I am now 1 month into my new years resolution: “to improve my mental health“. A key part of this will be for me is to find some ways to help me reduce my anxiety levels. To do this, I am going to try and follow a few basic rules:
1.Set up and keep up a bullet journal
- I started bullet Journaling at the end of last year, and found it really helped me stay focused and on task. My bullet journal is nothing like some of the fancy ones you see on Instagram- but for me its perfect. Writing down what I need to do and when not only helped me get more organised, but also helped me to not ‘catastrophise’. The list of things to do never seems quite as long or hard when you write it down! I had always kept a diary for day to day use, but bullet journaling is an extra step- a way for me to categorise different things I need to do, and keep other important things in one place- for me this is a monthly to do list!
2. Organising my lab book(s) and making sure I keep it organised
- This is something I should have done properly from 1st year- but better late than never! After not even an hour, I have an index at the front to direct me quickly to certain experiments and methods, and sticky tabs to highlight the important pages. Highlighters, and coloured pens highlight important info like a particular reagent I used, or edits to a protocol. Simple yet effective!
3.Prepare reagents ahead of time
- I used to do this, and then somehow got out of practice, and it’s time to start doing it again! This will be a easy way to decrease experiment stress- as if for any reason something isn’t in stock, or keeps going wrong, I have enough time to sort it out without feeling rushed before doing my experiment.
4. Don’t worry about spreading my work out.
- Sometimes I can feel so pressurised to do so much in one day- and this is when I start making mistakes as I am already thinking about all I have to do and how to fit in all in, rather than concentrating on what I am doing. This makes mistakes. Then i stress and make more mistakes and then have to repeat the experiment- wasting even more time!! So, if I am having a hard day and breaking the experiment over 2 days will help- that’s what I will do- when possible!
6. Make tick charts
When I am I have heightened anxiety I also gain OCD like tendencies. This means I will check the liquid nitrogen tap 10 times to make sure its closed, or the incubator door. On days with this my experiments can take twice as long just due to all the extra checking! So I am going to do 2 things to help me reduce the checking: 1) Be in the ‘moment’ – this means observing- like really observing what you do. For example, yes I closed the incubator door because I did blah blah . 2) Make a tick chart- I will write down the important stages of an experiment and tick them off as I go.
7. Take a break
- I always take a lunch break- but I will also take a mid afternoon break. And if I am feeling stressed, rather than just going over and over my thoughts- I will take a break. Get up from the computer and have a cup of tea.
These are probably all really obvious things to do, but when suffering from anxiety and stress counter-intuitively you lose the motivation and want to do the things that you know will help…
It is only February and I am already seeing a massive improvement in myself and my work. I find that I am much more calm at work- I know what to do, when to do it, and what I have left to do, and I am enjoying Lab work a lot more! Hopefully it will continue!
If you too are stressed and anxious- these may help you too-maybe!
Until next time!