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May
01

Social Life of Ph.D Scholar. Yes, they have one too!

Often as a PhD, Scholar, our social lives go for a toss with tight submission deadlines and busy schedules. We are a rare breed of nerds who are looked at with awe but no one really wants to follow in our footsteps. Once a friend told me how he went on a ramble about his research topic to a classful of undergrads. Their only reaction was gawking at my dear friend! Given a centre stage, all I can do is gush about my topic while boring the audience to death! This is us in our social avatars. Extremely avoidable, no? However, having an active social life is equally important as doing your research. And don’t feel guilty for indulging in frivolous activities. 

If your social life looks like the illustration above, here are some tips to balance your social life:

1.Take a break, do something frivolous

Sujata, a dear friend, an avid traveller and a PhD in Development Studies once told me whenever she faced a writer’s block, she immediately stopped working. Instead of letting the stress take her over, she indulged in watching tv or reading or going shopping and splurging. Her mantra-Take the day off! Don’t let the pressure hit you. Take some time to think about other meaningful things that refresh and reboot you, want to spend some time meaninglessly binging Netflix, you’re on! You can slack for a day.

Protip: Like in dieting, have a cheat day!

2.Pick up a hobby

Being passionate about research does not mean one leads a dull life. Picking up a hobby can be both creative and stress buster. An added benefit of picking up a hobby is that you can harness your creative self to write your thesis. Pick up an activity which is new. This will help you enhance problem-solving skills. They could even be small things like taking a walk in the park or gardening, or who knows? Baking! Whatever it is find more activities that spruce up your life so that there’s an outlet for all that pent up stress.

3.Be a good listener

Life doesn’t revolve around your research topic. Often PhD Scholars tend to isolate themselves in their world. Make friends outside your PhD group. Cultivate new ideas by listening to others empathetically. The most important aspect here is to be genuinely interested in other people’s lives and their stories, give them your full attention when they’re talking to you, and it might surprise you later, there’s a world outside PhD too! Don’t alienate your friends and family to get the holy grail. Remember they are your biggest supporters and will stick with you even after your PhD is over.

4.Identify your priorities

Your number one priority is your research. Make a timetable or organize your day. Decide the hours you want to devote to your thesis. Stick to it religiously. Classify the tasks which you find easiest and the most difficult. This will not only enhance your productivity but also make sure you have time to enjoy yourself. Make sure to reward yourself for every milestone you achieve. 

5.Practice mindfulness 

PhD is a lonely and long journey, but it need not be a burden to your life. Spare some time in the day to meditate. Mindfulness or being aware of the present moment helps you take some of that stress off. It helps you concentrate on the present task rather than worry about things which you cannot control. Take up a guided meditation course on Youtube or join a meditation group. To practice mindfulness, you need just ten minutes of your day. There are tonnes of online resources available, here’s a personal favourite: https://tinyurl.com/y92nxdyg which delivers small tips of mindfulness every day in your inbox for a week to get you started.

So, that’s how you rock at being a scholar and still having a social life! How do you balance your life, let us know in comments?