This week’s blog post links really nicely with Rebecca Seymour’s post for the Health and Life Science’s student newsletter at Coventry University, The Importance of Taking Breaks and using Your Annual Leave. I couldn’t agree with her more and having just come back from some annual leave myself (apologies for the recent silence), I thought I would share my experiences of taking time off and getting back into PhD mode.
Canada and the U.S.A.
For some context, my darling Husband and I took an amazing two-week trip to Canada to see a dear friend,
nicknamed KP. I met him while working at the University of Southampton and we hadn’t seen each other for nearly 2 years! We all met in Calgary, where he lives and works, and then we all flew over to Vancouver. We took a road trip down to Seattle for 3 days and then enjoyed Vancouver for few days. It was wonderful! We saw all the sights and ate all the food. We relaxed in Calgary for a little while again before saying ‘see you soon’ and heading home. It was a busy holiday but one we had looked forward to for a long time.
But what about my PhD?
While I acknowledge how important it is to take time off, personally I find it so difficult to step away from my PhD and properly relax. It’s impossible for me to not think about my PhD as it is my life. I will admit I took some work with me. It was a long flight and I thought I could use the time but I was way too tired and anxious (fear of flying) to concentrate on the plane. Then, I felt quite guilty that I hadn’t been able to do anything on the plane and seemed like I had wasted a lot of time (silly right?). At the end of the day it was still going to be there when I got back and I need not worry but just enjoy my holiday. Even though I knew it was OK to take time off and everyone has time off, work was in the back of my mind. I found myself reading a paper or thinking about what I need to do when I get back (I know – I should be enjoying my holiday!). Towards the middle of my holiday thoughts about my PhD started to lessen and I was enjoying the sights and experiencing new things. Nearing the end of my holiday with the departure date was getting closer, it was soon back to reality and I couldn’t help but think about everything I needed to get done.
I was hoping that coming back to the PhD after a lovely holiday would mean I’d have fresh eyes on my analysis and I would feel refreshed, motivated and keen to finish my analysis. It didn’t quite work like that. The jet lag coupled with the heat meant it has been difficult to concentrate. I had no idea what jet lag was before this trip let alone how to deal with it. The 7-hour time difference really knocked me, I need my sleep and I just wasn’t getting enough. However, I hasn’t taken long to get back on track with a so far somewhat productive week.
Regardless I had a lovely holiday and it was exactly what I needed. I believe it’s extremely important to take time off during a PhD, whether that’s to go on holiday or just having a weekend at home to relax. It’s extremely hard to switch off from PhD mode but it will still be there when you get back. Don’t be too hard on yourself enjoy a summer holiday! You need time off and it will do you so much good in the long run.
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