This post by James Donald from The Thesis Whisperer’s blog is also pretty relevant for ECRs, I think. In our case, though, the oxygen mask analogy can work in terms of getting your own career path on track before you over-assist others with theirs. We all need a ‘circle of niceness’ and mutual support – but we are equally all applying for the same pool of jobs. Unless the assistance is quid pro quo, it’s not fair to put additional pressure on yourself by helping people out at the expense of your own deadlines and wellbeing. 

Issues surrounding doing things for free crop up here too: on the one hand, we need the experience, on the other there’s the problem of being seen as The Go-To Person who does things for free as a matter of course. I’m not saying we shouldn’t help each other out – I’m more than happy to help with queries, references, the odd read-through and edit etc for folks I know would do the same for me or who are just starting out on their PhD journey. I just wouldn’t do it if I couldn’t manage my workload around it, or if I suspected I would be left out of acknowledgements (rude, but I know it’s happened to some) or if I felt I was being taken advantage of. Fortunately, so far, none of these things have happened to me (you guys are alright) but I’m aware others haven’t been so lucky!
That’s why the ‘circle of niceness’ is so important in the first place, but it has to be a circle of mutual respect too. Not just for one another’s work, but for one another’s right to say ‘no’ to additional work or professional favours with no hard feelings. Respect for ourselves is also key, or else how will you know when to say ‘no’?

Practice self-compassion, argues James Donald, and compassion for others will come easier, and less likely to contribute to burn out and stress.

As part of my own journey, I’m determined to be a #HealthyAcademic (physically and mentally), and this post helped a lot.

The Thesis Whisperer

This post is by James Donald, a PhD student in Organisational Behaviour at the ANU. His research explores the impacts of mindfulness on stress and resilience in the workplace. James is an experienced facilitator and mindfulness trainer, and regularly leads mindfulness and well-being workshops in the community, public and private sectors. His training company is Mindfulness Works.

Last time we heard from James on the Whisperer he wrote about How to survive a mid PhD crisis.This post is about self compassion and how it can help with your PhD.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 3.04.14 pmThe idea of compassion or kindness in doing a PhD may seem odd. We are all driven by our passion to learn, to succeed and ultimately, to graduate! Success, hard work and kindness may not seem likely office mates.

Our modern, Western culture is about being seen to be resilient and at times, tough. Toughness with those around us, and of course, with ourselves. We’re forever…

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