3 Tips to Help You Maintain Resilience
By Jedidah Isler, Ph.D.
Yesterday, we hosted our first-ever #VanguardSTEM facebook and twitter chats on #BBBinSTEM. We wanted to reflect on how resilience and perseverance (can) crossover between our work and our personal lives. If you haven’t seen the discussions, I encourage you to check them out. While I won’t rehash all the themes we discussed there, a few really stood out and bear repeating here. Before I get to them, I thought FLOTUS did a great job talking through this in her CCNY commencement address earlier this summer.
3 Tips to Help You Maintain Resilience
(Crowdsourced wisdom from the #VanguardSTEM Community)
Develop (and consult!) a support system.
This is a recurring theme at #VanguardSTEM. You need a support system for success in virtually every arena. You are not alone, you don’t have to be alone and you should not be alone. There are people out there who have walked the path you are on and who want to help you. They may not be in your department or on your campus, but they are around. Make use of the many online networks, conferences and symposia to cultivate these relationships.
You also should not rely on just one person. You will need a constellation of people to help you succeed. Some of them will be supporters and cheerleaders that constantly encourage you, some of them will be subject matter experts that help you understand things in your field, some of them are advocates who go to bat for you when you aren’t around, some are sponsors who advocate for your expertise, and there are many more types of people you need on your team. You need to build a cooperative of folks who fill the many roles that are necessary for your success. They will not all look like you, but the key thing is that they provide something in your (professional/personal/spiritual/emotional) life that you wouldn’t otherwise have.
You can watch our BOD episode for how to put together a peer support network, but that’s just one aspect of the larger mentoring matrix that you need. We’ll be returning to this theme as we move through season 3, so stay tuned for more on that.
In the meantime, start by answering these few questions: Who could ask for career advice? Who can I talk to about my anxiety? Who is constantly encouraging me even if they don’t understand my work? Who knows my work well and could write me a letter of recommendation?
This is another tried-and-true method for aiding your resilience. We’ve talked on our show before about the importance of self-care and past guest, Dr. Leolene Carrington, has even written about it on this site before. I won’t repeat that article, but I will say that you’ve got to find things that renew and refresh your soul and adhere to them religiously.
You are not just your STEM pursuits. You are a full person that needs care on more than one level. Generally, no one is going to stop you from (over)working and advocate for your self-care (unless you’ve built that very important support system from the first point), so it’s up to you to make space for this.
One of the concerns that popped up in our discussion is whether advisors, supervisors, etc. would be ok with it. To some extent, it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to take care of yourself if you’re to be a productive member of your enterprise anyway. Sometimes if what we want to do for self-care is “different” than the norm, it is discouraged. Push through these initial barriers and find space and time for yourself. Often, once you’ve made the space for yourself, people around you will support the decision, and in cases when they don’t it’s all the more reason to find time away to heal yourself anyway!
Some quick tips for getting started: Step 1: Write out 20 little gifts to yourself that make you feel better every time (HT Dr. Aomawa Shields for this idea), Step 2: Do them. They don’t need to all be big things, just things that always make you feel better. One of my small pleasures: Liberte yogurt. It’s my jam.
This is one of my favorite tips that came from our discussion yesterday. While we have not all universally struggled and do not all have the same story, some of us can identify with pretty intense barriers and hardships along the way. Those hardships often extended way past the bounds of an academic pursuit and in most cases, those of us who have faced such situations were able to overcome them. Those victories can help us keep our perspective about our academic pursuits. Your grades, project, research and interests are certainly important, but they are not the whole world.
You are a complete person, who in many cases has seen some things and lived to tell the tale. When you walk into your classroom, lab, group meeting or any other setting, there is nothing in those spaces that can fully account for all that you’ve already accomplished. It is not the role (or the right!) of an academic setting to give you your meaning in life. You are doing this because you want to and if you’ve seen hardship, you can more easily recalibrate the importance of this test or experiment or program or whatever in the grand scheme of life. It is your work. It is your passion. It is important, but it is not now and can indeed never be all of you. Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees.
There is much more wisdom and insight in those threads and also in the #VanguardSTEM community. If you have ideas for how to maintain resilience and persevere, please do leave your comments below or continue the conversation on fb and/or twitter. We’d be glad to have you.
You can do this!
Copyright © 2016 by Jedidah Isler
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