Welcome to the CalmCircleCollege Blog Team. Our student bloggers are using CalmCircleCollege to help them develop a meditative practice to assist in managing stress, improving sleep and creating mental rest.
by Weston Ross, a Duke PhD student
Since entering graduate school four years ago, I have always felt that if I wasn't constantly working on research, it meant that I was a bad graduate student. As an engineering PhD student, I've consistently had something that I could or "should" be working on at all times. Constantly having deadlines hanging over my head became very tiresome, and so I would take time away from work, knowing that I needed to rest. Ironically, I felt too guilty during my time off to actually relax, preventing me from realizing the benefits of my work break. I would return no more rested than before, feeling like all I had done was wasted time not working. I was disappointed with myself and even less productive than before.
My normal level of anxiety and stress was much higher than it had even been in college, and I stopped being able to sleep well at night. After two and a half years of this cycle, I was tired of being tired, and decided to seek help. I found it by reading self-help books on how to be a happy, whole person, as well as through services at the counseling and psychological services (CAPS) at my university.
"Ironically, I felt too guilty during my time off to actually relax, preventing me from realizing the benefits of my work break."
In addition to counseling, CAPS offered me a semester long Koru Mindfulness and Meditation seminar. This was my first introduction to meditation, and I have since adopted it as an (almost) daily practice to help manage my stress and chronic anxiety resulting from graduate school.
I now use CalmCircleCollege as a daily guide to my practice. More frequently than not, I'll listen to a Calm or Pause session just after lunch. This seems to be the time of day I feel most anxious about everything I need to accomplish in the remainder of the afternoon. Noticing that I am anxious about my to-do list or an upcoming deadline is my reminder to do so. I don't set an alarm or anything because then it starts to feel like a to-do item itself! This normally calms me and puts me in a good, productive head space to continue working throughout the afternoon. I have found that I am looking forward to the sessions because I know how much better I can feel and more productive I can be afterwards.
"As graduate students, we are subject to the constant stress of impending deadlines and the fear of not being "good enough" in an environment of highly motivated and pressure-driven peers and advisors."
Frequently my mind will be racing just before going to bed about things I haven't done or need to do the next day, so I'll meditate to help clear my mind. My life and sleep have notably changed for the better since starting meditation, and I am eager to continue as well as introduce it to other students because I believe it can make a positive impact on their lives.
As graduate students, we are subject to the constant stress of impending deadlines and the fear of not being "good enough" in an environment of highly motivated and pressure-driven peers and advisors. Academia is a publish or perish field, and it is not surprising to me that so many people are struggling with stress, self confidence, lack of sleep, and other related mental health concerns. Meditation and mindfulness may not be the cure for this, but it is a great place to start!
Wes is a fourth year PhD student in Mechanical Engineering at Duke University. His research is on the use of robotics in neurosurgery for tumor removal. He has participated in two Koru mindfulness seminar series and has been using CalmCircleCollege for his meditation practice since March.