Alright, let's have some #PhDChat fun! Before I start this thread, keep in mind that this is based on my own experiences - what works for me might not work for someone else & the other way round.

So, how do you survive your PhD and/or stay sane in academia?
1) Choose the supervisor as much as the project.

As mentioned before, a great supervisor can make a non-dream project fun. A bad supervisor can ruin even the most awesome project for you.

Talk to the supervisors, if possible. Talk to other lab members/former PhDs etc.
(This isn't to say that you need to be best buds with your supervisors. You don't. But you should a) at least get along on a fundamental human level and b) have similar work philosophies.) Which leads me to my second point...
2) Find out what supervisory style works for you. Different people = different needs.

E.g. I cannot deal with weekly/biweekly meetings. They just heighten my anxiety & stress levels. I'm putting enough pressure on myself already. Monthly/even less often is best for me.

...others might need those weekly/biweekly meetings with clearly defined goals in order to keep motivated and focused on work! AND THAT'S FINE!!

3-4 yrs is a long time, everyone will lose motivation at some point. Find out how to work with your supervisors to get yours back.
3) COMMUNICATE THESE NEEDS. I cannot stress this point enough.

This is why you need to choose your supervisor - you need to be able to trust them enough to know that they will respect you & your needs.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask for meetings.
Helping is part of their job, don't be ashamed to ask for help.

I found the ideal balance in my PhD - we'd have a meeting and then I'd go off and work on what we'd talked about for a month or three and present them with the results. BUT...
...if I had problems? Didn't know my way around sth? Was getting lost? I actually asked for help/additional meetings.

Our supervisory meetings became so much fun that I was looking forward to them - I'd always leave with a head full of new ideas & immensely motivated.

4) Learn to say NO.

A difficult one. Doing stuff outside your core research is GREAT and important - be it scicomm, teaching, extra projects, MA students, additional admin roles...but too much can just lead to you feeling overwhelmed, stressed & your mental health plummeting.
An example: In my 1st yr, I agreed to help w/ teaching for 2 big modules for 2 of my supervisors. I got basically no work done in term 1. Student Qs, admin & teaching prep took up ALL the time.

In my 2nd yr I stated the problems I'd had & refused to do this much teaching again.
My supervisors agreed and I cut down on the teaching I was involved in - still doing 1 module completely, but limiting myself to only 2 practical sessions (which I didn't have to prep for since they were in my exact research area) for the 2nd one.

(I should add that being able to cut back is obv a luxury I could only afford cause my studentship paid my living costs too. If you need a job/teaching/etc to help you survive then you don't have that luxury and have to say 'no' in other areas.)
5) MAKE SPACE FOR FREE TIME. Downtime from your PhD is so, so important. There is nothing that I hate as much as that academic myth of 'having to work all the time' and 'if you do what you love it's not work :)'.

And you NEED time away from it.
I made the mistake of overworking during my BA and also partially MA. During my PhD I did what was basically 9-5 PhD. I worked one weekend and 2 evenings in 4 yrs and it did SO MUCH for my mental health.

(once again - yes, I know this isn't possible for everyone)
I actually get MORE work done if I work FEWER hours.


If I know I'll work all night/WE I'll procrastinate cause 'I still have all evening'. If I say I will stop at 7pm? I get SHIT DONE. Cause there's a deadline. I know I can do all the fun stuff later in my free time!
(Also, my brain needs breaks. When I work Saturdays the product is usually terrible. I once spent 5 hrs on a Saturday trying to solve a coding problem I had and just gave up in the end, totally frustrated. I solved the same problem on Monday morning within 15 minutes)
As mentioned before, ofc this doesn't work for all. Lab work, admin duties, deadlines, extracurricular jobs you need to survive, family, caring duties etc. mean that you have to structure your schedules differently.

But it shouldn't be the academic norm to work 60hrs a week.
6) Related to this: GET SOME HOBBIES!

You're more likely to make space for free time if you have fun stuff to do! This can be anything from sports to crafts to enjoying good movies. ANYTHING YOU LIKE.
I have a few hobbies I love spending time and money on.

a) I do a lot of crafting! I'm a cosplayer and make all the costumes myself (from fatsuit & weapons to making the beard from scratch in this case). I like to be on stage, love the process of doing things with my hands. The author in costume as the dwarf Dori from The Hobbit
b) Cooking & baking. Yes, it's apparently that I like good food. I like making it, I like eating it 😊

c) Writing, drawing, ANYTHING CREATIVE.

d) HEMA aka Historical European Martial Arts. Yes, I'm in a club where we spend our time hitting each other with swords. IT'S GREAT. a bunch of HEMA gear on the bed
7) Get a therapist. I only say this half-jokingly - as you saw yesterday, having s/o to talk to who is NOT in your immediate area of friends/family etc. can actually be really good for you. And if you struggle with mental health & have the possibility to get a therapist? Do it.
8) Build your support system in- AND outside academia. This can include everything & everyone - your family, friends, clubs, even your pets.

I'm lucky that I get along well with parents - so my support system are my family, a few very good friends, my HEMA club & my 4 pets.
tw spiders ahead!

Ofc I will introduce my 4 darlings to you now 😜.

a) My beautiful tarantula, Pandora. She's been with me for 11 yrs ❤
b) My Betta fish Dwalin (almost 3 yrs old!) & nerite snail Tauriel.
c) Since Aug this year: my cat. Known as 'darling girl' or 'stinkebutt'. maine coon stretched out on the wooden floor having taken possession of some shoesred & blue betta fish flaring at orange nerite snailTHE MOST BEAUTIFUL SPIDER IN THE WORLD a grammostola pulchra (black tarantula) stretched out on top of her cave
And that's it - ofc I could keep on going for hrs abt other aspects of the #PhDChat but we'll leave it here for now. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Tmrw I'll talk abt what it's like to be trans & autistic in science before we loop back to science-y things on Sat!
PS: Anyone want to slide me some horror movie recommendations?

My 5th hobby that I haven't mentioned earlier is MOVIES. I go to the cinema at least 3x a month. And horror is my favourite - I've watched lots already but if you have any favs you think I might not've seen, GIMME!
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