Self Monitoring

After last week’s post (which had been dwelling in various parts of my brain for a while, they just took a while to find each other), I thought it would be interesting to have an ’emotional brain vs functional brain’ de-brief at the end of each workday this week.

In devoting attention to monitor these two major contributors to my productivity and well-being, I’m hoping to develop more control over them…

Monday

I decided to knuckle down and teach myself some maths/ stats, as I have had some preliminary data sitting around for a while, but have not been quite sure how to approach it. After my blog post from Sunday, the concept of not letting my emotions deter me from my goal was at the forefront of my mind. The day went slowly, and it was hard to stay focussed when I started to find things difficult…but, as my twitter feed suggested, I felt pretty good by the end of it:

Tuesday

After getting my head around the basic concepts of Kaplan-Meier on Monday, I thought I should attempt to streamline the process (I had been going step-by-step in excel), and start to introduce a few more challenges.  This did not go so well. I guess because my aim was to ‘go faster’ than the day before. I let the failure get to me; I am starting to feel the time pressures of approaching conferences, and it’s a real concern that I won’t get any data. My slow learning completely fed into this fear.

Wednesday

I headed back into the lab to repeat some Real-Time experiments. I am optimising primers at the moment, and the next step from getting i) product and ii) a reasonable melt-curve from the Real-Time is to run it on a gel to ensure there is just ONE product. After this, I will extract the cDNA from the gel and send it off for sequencing. After this, I have to make sure the efficiency of the primer conditions is optimal. I had got my Real-Times working before but my standard deviations were terrible. I figured it was worth another attempt to get them behaving a bit better. Unfortunately, our Real-Time machine had broken. This made me stressed. I managed to sneak onto the other machine. After about 3 hours of prep and run time, I got my results back and…the run had completely failed. I had used the wrong cDNA samples. This made me stressed. Even though I had finally managed to find the right equipment and get the appropriate training for it in order to execute the next steps of optimisation earlier that morning…it was fast dawning on me that that “next” step was much further away that I had anticipated. This made me stressed. I realised that, to move forwards, I had to go backwards; I needed better quality cDNA from a different source. Just so I could run ANOTHER Real-Time. Just so I could check the product on the gel. Just so I could continue troubleshooting with temperatures and cycles. Before I could even think about getting actual data. This made me stressed. To summarise:

Thursday

Unfortunately, I couldn’t head back into the lab as I had a two day biostatistics course. As you can imagine, I was not excited about this. While the course was challenging, it wasn’t too much of a bash on my mood as it seemed as though everyone else was struggling too. The teacher was patient, and I felt confident that, with time and energy, I could probably figure out what I needed to. I didn’t panic too much when I didn’t know what was going on. In the afternoon, I did some demonstrating in the undergraduate biomed labs. This was  a lot of fun. Some of the other sessions have been quite stressful as I haven’t taken the class before (as a student or a teacher), and I didn’t know where stuff was or how to answer some of the questions regarding the methodologies. THIS session, however, was way better. The students were wrapping up their work and getting ready to write their assignments. I was actually able to help people, and they seemed genuinely grateful for my time. I was in my nice genetics comfort zone, and I was helping students learn…

Friday

More biostatistics. Unfortunately, this session moved faster than the previous one. Stupidly, whenever I started to struggle, I would get easily distracted and tweet about it.

Then I would get well and truly lost as the class moved on without me. I got upset at times. When my friend offered to help me, I truly believed there was nothing he could do…I was stupid, after all. But I reminded myself that this is how my emotional brain always responds to struggles, and had to really push myself to not sulk (seriously.) and just accept his help. He was a really patient teacher, and guided me through the methods…I did understand after all. I was pretty proud that I had managed to ‘talk myself down’ from my default panic mode. In summary however, there was so much information in those session, I know I am going to have to sit and study for a long time before any of it becomes second nature to me. This realisation once more fed into my fear that I am running out of time.

I am at home now, with a headache and still feeling pretty stressed. I think this was a useful exercise though, and I think I have made some progress in controlling my emotional brain. Although, keeping on track with this sort of monitoring will be hard to keep on top of, I’m sure. I just need willpower and time!

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