How many times have we told ourselves that we’ll just “get through this week” and things will get better? Sure, it holds true when we have specific one-off events happening. Knowing me though, I’ll probably fill up any spare moment by saying yes to another opportunity I’m too scared to let go. Often this will come at the cost of time and space that I probably needed to recharge.
As an early career researcher in the academic world, the pressure that exists to keep taking on additional work and commitments never ceases. There are always grants to pursue, papers to write and professional development and networking opportunities to attend. On top of all that, I have a chronic condition that requires my 24-7 attention to manage.
In a way, I’m grateful to have diabetes in the background to remind me to look after myself. Some people might say that diabetes holds me back from taking on more. I would say that diabetes has taught me to be more efficient with my time while learning to be selective with the projects I take on.
That’s not to say that my fear of saying no to an opportunity doesn’t exist. I am very guilty of often taking on more than I can manage. Although I somehow seem to get through to the other side, I know this is not sustainable. I’ve seen many people in academia burnout and leave. Especially recently due to lockdown restrictions and an unstable workforce with budget cuts all round. Seeing and feeling the impact of this has been scary and sobering. It made me realise that our jobs are replaceable. There will be others lining up for this opportunity who are willing to take the sacrifices we won’t.
I’m slightly hopeful that mental wellbeing is starting to be taken seriously, particularly on the back of COVID19. However, it still comes down to my own mentality and approach to work/life balance. I need to stop waiting for “things to settle down” because they probably never will. As soon as one fire gets put out, something else will come along. I need to acknowledge that what is currently happening in my world now is my new (ever-changing) normal. To survive, I will need to adapt to it quickly in a sustainable way to avoid burning out.
What I’m going to commit to over the next few months:
- Be realistic with my daily to-do list – look at my calendar for the day and account for mental effort + meetings.
- Eat one piece of fruit every day (I’m really bad at this) and stay hydrated
- Limit emails over the weekend (I’m doing well with this for students…not so well for everything else)
- Remind myself not to feel guilty for turning down events that are not in my interest area
And now that I have written this and put it out there, let’s see how well I can stick to it!