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Avoid loneliness and stay sociable in your Studies

The years at the University, and especially in PhD studies, are seen as a time when the mind must be squeezed to the maximum to achieve goals, and often it seems like time is never enough to do all of the work. We are start feeling guilty if will go out, relax, go on vacation, or spend time with friends. The thoughts are always there, feeling that should have focused on the studies, instead of relaxing, and then return fresh on work, putting it first and neglecting social outings and relationships. Thus, many times during the studies, the only friend becomes the computer and what have to share with it (e.g., research, writing, graphs, scientific literature).

For many, this marks the beginning of the concept of loneliness, which has been conceptualized as a "voluntary withdrawal from social networks but characterized at the same time by the desire for relationships" [1]. Many researchers associate loneliness with an increased risk of mental illnesses such as social and work-related anxiety and depression [2]. Similarly, many studies link socialization to mental health and associate improved work performance with socialization [3].

 

Socializing is the process by which we know a person and internalize their values, behaviour, and attitude. Having a circle of people, a network, have met and interacted with, allows to share thoughts and emotions, and this can reduce stress and increase positivity, and productivity. Often, socializing is challenging for PhD students because the research environment in general, is often competitive. Students tend not to socialize as working alone satisfies them more, as think that can attribute the result solely, which is more satisfying. Instead, sharing failures with those close, helps growing personally and professionally. It helps understand how can face a challenge and how can handle failure. Others, it may have experienced the same situation and can help solve it. A word of comfort can help feel better and start again with an extra boost.

 

Participating in events (including research group ones) and conferences, organizing meetings and team-building moments, creating work area organizations (e.g., labs, studies, shifts) and time for breath, helps  gather new knowledge, manage, organize work better, and at the same time enjoying the PhD days. By participating as an active member, will increase self-esteem, get to know ourselves better, discover limits, and all of this will lead to undertake work with motivation and enjoy the times at the University.

 

Socialization also involves cognitive improvement because it stimulates participation in conversations,  sharing of ideas, and learning. These cognitive stimuli contribute to mental agility, helping to keep the mind active and potentially reducing the risk of cognitive decline. Therefore, socialize, creating and maintaining connections with friends and colleagues is important.


Having time for hobbies, is also crucial for maintaining a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. It's common to struggle with balancing study responsibilities and interests outside work. Hobbies are a significant part of who we are and what we've cultivated during the life. Neglecting hobbies can lead to frustration, boredom, and depression. This becomes a vicious cycle as distancing ourselves from pleasures diminishes our positivity. Conversely, spending too much time away from work might be bad to our goals, triggering guilt for the perceived excess.

What we need to do? The most important thing is to prioritize time. Balancing and organizing daily work while also allocating time for pleasure activities is crucial. Focusing on study goals during the day and leaving evenings and weekends free for activities that enhance physical and mental well-being, is a wise choice. Continuing to practice and enjoy activities like physical exercise, walks, playing a musical instrument, yoga, shopping, gardening, reading, painting, or baking, helps reduce stress and prevent burnout. This is essential for recharging and approaching work with increased positivity, ultimately boosting productivity.

 

Remember, to achieve a goal, don't have to focus only on the result.

 

Keeping an active social life, helps mental health and increase enjoyment of the studies!

 

By Elide Zingale


References

[1] Brandt, L., Liu, S., Heim, C., & Heinz, A. (2022). The effects of social isolation stress and discrimination on mental health. Translational psychiatry, 12(1), 398.

[2]  Mohapatra, M., Madan, P., & Srivastava, S. (2023). Loneliness at work: Its consequences and role of moderators. Global Business Review, 24(3), 433-450.

[3] Calderón-Mafud, J. L., Moreno, M. P., & Colunga-Rodríguez, C. (2018). Positive mental health model based on authentic leadership and elements of socialization. Psychology, 9(04), 588.

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