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How to Enjoy Every Season of Life…Even a PhD

If you don’t know, I’m in the throws of completing my dissertation. Anyone out there who has been here will understand that the uncertainty of the future creates intensely high levels of stress. If you’re one of the sane humans out there who have decided not to pursue academia, don’t worry, this article is as much for you as anyone else.

Being in this some-what “limbo” season is stressful for me. As a type-A personality I thrive on check-lists and deadlines, however, this is not how dissertation writing goes, and I’ve had to learn the hard way to be ok with that. This has brought me to the realization that for everyone, there are seasons throughout our lives, some of which we enjoy more than others. In these seasons we have to alter several things in order to find peace and happiness. It is, after all, important to enjoy each season to our best ability, since it’s these seasons that make up our life.

What’s currently going on in your life? Are you a stay-at-home mom with a two-year-old that is making you question your abilities as a parent? An intern that seems to never do anything but coffee runs and email responding? Have you lost your job? Whatever it is I believe you can find joy in this season. To start, here are some ways that have helped me:

Remember It’s a Season

To begin with, you may just need to remember that this time is fleeting.  You won’t always have a crying two-year-old, you won’t always be out of work.  Identify your season, understand it’s present but not necessarily future.

Be Grateful

Gratitude works wonders.  While I don’t think it’s fair to force yourself to be grateful for the actual struggle of the season (if you can do this, great, but don’t force it), it’s very likely you can find something everyday to be grateful for.  Keep a list.  I have a very simple layout in my bullet journal where I list 1-2 things each day I’m grateful for.  These are specific, such as “quality time with my friend at a nice dinner”.  The specificity of the gratitude allows you to see just how much you are grateful for, instead of daily being grateful for “friends, family, house”.

Eliminate Excess

I’m still working on this one.  If we can eliminate non-essential items from our to-do list, we can have more space for the essential.  How does this play out?  For me, this summer has meant fewer blog posts.  While I’m committed to blogging long term, and really enjoy it, the essential for me right now is dissertation writing (sorry, folks).

Make a list of all the reoccurring responsibilities you have as well as any lingering to-do items.  What can you eliminate?  Cross it out.  What can you postpone?  Schedule a time in the future to re-assess whether you can continue to postpone.  Take the remaining list of essentials, and bust through them like a boss.

Together, going through each of these steps very intentionally has helped me find more peace and happiness in this less than ideal situation.  Understanding that “this too, shall pass”, finding things each day that I’m grateful for, and eliminating extraneous brain noise has been my daily, weekly, and monthly process to get through this season.

Do you have other ways to find joy/peace/happiness in seasons that seem frustrating?  Share below so we can all benefit!

Disclaimer:  I want to be sure and tell each reader that I am honored and privileged to be pursuing a PhD.  I hope in no way that this post seems to be about complaining or engaging in any type of “woe is me” attitude.  While I’m thankful for this season, it is still difficult.  I know many others go through seasons with a wide range of difficulty, and my only hope with this post is that it can bring someone a little help in their struggle.  If you’re season is especially dim, and you’re struggling with depression or debilitating negativity, please reach out.  There are people who care.

Adrienne is a Certified Exercise Physiologist and holds a masters degree in Exercise Science. Her passion is to help people find a healthy balance between #IIFYM and #YOLO.

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