Stressors can be various, but for Doctoral Researchers, it mostly starts with a high workload and high expectations – which potentially activates a downwards spiral: This can lead to less time for hobbies (friends, sports etc.), which can be leading to sleeplessness and therefore tiredness and in the end potentially social isolation. But everyone deals with stress differently. Some seem pretty robust when it comes to stress – mainly because they´ve learned how to personally deal with stress. While some seem very prone to stress and react with severe psychological as well as physiological symptoms. In the end, nobody is immune to stress.
Have you been waking up in the middle of the night because you were thinking about a project you need to finish soon? Do you feel overrun because you can´t keep up with the project outline? Do you feel chased by deadline after deadline? Are you feeling tired a lot? Do you have twitching muscles, like your eyelids or fingers? Has your appetite changed? Have you gained or lost a lot of weight? Have you felt struggled to concentrate on work? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are probably stressed.
People tend to overlook these early signs or do not take them seriously. We think, in a few days everything will be fine again. We think we need to function or otherwise we´re worthless. We think our whole future depends on this one talk we have to hold within the institute.
But often these signs last – and you slowly start getting used to them. But the stress itself is still there and the signs of stress get worse. At some point, they might even lead to the burnout syndrome.
Therefore, it is very useful to learn for yourself which signs of stress you are experiencing. Knowing your personal symptoms already helps to prevent further stress and prevent letting it slip and get worse.
Additionally, by increasing your knowledge in this topic you might be able to identify such signs in your colleagues who might be eager to have someone understand what they are going through.
It is no sign of weakness to admit that you are stressed and need a break!
Therefore, be honest with yourself.
A non-stressed you is way more productive than a completely stressed-out you.
Keep that in mind!
All the best!
The Mental Health Awareness Month post series is brought to you by Helmholtz Juniors
We thank Pedro Ivo Silva Batista (DESY), Martin Schrader (HZDR), Michaela Löffler (UFZ), Nicolas Stoll (AWI), Fabian Wolf (GEOMAR), Younes Bouhadjar (FZJ), Stephanie Taylor (DZNE), Khwab Sanghvi (DKFZ), Lukas Kreis (GSI), Johannes Nelles (UFZ), Vasundhra Shaw (DESY) and Olya Oppenheim (MDC) for the text and Marlene Härtel (HZB), Martin Schrader (HZDR), Anna-Lena Amend (HMGU) and Xin You (UFZ) for the design.
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