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Being Confused with Jean #6

Welcome to another instalment of Being Confused with Jean, this time from home! I have been quite busy the past few weeks as I finished off my continuation report before travelling home to spend time with family. To keep myself occupied while I’m back, I have been part of a public engagement initiative for scientists called I’m a Scientist Cancer Zone where I answer questions from school students online. It’s been a lot of fun as I’ve been reminded of why I went into research and the enthusiasm the students have is contagious! I have also been working on the recruitment drive for AIM UK, the non-profit that I lead, creating content for this page while doing a lot of planning and reflection.

This is one of the summers since starting med school where I don’t have that much going on in terms of work and honestly, it feels quite strange. Sounds completely opposite to what I’ve mentioned since I’m still doing public engagement and non-profit work while writing on this blog - that’s my inability to slow down talking. Since starting my PhD I have become even more conscious about overworking and burnout which has been an issue for me before I even started.

There was a period of time this year where I was overdoing the lab work - once I didn’t leave the lab until 1am because I had to finish my tissue culture work. While sometimes putting in extra hours might be necessary, in my case it definitely wasn’t. I was so exhausted after that stint of overworking to the point where I felt the effects of it almost a week after. During that time, I missed karate training and stopped going to the gym since I was either still in the lab during training times or just too tired to do anything else. I regularly skipped breakfast because I overslept, spending lots of money on food at the nearby chip shop since I didn’t prepare anything for a meal - not good for both my physical and financial health.

I’m not proud of it but my example illustrates the lasting effects a stint of overworking has and how it affects all aspects of your health. I stopped doing a lot of things that I enjoyed like exercise, which didn’t help with my mood. Since then, I have become even more aware of the amount of work I do. I spoke to my supervisor to discuss how I could make my lab work more efficient and together we came up with a plan; I also make sure that I am realistic with the amount of work I plan to do each week.

Slowing down allows me to rest and reflect on how things could be done better. In the context of lab work, this would give me the time to properly analyse my data and understand why I get the results that I get; in the context of this summer break I have at home, it gives me time to decide on my priorities for the year ahead so I dedicate my time accordingly. I am even more aware of the need to stay present while I’m with family because I don’t have as much time with them this year. This is because I’m taking annual leave instead of following university holiday periods like I would if I was still a medical student.

So while I am home, I will be spending less time online to focus on myself and my loved ones - now to enjoy the time off that I have before getting back to work and preparing for my continuation viva in a few weeks!

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