First, recruit your team

When you’re at the very beginning of a research programme, it can feel like there’s an overwhelming amount of stuff that you are encouraged to engage with (including induction and Welcome) on top of getting started on your research.

Image credit: Montclair Film

My advice? Prioritise the activities that will help you build relationships with people. Yes, sometimes even over your research activity. It’s the people around you who can make all the difference to your PGR experience.

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We need to talk… about PhD student mental health

Just in time for Time to Talk Day on Thursday 4 February, Samantha Sandilands, a PGR from the School of Management, talks about some of her early warning signs and the value of support networks in matters of mental health.  A fuller version of this post can be found on LinkedIn.

The PhD process has been amazing in so many ways. What nobody can prepare you for however, is how much it challenges your mental health.

Concrete shaped and painted to look like a pumpkin
Samantha’s concrete pumpkin

Eight months in, I attended a session for PhD students at a conference, delivered by the amazing Beth Patmore, about mental health during your doctorate. I could relate to so much of what she was saying, but I never really associated it with poor mental health. Procrastination, strange sleeping patterns, putting on weight, overeating, feeling guilty for having a day off… in my group we all agreed that we could relate. As Beth read out some of the signs, ripples of agreement travelled through the room, some uncomfortable laughter, nodding, awkward silences. Even at that stage, the signs were there but I brushed it off… “I’ll be fine”.

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New year, new lockdown

Happy New Year! This isn’t where we’d hope to be at the start of a new year, but there is relief in having got through 2020 and in knowing that vaccines are on their way. While we wait, 2021 will have to be about being kind to ourselves, leveraging the self-knowledge we have gained in 2020 to cope with local restrictions, protecting our mental health, and taking steps forward with our work.

A family in a house cradled between hands, surrounded by coronavirusEngland is in the process of entering a third national lockdown. Those of us living on or near campus must stay at home except where necessary (necessary activities include work, grocery shopping and exercise). We’ve done this before, and the familiar rhythms of daily exercise, meal planning and Zoom calls are already established. Think about what worked and what didn’t work for you during previous periods of restrictions and use that knowledge to get through this one as best you can. If you’re not in England, check your local restrictions.

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Life enclosed – creativity for wellbeing

PGRs Matthew McKenna and Chee Man Tang (Michael) from the Institute of Local Government Studies and the Department of Theology and Religion respectively, have been turning to music to support their mental health and wellbeing through the lockdown.

Matthew writes:

At the risk of sounding ungrateful for the privileged position I find myself in, it seems to me that I have experienced a double whammy of irony in the past few months. I finally moved out of the family home and moved to Birmingham to begin my PGR career into the study of public policy failure and just as I was beginning to settle into life at UoB, the world enters into the biggest global public policy failure seen in generations and I am back in the family home.

This has led to a drastic (and maybe permanent) restructuring of my daily routine and has required me to adapt and make peace with the psychological demands of sleeping, eating, researching and relaxing within the confines of a small selection of walls. A sense of hopelessness engulfed me to begin with (because who wants to conduct a three year PhD from their bedside desk?) but this has been mitigated through balancing my vocation as a researcher with my passion as a musician. Together with my good friend, Michael, who is also a new PGR at UoB and a talented producer, we have created the track Life Enclosed.

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Fast away the old year passes…

…and suddenly campus is quiet.  The undergraduates have gone home for the Christmas break and the short days and grey weather discourage lingering in the Green Heart. There’s a feeling of winding down as staff and researchers breathe more easily now that the freneticism of the Autumn Term is over. What will you be doing over the Christmas break?

 

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Wellbeing check-up

In this post, Catherine Robertson from Library Services highlights wellbeing services offered by the Library, and invites you to “check up” on your wellbeing.

5waysanimationNow we’re halfway through the year, it may be a good time to check in on your mental health and well-being. In January, there was a post with lots of suggestions for actions you can take to improve your wellbeing – did you do any of the suggestions? Do you have any of your own suggestions to share with other researchers?

Library Services are always keen to provide an environment that is conducive to research and well-being, and here are some things you may not have considered:

UBWell@MainLibrary

This space has been created for all members of the University to use and benefit from. Continue reading “Wellbeing check-up”

Happy New Year!

2019 has begun, and I hope you got what you needed from the recent Christmas break. Here’s looking forward to a happy 2019!

Have you made any new year’s resolutions for 2019? The New Economics Foundation have developed an evidence-based Five Ways to Wellbeing, and you may find inspiration for your resolutions here.

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Welcome to the University of Birmingham!

Recently, Melina Delmas, PGR in Modern Languages, was giving advice to a friend of hers who is starting her PhD this September. Melina shares her helpful tips with all of us as a welcome to our new PGRs.

Are you a new postgraduate researcher at the University of Birmingham? Do you feel a bit daunted at the thought of starting this new adventure? If so, fear not. Lucky for you the University of Birmingham has lots of resources to help you. Here are a few tips to start you off on the right foot! Continue reading “Welcome to the University of Birmingham!”