by Sinéad / from Ireland / PhD Psychiatry / 4th Year
Now. We all know, unless you’re very very very lucky, money isn’t exactly overflowing for the average post graduate student. Best be saving those hard earned pennies on important things like biscuits and pints right? I completely agree with this but I will say that there are a few things I’ve purchased around the time of my PhD that I have found to be particularly valuable.
- Water bottle.
We’ve said it here before but taking care of a PhD student is a lot like taking care of a plant. Make sure they have enough water and every now and then make sure they see a bit of sunshine. I’m quite bad at drinking water on the best of days and I’m lucky enough to work in a very old NHS building where the questionable taps never actually get cold. Before I got my reusable water bottle I wasn’t drinking anything other than tea, so this was a game changer. I really don’t need to expand on the benefits of drinking water here so if you don’t know already, just take my word for it. Drinking something other than tea or coffee during the working day is very effective!
2. Yoga mat.
I’m starting to realise that everything on this list will probably be related to things I’ve mentioned previously on this blog. I’m written about my love of yoga before and here I go again. I prefer to do yoga at home so having a mat makes that completely effortless, and holds me far more accountable. It’s easy to talk myself out of going to a studio after a long day, but it’s much harder to convince myself that pushing the couch back is too much effort. It helps control my stress, helps any sore back and shoulders from staring at a computer all day and, on the days where I feel as though I’ve accomplished nothing, even a quick 20 minute flow can make the day feel like less of a waste.
3. International stamps.
If you are an international student then you know very well the unique struggle of the “happiness of living somewhere exciting that you’ve actively chosen to live”, coupled with the sadness of leaving behind the place (and people) you’ve actively chosen to leave. I’ve lived in Edinburgh for almost 5 years now and I have my wonderful husband and an incredible support network here with me. But that doesn’t mean for a second that I don’t miss my family and friends back in Canada. Having international stamps on hand means that I can send cards and letters without delay. I love writing things out by hand and being able to send something to a loved one who is geographically distant is a particularly nice activity on a day filled with homesickness.
4. Day planner.
Yes. I know. You probably already have this on your phone. But I am old school, and technologically challenged, and I prefer the feel of a paper diary. Also I definitely cannot figure out how to properly sync the calendars on my phone and it’s all too overwhelming. If I write something down then I’m likely to remember it, and I enjoy having everything I need all in one place. I plan out my work weeks, my to do lists, my social events and anything I want to do outside of work (from grocery lists to lists of books I’d like to read). Even the act of writing things down and planning out my months or weeks has become a ritual that I find reduces my stress and helps clear my occasionally cluttered mind.
5. Hobby supplies.
Not exactly reinventing the wheel here, as I’ve spoken about my desire to create more hobbies for myself before, but I’ve made a conscious effort to invest a little bit more time into supplies that could lend themselves well to hobbies. It’s far too easy to spend an entire day at work looking at a computer and then coming home and spending my free time looking at other things on a computer. Worse still is the fact that it becomes far too easy to check emails or read over things one last time and can truly interfere with proper switching off time. So I’m branching out and expanding my after work activities options. These include things like knitting needles, baking supplies, felting materials and a water colour set that may or may not spell disaster. Doing a PhD is a very all consuming job and it’s way too easy to let that take over. I’m a big advocate for evenings and weekends off, and just as supportive of filling those evenings and weekends with a fun, diverse, and budget friendly set of activities.
6. Plants. They make me happy and I will continue to get them until I run out of surfaces for them to live on.
7. Mason jars. You can use these for anything!! Homemade iced coffees, snack storage, jam, the list is endless!
I hope that you’ve found some of this helpful and if anything, may this article inspire you to take a wee break from your PhD workload. You’ve earned it.