Five stress busting tactics for the overworked researcher

You may feel like you are in a never-ending loop with an excessive work-load, long hours, and beset by increasing demands on your time. You could be under intensely competitive performance-related scrutiny and expectations from both management and fee-paying students. So even finding time to consider your own well-being may simply not be up there in your set of priorities. This is probably leading to increased levels of stress, which in turn is having an impact on your health, and can be detrimental to your productivity. Here are five stress busting tactics for the overworked researcher.

The dedication to the task is often a false economy.” MC Schraefel Professor of Computer Science and Human Performance at the University of Southampton.

Through the research at University of Southampton’s Human Performance Design Lab in Electronics and Computer Science, they have defined a model to understand the well-being of the body. This may help you to consider what you can do to make changes in your life to benefit you both now and in the longer term.

1. Eating
Many case studies have shown the benefits of a good diet for your physical health. Skipping meals is one thing but you know that you have to eat to actually survive. There are some tips in our post on Unorthodox time management tips for researchers on planning a home cooked meal into your frantic schedule. If you want more about how you can eat better with some fairly straight forward changes, click here for 25 Life Hacks for eating better.
2. Sleeping
Getting enough sleep is a huge challenge in modern life. Getting to sleep and staying asleep is often thwarted by your mind not being able to stop. Here is a post on how to sleep better.  The issue of not getting enough sleep is that it can lead to other bad habits that will actually inhibit your health; such as poor eating habits, and needing copious amounts of stimulants, such as coffee, which all ultimately impact your brain’s activity.

3. Movement
Even more of a challenge to getting enough sleep is thinking about incorporating more physical activity into your schedule. Stress is a hormonal alarm telling your body to move, and when you respond to that cue the alarm switches off. You may feel you have enough physical challenges with carrying heavy weight textbooks, standing giving lectures for several hours during your week and walking between venues on campus. These are good cues for your body to switch off that hormonal alarm, and perhaps seeing those activities may help how you feel about doing these things. If you are more sedentary in the work you are doing, then perhaps you could think about how you can get more natural movement into your current routine in other ways. Here is a post from PLOS that gives you 10 simple ways to increase your physical activity. Our personal favourite from this list is to have walking meetings, go for a walk while you have your coffee and discuss a pressing issue.
4. Social engagement
Research shows people who have relationships, we don’t just mean romantic relationships, have greater longevity. However, making friends and going out (or staying in) to socialise can just be something that doesn’t come particularly naturally to everyone. So we have found a post on creating an action plan to make new friends and a bare bones guide. This is particularly important for global academics and their families. Moving countries and creating new successful social networks will have a strong bearing on whether or not you choose to stay or leave your location. We have a few posts on how to plug into a new community and culture here:-

Making friends in a new country
20 ideas for finding new friends after moving abroad

Making friends in a new city as you get older

How to help kids make friends: 10 Evidence-based tips

Helping your child make new friends

5. Cognitive engagement
Thinking deeply and being able to communicate your ideas well to others is a core practice of academic life. However, most of us can easily fall into the habit of considering the body’s needs as an inconvenient barrier to more time spent thinking. We hope this post highlights that you need to take care of your body so that you can get better use of your mind.

Read more about the research at Southampton University and the inbodied5 on a popular post on the Guardian.

Diana Hayes
A key part of the founding team, Diana is achievement-oriented, forward-thinking and strategic in creating a high-yielding network of interested academics, universities and related associations. Her research and content have created genuine engagement amongst both candidates and employers resulting in a network of 250,000 academics. Diana’s experience is in sales, marketing, event management and business development.

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