It’s that time of year again. The academic year is ramping up, everyone is back from their summer holiday and expecting miraculous things from you, the deadlines are rolling in and there is (unfortunately) no end in sight. So of course, Paxman, like many of you, is wondering:
How can I feel less pressure/stress in my work?
Stress? Pressure? Surely you love your research enough that every minute of work is a pure joy and whenever you’re not in the office you’re counting down till your return?
I jest, of course. No matter how brilliant and engaging your research is, how fun your office mates are, and how tasty your packed lunch is, there are plenty of days (weeks, months) where the stress and pressure gets to us all.
But how do you cope with it? How do you make it feel a little less soul crushing when, as soon as one deadline is completed, you’re having to dive straight into the next one.
First, learn the beauty of the word “no”. It can definitely be a hard thing to say – you want to please all your superiors, show that you’re productive and enthusiastic. However, there is a limit, and teaching people to respect this limit with a polite but firm “no, I can’t do that this week, I’m sorry” is they first step in minimising your workload and your stress levels.
Secondly, when it comes to pressure, remember that, no matter how much you might like to believe it, you are not a super human. You will make mistakes, you will delete all of your days work by accident from time to time because you forgot to save at regular intervals and your computer crashed, and you will say something stupid in a meeting that you will think about every night before you sleep for the next week. Ground yourself and remember that everyone else is making all of these mistakes too – you are not perfect and you don’t need to waste time and energy attempting/pretending to be.
Finally, make sure to utilise all your available non-work time. I don’t mean cram your social calendar, endlessly visit the gym and stay on top of your chores. But utilise it in a way that suits you in that moment. See friends when you need company, but also find the time to wallow in bed with a pizza and a good movie, take a gentle stroll for some fresh air, and just find that little bit of joy that your craving which your job seems to currently be sucking out of you at every given opportunity.
Hope this helps you to feel somewhat less stress and pressure!
The Sassy Scientist
PS: A wise woman once told me that stressed spelt backwards is desserts – if in doubt, doughnuts.