Self-care in Graduate Life

Photo by @GradLifeMcGill instagrammer @na0mirlima.

Photo by @GradLifeMcGill instagrammer @na0mirlima.

As I was scrolling through my LinkedIn feed last week, I came across an article titled “Leadership or Self-Care – That is the Question.” This title shocked me. I took a second to think about what the title was saying: You can have either leadership success or appropriate self-care, but not both. After reading the article, I understand that the author was trying to portray the fact that many successful business-people tend to put their careers before their personal needs – a phenomenon not limited to the corporate workplace. However, I do not agree with the sentiment that you have to choose either success in the workplace OR personal well-being. I believe they need to go hand-in-hand to optimize overall success.

As a graduate student, my workplace is the lab. There are leadership components in graduate school, juggling TA positions, meetings with supervisors and committee members, writing theses, and mentoring younger students. We, as grad students, work long hours when we have to, and go out of our way to make sure our work is comprehensive and presentable. These tasks require great co-ordination skills, time-management, and initiative. In order to execute these skills as a graduate student, it is important to take care of yourself first, to make sure you’re both mentally and physically ready to do so. Thankfully, the last line of the article was, “Rejuvenating yourself will strengthen your leadership.” I completely agree with that statement, and I’ve come up with a list of ways to rejuvenate yourself before December comes and the looming deadlines start approaching.

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Staying healthy!

   Different people have different lifestyles. It is a fact so evident that we sometimes don’t fully comprehend what that entails. I am more specifically referring to the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle comprised of a proper diet and regular exercise. I don’t know if it is because I wasn’t really one to work out intensively before and thus simply did not see it around me, but when I was living in Sherbrooke I did not notice  a considerable amount of people, that exercised regularly (out in the open at least). However, now that I am  a grad student in Montreal and that I do work out and exercise regularly, I am noticing a high number of people doing the same. Every day as I am walking to work or back home, I remark numerous people running outside in the beautiful weather. Even sub-zero temperatures or pouring rain does not stop determined individuals from going outside and getting some exercise. It even seems that the people who exercise regularly and eat healthy are part of a community of individuals who are determined to pursue a healthy lifestyle. Almost like a clique of  health-conscious individuals. Some wish to be fit and toned, others want to develop muscles while some simply want to be in shape. All of these are great reasons to exercise often. I personally belong to the latter category. My main goal is to be in shape and healthy, for my own good. I always feel physically and mentally better after I exercise.

   Unfortunately, let’s face it: exercising is far from being fun and exciting for everyone at any given time. Personally, I find that what helps me continue my workout regimen is to do activities that I enjoy. It seems obvious, but it wasn’t always so for me. For instance, instead of doing seemingly unpleasant workouts, I run outside in the morning while I can gather my thoughts in the silent and chilly morning air. I have also recently taken up squash. I initially had my doubts about this sport, but I gave it a try and I now thoroughly enjoy it. Instead of being a boring activity that I must do to get some exercise, it is a fun activity that I do with friends. Fortunately, at the same time it is a very good sport to play. It involves a lot of cardio, develops thigh and bicep muscles and ameliorates hand-eye coordination. I highly suggest that you give it, or any other sport for that matter, a try! My tip is thus the following: do something that you enjoy, with friends if possible! It will improve the experience and the workout will seem much shorter in duration. Plus, it is always more enjoyably and more motivating to exercise with someone else. Another personal example is that this week, for the first time, I started running with someone else. My best friend and I motivated ourselves to go running in the evening after work. It was very interesting to run with someone else, firstly because it was nice to have someone to talk to and mostly because we challenged each other to run faster and longer. So grab a friend, go outside, do some exercise and have some fun! Your body and mind will thank me (and you) later.

– It does not matter how slow you are going, so long as you do not stop. – Confucius

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