Monthly Archives: May 2013

Stress; Prevent rather than Cure!

by Shema Ammer

I am currently working on an analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data (mixed methods). Although a mixed method design is challenging due to its inherent complexity, I believe that this method enables me to gather a wide variety of data to measure and compare the outcomes of the intervention. To analyse the quantitative data I used the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS 18). To analyse the qualitative data I decided to use Thematic Analysis. The process of data analysis is challenging and takes time, so to motivate myself I attended several workshops. These included:

  • PhD Comics – ‘ The Power of Procrastination’ (a talk by Jorge Cham)
  • Stress Management
  • Fearless

The things I learnt from all of these workshops are helping me to cope with the stress that I experience from data analysis and my PhD studies in general. The presenters of each helped me to learn how to manage and control my stress in order to feel more happy and productive as a PhD student.

The main thing I learnt through these workshops was that we should prevent, rather than cure, stress by:

  • developing resistance
  • improving productivity by realistic planning and time management
  • setting realistic targets and expectations
  • analysing or recognising ourselves (self-awareness is knowledge, and knowledge is power).

I believe that attendance at these kind of workshops improves self-awareness, particularly regarding the challenges being presented by PhD study.

Sarah Worley-James, who gave the talk on “stress management” taught me that the stress and anxiety produced by undertaking a PhD is unique due to the following factors:

  • Isolation and limited support
  • Pressure from self (perfectionism)
  • international students
  • Pressure of Viva
  • The Imposter Syndrome

I learnt that when we are facing a problem or challenge, one of the key questions we need to ask ourselves is: “Okay. So what do I plan to do differently so I can have a chance at a different outcome?”

If we can succeed in doing this, managing our stress and anxiety effectively will equip us with the ability to:

  • solve problems effectively
  • identify difficult situations
  • think calmly under pressure
  • believe in ourselves and  improve self-confidence
  • cope with deadlines
  • plan our time effectively
  • communicate well with others
  • feel positive
  • avoid procrastination and perfectionism!!

 

The TOP TIPS I learnt from these workshops:

  1. Take 1 minute at the end of each day to write 3 things that you have achieved. (This should help to build your self-confidence and self-esteem.)
  2. Focus on the evidence for positive outcomes of your efforts
  3. Reduce mental stress by identifying and challenging fearful thoughts, as well as relaxing through imagination and mediation.
  4. Reduce physical stress using muscular relaxation, deep breathing, exercise and a healthy diet and environment.

I hope that these tips will help us to progress along our chosen career path; minimising the risk of stress overload and burn out.

 

Some websites I would recommend:
www.robertsoncooper.com/iresilience
www.nhs.uk/moodzone
http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk
http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/counselling

Bringing research to life

I was recently awarded funding to attend a European conference exploring the experiences of teenagers and young adults with cancer. The conference took place at the world famous Curie Institute in Paris which was an added bonus (and it was so much warmer than the UK!). The event was organised by the European Network for Teenage and Young Adult Cancer (ENTYAC) and included a wide range of speakers and delegates from countries including: Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Denmark, France and the UK.

The subject matter for the conference was diverse with attention given too many different perspectives of the cancer journey. The first day was focused on the organisation of cancer services around Europe and how practitioners worked within organisations. The second day was a mixture of clinical management and the experiences of teenagers and young adults with cancer, and the final day explored some of the key issues for this age group both during and after treatment. These sessions highlighted areas such as fertility preservation, consent and ethical dilemmas.

The conference gave me the perfect oJane Paris editpportunity to meet and network with people from a number of disciplines who are leaders in this emerging field. I had discussions with philosophers, specialist and consultant nurses, haematologists, oncologists and most notably teenagers and young adults who had experienced cancer treatment. Indeed a workshop held on the second day consisted of a panel involving a patient group which revealed a great deal of information, particularly relating to my own area of research interest, decision making. The young people talked about the different types of decisions that they had to make, how this was sometimes difficult and how at times they felt either isolated or over protected by their families when making decisions. I was also struck by one young person’s account of the secrecy that surrounded her initial diagnosis, with her parents not wanting to reveal what was happening in the very early stages as she arrived at the hospital for a discussion with the medical team.

My other notable memory is of how keen people were to help me develop my research. They happily gave me their contact numbers and one of the young adults offered to help me develop my interview questions which was, I felt, really really encouraging. I plan to work with him in the near future as I develop the study and am really looking forward to spending some time talking with him about his experience.

I would really recommend that students apply for funding to attend such events. It is beneficial in terms of learning new knowledge, networking and helping further refine your own study. I also got half a day free due to flight times and went along to the Louvre for a look around which is where the picture was taken!

Jane Davies