Most winters, I find myself re-reading some of my favorite books from childhood. Curling up with a warm beverage and a blanket in a cozy nest is one of my favorite ways to beat the winter blues. So I was a little surprised to find myself reaching for these favorites again now, when the long summer days mean I can read outside late into the evenings. Then I happened upon this article from the Washington Post that put my yearning for familiar books in a broader context: the pandemic has made me tired, and re-reading doesn’t require the same cognitive load as plowing through new materials.
When I was in grad school, I did very little reading that wasn’t related to my dissertation research. But I had a set of favorite titles from my childhood, and I’d reach for them when I needed a break. They were familiar and easy — and I could just relax and enjoy them without needing to worry about citing sources or writing summaries.
So, as our summer at home enters its second month, be sure you’re making time for routines that are familiar and comforting. Favorite books, recipes, games, music and traditions can help bolster our spirits and relax our minds and bodies.
Three Things to Try This Week
Box Breathing — this is a stress reduction technique I learned from a counselor at CAPS many years ago, and use frequently to relax and re-center myself. You can do it anywhere, without anyone else noticing, which makes it great for calming nerves before a meeting, presentation or interview. I also like to combine it with some simple arm and neck stretches at my desk to take quick breaks during the day.
Desk Stretches — when I’m using the Pomodoro technique (see last week’s blog for details), I take stretch breaks between timers. Here’s a quick list of exercises you can do without leaving your chair — although getting up and walking around periodically is important too!
Read Something Funny — one of my go-to stress-relieving (procrastinating!) websites during graduate school was PhDcomics.com. Check out their 200 most popular comics.
- Summer is a great time to try out new recipes. Personally, I love making pasta salad because I can use up leftover veggies, cheeses or meats easily — and it gets better with time as it marinates in the fridge. You can find lots of recipe variations online, but here’s a basic explanation of the key elements of making a great pasta salad: https://www.thekitchn.com/easy-pasta-salad-recipe-258379
- Try some yoga! I’ve added some simple (almost) daily stretches to my summer time routine, and definitely feel better afterwards. I searched for videos online that addressed my personal issues, like neck tightness, but if you’re not in the mood to search you might find this short list of yoga poses you can do from/with your chair to be a good starting point: https://www.doyou.com/7-yoga-poses-you-can-do-at-your-work-desk-to-relieve-stress-68712/
- As you get nearer to the end of your time in graduate school, many students unexpectedly find themselves grieving the transition out of academia and into the “real world.” Although it’s easy to wish you were done when you’re in the midst of a challenging experiment or analysis, being a graduate student is a huge part of your identity for years. This post on GradHacker is a good discussion about this phenomenon, and ways to work through it: https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/grief-graduation