What if…?


What if my “working my hardest” is not enough?

What if my project fails?

What if I’m asking the wrong questions?

What if I’m analysing my data the wrong way?

What if someone disagrees with my ideas?

What if my hypotheses have already been disproved elsewhere?

What if I break my leg?

What if I fall pregnant unexpectedly?

What if I get robbed?

…Then I get out of bed the next morning, with my family and friends to support me (because they won’t love me any less), and do my best to carry on regardless.

 

whatif

I know that being thoughtful is an important part of being a scientist. Also in being a happy human.

But I think a lot of people can agree that it’s far easier to sit on either side of the scale of “too thoughtful” and “not thoughtful enough” than it is to sit in the middle.

 

Just pondering.

Stormy Seas

Yesterday I had a missed phone call from my real-estate agent. First thought: “Oh great, the owners have decided to sell and they want us to terminate the lease early.”

I ran a routine stats test on my data and it spat out a p value of 0.0001. First thought: “I must have put the wrong numbers in.”

I got some data back which suggested that all of the work I was planning on doing for the next six months would have to be completely altered, and that I had no idea where to start. First thought, “I don’t have time for this.” But then, “I won’t have time to finish my PhD.” And then, “I am going to have to forfeit my visa. I am going to have to go back to the UK. My boyfriend and I will probably end up splitting up due to the distance. Everyone will talk about me behind my back, my friends will all forget about me.”

As you can imagine, these negative tendencies can make things a bit more difficult than they necessarily need to be.

I genuinely try and do everything I can to put myself in a position of strength so that when the worst does happen, I can try not to panic. Of late, this has meant that I have been attending a mindfulness workshop, provided for free by my university. The techniques themselves aren’t exactly ground-breaking. Anyone who has been in counselling, or even just to a yoga class, will most likely have tried meditation. They will probably also know how much of a pain in the arse in can be and how much discipline it can require.

Two weeks into the course, I had a bit of a break down at work, which just happened to bleed into my whole weekend. In my head (luckily, not out loud) I was so pissed off with everyone at the workshop, and all the concepts they had taught us. How ridiculous that you can be expected to sit down and meditate when (excuse the cliché), it feels as though your world is closing in around you. What’s the point in practising for a raging storm, when all you’re equipped with in preparation is a kiddy pool?

Somehow, with the help of time, friends, some fresh air, my supervisor and my family, I was able to pull myself out of that particular rut. I’ve “recommitted” to the concepts of mindfulness and meditation. I think that the concept of weathering a storm still stands here, and yes, maybe we are only equipped with limited tools in order to prepare for it. One of the most basic tools that we have, however, is our capacity to take care of ourselves.

Self-care is a preventative measure, like exercise, brushing our teeth or not smoking.  Yet so often, it gets swept under the rug. How often do we take time to check in with ourselves? When things start to get rough, and I can feel a panic attack pending, there might not be an instantaneous resolution. But I’m pretty sure that if I commit myself to self-care on a regular basis, I will spot the signs of negativity far in advance of a panic attack even happening.

Being mindful and taking time out to meditate regularly is a way of looking up at the clouds, checking for icebergs and performing a stock check, so we can decide whether to change course, call for help, or restock our supplies.