PhD & Downtime III

Things we like to do to relax…

by Jessica Day


Writing a Blog post (and for pleasure)

I have always wanted to write blog posts, but that desire has always been shadowed by the fear of “how and what do I even say?” More often than not, everything I write is what we might call “formally academic”; it’s either a part of a chapter, a literature review, or full of theoretical analysis. So, the prospect of articulating my thoughts in a different style, and, to almost follow on from Krystina’s first post in this series, to “write for pleasure,” seemed more than daunting. However, so that I didn’t let the PG CWWN superwomen team down, I had to face my fears; I had to sit at a laptop and ramble about the other aspects of my PhD life. Yet, rather than being a stressful task and an additional fight for words (as most of my writing days are), I’ve found it refreshing and enjoyable. For once, I could write without overthinking, second guessing myself, or being too worried about how it will fit within a much larger project. So, like Krystina said about reading for pleasure- will writing blogs or for pleasure improve my thesis? No. But, is it a waste of time? Absolutely not.

Group Sports/ Hobbies

Since the third year of my undergraduate degree, running has been an essential part of any of my research plans. Alongside the timetabling of any work or another of my research to-do-lists (yes, because I gain an odd sense of enjoyment from compiling to-do-lists, my life features multiple), running would undoubtedly be scheduled in alongside it all. Of course, the benefits of running are fairly obvious: relief of stress, time outside and away from the box rooms that you’ll frequently find yourself trapped in, and the flexibility of choosing when you go. However, as my “seriousness” about running developed and I began to enter events for which I had to put together training plans (yes, me being me, meant I needed an “exercise to-do-list”), the sense of freedom I gained from it decreased and I soon found myself as stressed about running. So, when I heard about a ‘Back to Netball’ scheme at my local sports centre, I was thrilled. Now, at least once a week, I find my myself in a hall full of thirty or so women of different abilities and ages throwing netballs at each other- what better type of escape could I have asked for? It’s both social and energising, and it also means that I have another commitment outside my PhD to look forward to. (Plus, as Fiona discussed last week, it’s always inspiring and enriching to spend some time with non-academics). There is a lot to be said about the sociality of group hobbies and sports as down time from a PhD, and I recommend any student giving a new group activity a try.


I can cook, but I can’t bake. Yes, when it comes to cooking anything savoury or what might be called a “proper” meal, I’m proud to say, as a novice and far-from-professional cook, I’m (she says very tentatively) quite good. When it comes to baking, however, I’m awful! So, as and when I can, or, more to the point, when I need to take a break from PhD work, I’ve tried to learn. Although I’m yet to have had a cake with a “good crumb” (to steal Mary Berry’s favourite term), the challenge of focusing on something completely non-related to my thesis, but that still requires patience and (in my case) lots of determination, has been very therapeutic. I actually enjoy not being good at baking and the prospect of getting better. And, although I’m certain most will be better than myself, time spent baking at any standard and learning to do something new, is pleasantly uplifting. Plus, it also means you have lots of sugary snacks ready for when you return to the books/desk, which, of course, is an added bonus.