Spending time in nature helps to switch off after a long day of working on my PhD. Next weekend, I’m climbing Snowdon at night to raise money for the charities Mind and CLIC Sargent.
Being able to go on walks during the pandemic has made me appreciate how lucky we are to live in south Wales and have such beautiful views and green spaces right on our doorstep.
As part of my PhD research, I recently interviewed young people all over the UK to find out how their mental health and wellbeing had been impacted by the activities delivered by professional football clubs.
Lockdown restrictions have been difficult for everyone, but it was eye-opening to hear how the closure of parks, leisure facilities and the cessation of these football trust activities during the Covid-19 pandemic have impacted on the mental health of young people who live in more urban areas and don’t have access to green spaces or gardens.
It has given more meaning to my PhD, which hopes to develop an evidence-based intervention that uses the inspirational draw of professional football clubs to encourage young people to take part in sport and physical activity, at the same time educating them on the importance of physical activity in maintaining mental health.
I've always had a keen interest in mental health which is why I decided to study a Psychology degree at USW followed by a Masters in Clinical Psychology. I've worked as a support worker with people with mental health problems and / or learning disabilities, and am currently juggling my PhD alongside teaching for USW and the Open University so I know how important it is to make time for my own mental wellbeing.
A PhD is a rewarding but challenging experience. There are many highs and lows along the way: the highs can be as simple as receiving good feedback, finishing data collection for a study, or feeling like your interview skills are developing. The lows can include feelings of imposter syndrome, frustration at not meeting deadlines you have set yourself or having a paper rejected.
Having support from your supervisory team and other PhD students is vital in maintaining both your progress and mental resilience. Good relationships with other PhD students can help you cope with the challenges because you can guarantee that another PhD student has gone through (or is going through) what you are experiencing. It is important to get things off your chest and realise you are not alone.
It’s also important to regularly stop and reflect on just how far you have come. It can sometimes feel like you’re at a standstill but when you look back you realise what you have achieved. The skills and experience I have acquired since starting my PhD have been fantastic, and that is a great feeling!