The importance of holidays

When I handed in my upgrade document I took three days off. I thought this would be enough with the two days of the weekend making it up to five days of no PhD. I filled those days with lots of fun activities and catching up with family and friends. But when I tried to get back to work on the Monday after the weekend I felt a terrible anxiety and tightness in my chest. I couldn’t bear to look at my document and when I did I felt upset about my poor research questions and even started to feel a little bit paranoid that my upgrade panel must have read them by now and started visualising everything that can go bad at the meeting and how the panel must be trying to think of ways to diplomatically tell me my project design is rubbish. Of course this is possible, but I need to be mentally strong to take criticism well rather than take it too personally.

I think this anxiety spike was due to the fact that I actually needed a longer break to recover. During the week that I was supposed to be back into PhD mode, I decided that it is better to take an extra week off, but try to ease myself into working again by going to the library, paying of my HUGE fine (£16), browsing all the new books I got out and attending a couple of seminars at the university. I also decided that I may as well catch up on some other things like registering to give blood (haven’t quite plucked up the courage to donate yet!), going to the salon for a much needed restyle, getting the plumber in to do some big jobs, finishing off some admin tasks like researching accommodation for a conference, planning and booking my training and such like.

If most workers have two weeks off in the summer, then of course a PhD student can too, especially if like me you worked over the summer and in fact have not had any days off, not even a weekend for a couple of months. It is silly not to take a break. In fact we are allowed to have 8 weeks according to the official documentation.

So just as a new haircut is a fresh new start, holidays are meant to give you that feeling of a fresh or at least refreshed start. I now feel better prepared to start anew on Monday.


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