Setting yourself up to thrive for grant writing seasons.
Dr Elizabeth Pritchard November 2019
Monash University
WALT Institute

As researchers, academics and students, our lives are often cyclical. Determined by various external deadlines, dates and requirements. Dates for an expression of interest, a grant application, publication review, exams, ethics submission deadlines, confirmation of candidature, semesters or marking. We often allow these external forces to dictate how we approach our day and get caught up in the flurry of activity.So how do make sure that we approach the year with energy, passion, and enough in our tank, to enjoy a break, reconnect with friends and family, and launch into every month thriving and not just surviving?

We need to integrate pauses into our lives. A space that we choose to put into our day. A pause to look up from our devices, relax and defocus the eyes and take a long deep breath. A pause to walk outside with a cuppa tea or coffee and stand in the fresh air for five minutes. A pause to sit back, look someone in the eye and have a friendly chat or laugh with them.

In the world of STEM we often think these things cannot be part of our day – it is ‘wasting time’, we are ‘time poor’. But these types of statements have been shown to increase adrenaline and cortisol levels, and negatively affect emotions, sap our energy and ultimately lower productivity and performance (Walter, Nikoleizig, &; Alfermann, 2019). How can ‘the system’ change if we don’t make the change in ourselves first?

Things to instigate:
 Take that 10 second pause
 Look up – look out
 Stand up and step into another space for two minutes
 Actively feel the steps that get you there (be present)
 Allow your mind to be and cease leaping between tasks

Cease the thoughts of ‘and then,’ ‘and then,’ ‘and then,’ – I have to…’ Set them aside for 2 minutes – or just 30 seconds, several times a day and you will recharge energy, vitality, creativity and output. These are mindful moments. A time when you choose to be mindful and not mind full.

The outcomes are phenomenal: decreased stress and anxiety (Donald, Atkins, Parker, Christie, &; Ryan, 2016), enhanced vigour and reduced fatigue (Grégoire &; Lachance, 2012), improved illness recovery (Zhang, Zhou, Feng, Fan, Zeng, &; Wei, 2017), and improved academic attainment (Bennett &; Dorjee, 2016) to name a few. Being mindful is also linked with increased brain activity and neuroplasticity (the ability to change and adapt) (Lazar, et al., 2005), leading towards improved cognition, attention and ultimately productivity.

These positive outcomes will accumulate over time as you instigate these habits and a ripple effect will begin to take place. Your team and colleagues will notice you are more focussed and not so fragmented or distracted. Your family and friends will want to spend more time with you as you are more present on a deeper level. You will then allow yourself to switch off in your break (whether it is one day or one month), to be more present with what you are involved with, to fill up your own cup with fun, creativity, innovation, beauty and laughter. All the things that boost the happy chemicals (serotonin and oxytocin) to increase your mental and physical health and take you into 2020 ready to thrive, ready for anything!

Bennett, K., &; Dorjee, D. (2016). The impact of a mindfulness-based stress reduction course (MBSR) on well-being and academic attainment of sixth-form students. Mindfulness, 7, 105-114. doi:10.1007/s12671-015-0430-7

Donald, J. N., Atkins, P. W. B., Parker, P. D., Christie, A. M., & Ryan, R. M. (2016). Daily stress and the benefits of mindfulness: Examining the daily and longitudinal relations between present-moment awareness and stress responses. Journal of Research in Personality, 65, 30-37.

Grégoire, S., & Lachance, L. (2015). Evaluation of a brief mindfulness-based intervention to reduce psychological distress in the workplace. Mindfulness, 6, 836-847. doi:10.1007/s12671-014-0328-9

Lazar, S. W., Kerr, C. E., Wasserman, R. H., Gray, J. R., Greve, D. N., Treadway, M. T., … & Fischl, B. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport, 16, 1893- 1897. doi:10.1097/01.wnr.0000186598.66243.19

Walter N, Nikoleizig L, Alfermann D. Effects of Self-Talk Training on Competitive Anxiety, Self- Efficacy, Volitional Skills, and Performance: An Intervention Study with Junior Sub-Elite Athletes. Sports (Basel). 2019;7(6) doi: 10.3390/sports7060148

Zhang, J., Zhou, Y., Feng, Z., Fan, Y., Zeng, G., & Wei, L. (2017). Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on posttraumatic growth of Chinese breast cancer survivors. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 22, 94-109. doi:10.1080/13548506.2016.1146405