The Art of Resilience…

…by Priya / from India / PhD Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre 2013-2017

It has been a while since my last post. Times became incredibly busy over the last six months, trying to juggle PhD life with personal life. In September I entered into my “extended” year of my PhD. The condition upon which my supervisor extended my PhD was mainly that I would continue to work full time in the lab and use my “spare time” to write my thesis…and lab work is ever more important, not only for my thesis, but to publish my research in a journal (with the aim towards a very high impact factor journal). So, believe me, the pressure is on. The pressure to perform well in the lab stems from the weekly meetings with my supervisor where we are expected to show all the experiments we have been working on and the pressure of tight deadline to bash out a full thesis. On top of which, being the president of the Hindu Society, running a society and organising the big annual Diwali is on my agenda alongside many other big and small tasks in life. Although I felt like I could do this and was telling myself everything is fine, my body began to feel the stress in other ways…it became a rare occasion that I would sleep through the night without waking at least once, I began losing weight and I developed a form of eczema which the doctors said the most likely cause was stress.

But this post isn’t about the hardship I seemed to have encountered (and I’m sure not all of it is PhD related) but the sources of support that I already have and came to me:

Family: People will always come and go in life but your family will always be there for you no matter what. My mum always has some words of wisdom for me, and even if at the time it sounds like she’s giving me a lecture, her advice is always sound. Sisters are there to cheer you up and Dad, just knowing that he’s there for you is more than enough.

Friends and colleagues: Often it can seem like everyone else’s life is better than yours, everyone else always seems to have more friends than you do, but its not about the number of friends but how good the people you know are. I personally find that talking to other people helps, whether they are PhD students as yourself going through the same situation, colleagues who may have been through what you are going through or people you know from other walks of life, you never know what helpful things their own life circumstances may have to teach you. And just talking your own thoughts through can help to clarify your thoughts.

Zumba: Exercise is known as a stress-relief and I do love my zumba class. It’s the only form of exercise I seem to wilfully do. But not only do I really enjoy the dancing part of the class, but it is an excellent community of people where again I can talk to a wide range of people. The instructors are incredible at making you feel welcome and take an interest in each person. After the class, the group will go out for coffee in order to just socialise. The majority of people in this class as much older than me, but I take motivation in working out with these energetic people and enjoy being with them too.

The Art of Living foundation: As the president of the Hindu Society, I was approached by an instructor of the Happiness programme of The Art of Living foundation. This was something I’d never heard of before but in summary it is about using breathing and meditation as a tool to having a better, calmer life. It may well be that I was more interested in this for personal motives rather than the society but after a taster session for the society I was sold on completing the 3 part Happiness Programme, mainly learning the Sudarshan Kriya technique that is proven to reduce stress. In all honesty, I found the technique itself quite stressful to carry out! But, I got a lot of other things out of this course but mainly a community…a group of people who always send positive messages, a group of people I’m sure I can call up at any time, even if all I want is a hug.

Religion: Now, despite being the president of the Hindu Society, I never really was a supremely actively practicing Hindu. In fact, I am still exploring my personal belief and take interest in all faiths. I usually only partake in festivals and pray because “my mum told me too.” Recently however, I found great strength in praying upon own accord. Praying not just to ask God for things (I’ve always considered it wrong to ask), but to be grateful, grateful that at times when the going seems tough, I am simultaneously shown paths, provided supports and the right people to talk to, to help me get through this phase.

I’m sure there are many other factors I can mention here too, but these are the main things. I am very grateful for all the people and support I have in my life. I sent my supervisor a first draft of my thesis yesterday, which I know is far from complete, but to have something down and sent is a huge relief. I am taking some time off to enjoy the Christmas break with my family but I am also looking forward to heading back to the lab as we have some exciting experiments planned that could potentially answer the question I’ve been aiming to answer during my PhD!!! Hopefully it all goes well. I can only reflect positively on 2016 and can wait for the excitement 2017 may have to offer 🙂

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year all!

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