye-opening to me. Couple this knowledge with my recent mindfulness journey and I can definitely say my own perspective has begun to shift! I have begun to congratulate myself for completing the small tasks that culminate into the desired end-goal outcome. More so, my practice of mindful meditation has helped me learn to cherish the daily grind because life is not only about the destination, but also about the journey on how you reached it.
In my opinion, remembering to be present and live in the moment is incredibly beneficial to graduate students. As doctoral students, we all have one big final destination in mind: the PhD! On top of that, we have yearly-based destinations in mind such as officially declaring your thesis advisor, passing qualifying exams, and annual dissertation advisory committee meetings that all go on to say that we are making adequate progress towards the final destination. I feel that it is easy for grad students to become overwhelmed and anxious and begin to dwell on reaching and passing the yearly destinations. Our fixation on overcoming these checkpoints can often lead us to forgetting to enjoy ourselves along the way. Mindfulness helps pull all of these strings together by teaching us to be present, to be accepting, and to have self-compassion. As I mentioned before, I remember to humbly celebrate my victories (however small or incremental they may be) because this helps me feel positive and energetic to continue climbing towards the summit.