Self Love, Burnout, and Finding Balance

When I started in my graduate program a fellow student gave me the advice to “keep my car clean.” I always wondered what he meant by that, I assumed it was a metaphor and not meant to be taken literally. I thought I would figure it out eventually after getting more life experience.

As a beginning graduate student, I threw myself into my work and felt that I had little time for myself. I was working 12-14 hour days and felt extreme guilt for taking even half a day off to go take care of something at the DMV or for a doctor’s appointment. It got to the point where even when I was relaxing or taking a break to do something fun, I still had this feeling that I should be at lab. Lab was always on my mind. I could not relax. I stopped taking time to do the things I needed to do. I once got a fix it ticket and did not even take the time to fix the problem so I got fined $600 instead. My house was always a mess and my car was full of trash and my finances were out of control.

During my fourth year in graduate school I stopped working as hard and barely got anything done in lab, I was burnt out. Now in the beginning of my 5th year I have realized that if I want to get motivated again to finish my PhD I need to take a step back and focus on getting my life organized and getting my shit together outside of lab. Of course I lost my motivation when I was working to the point where it was crippling my personal life.

I have been taking the minimalist approach and ridding myself of unnecessary items from my home, I have started exercising regularly again, I started planning my weeks in advance using google calendar, I started meal prepping and eating healthy.

Today I was sitting in my car and realized that this is the first time in my life that I truly understood the meaning of the word self-respect. I wasn’t being very respectful to myself when I was sacrificing my physical and mental health and the well being of my personal life for the sake of my work. This is when I finally understood the meaning of “keep your car clean”.

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