Hi Everyone, My Masters is coming to an end this month and I can’t believe how quickly it has flown by. During this year long degree, I’ve learned a few things about taking care of yourself while getting through a postgraduate degree. I thought I would share them with all of you as I know it is something that a lot of people in academia struggle with.
Throughout my undergraduate degree, I wasn’t the best at taking good care of myself. I’ve always been reasonably healthy but I didn’t take this seriously enough when studying for my first degree. This led to burnout and stress and is something I knew I wanted to change going into my Masters. I decided to make some positive changes.
My first piece of advice is to try your best to treat your Masters like a 9-5, or stick to a work schedule that suits you. By this I mean stick to regular working hours that suit you and when you are most productive, and make the most of those hours rather than spending all day every day at a computer screen. This is much easier said than done, and on the odd occasion this year I did end up burning the midnight oil while working on assignments and studying for exams, but in comparison to my undergraduate behaviours, I found that trying to stick to a 9-5 made me much more organised, more productive, and gave me more free time in my evenings to actually do the things that I enjoy. I would treat the library like an office and when heading home for the day I was happy knowing that my studying was over. It was also really beneficial when trying to socialise with friends who were working in 9-5 jobs and had evenings free rather than the freedom that comes with being a student.
On that note, try your best to take a break and socialise as much as you need to! We’re all different, and while I am very sociable and friendly at times I do enjoy my own space, so for myself personally I need a balance between spending time with friends and having my own time to relax. Either way, I think it’s important to get as much social interaction as you need and to try to keep in touch with those close to you while studying your Masters degree. A Masters is not easy and it helps to blow off some steam every now and again and have friends that you can lean on for support.
I found that staying as healthy as possible and exercising regularly this year helped massively with my ability to focus at university and take a break when I needed one. I took up running a few years ago and during lockdown threw myself into running more often as there honestly wasn’t much else to do for a good portion of 2020! This running and exercise is something I tried to continue when completing my Masters. It gave me some headspace through the week and allowed me to relax. It was also a great way of seeing a new city and getting to know my surroundings. Exploring your surroundings and getting some fresh air can be very relaxing (although the air here in London isn’t exactly as fresh as I would like).
My final tip, and one that has always been important for myself personally, is to try to get enough sleep. I am very familiar with lack of sleep having worked part time throughout my time at university and enjoyed a night out like most students, but sleep really did help me a lot this year. I made sure to sleep enough whenever I felt tired and tried to get enough sleep each night. My part time work this year made it much more difficult to have a night-time and sleep routine as I was often on call overnight, and this routine is something I missed. I enjoy having a regular sleep and wake time and find that when I have slept enough, I am much more productive and energetic throughout the day. I’m looking forward to handing in my dissertation in the coming weeks and catching up on some of the sleep I have been missing!
I hope that some of these tips, while cliché and obvious, are helpful to those of you beginning your Masters journey this year.
Morgan Daniel  is an MSc Student at University College London, studying the along the ‘Dementia: Causes, Treatments and Research (Neuroscience)’ track, Originally from Loch Lomond, Morgan completed her BSc in Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Glasgow in 2019, and she hates all forms of potato! Morgan is sharing her MSc journey during 2020 / 2021 with NIHR Dementia Researcher.