Saturday, August 8, 2015

Physical Health

There is no denying that a PhD can take a toll on mental health. Anxiety, depression, and imposter syndrome are things which many of us (if not all of us) have battled with during the course of a PhD. Yet, I think that the physical toll a PhD can take on the body is less frequently discussed.

Personally, the sedentary nature of a humanities PhD which involved long periods of time sitting at my desk at home and desk at the library was not conducive to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As the PhD progressed and I entered the home stretch of writing up, I found I was taking the easy, time-saving options with respect to exercise and diet. Instead of walking or cycling to the library, I took the bus. Instead of going to the supermarket for groceries, I would order take-away. And don't even get me started on the amount of sugary, caffeinated drinks I was consuming on a daily basis.

It was only after I had come out the other side of the process that I could see the effect all this had on me. I had unknowingly gained just under 20 pounds and become horribly addicted to sugar. A lifestyle reset button needed to be hit, and I am happy to say that I am (almost) back to my pre-PhD weight through walking and pilates, and cut those sugary, caffeine-laden drinks out of my diet (and no doubt, there is the correlation between reducing sugar and reducing weight).

But this isn't a post to garner pats on the back, it's simply a warning about how easy it can be damage your body when the stress of a PhD masks it so effectively. My advice would be to be aware and listen to your body. And undoubtedly, good exercise and a healthy diet would likely boost PhD performance, so added bonuses!!

1 comment:

  1. I hear ya, I developed anxiety thru the enormous stress placed upon me thru my science Phd program and it has been a battle trying to learn how to deal and manage it! I also went thru cycles where I worked out a lot to deal with my stress and lost 20 lbs and then put it all back recently due to stress and not having enough time for myself to take care of myself and go to the gym! I am currently in the downhill where I'm learning to ease back into my normal self and start taking care of myself!
    Thanks for sharing! True words!


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