On Mental Health and Taking Time out to Feed the Ducks

It’s important to look after your mental health during a research degree. There is a very high rate of mental ill health among PhD students, the Nature PhD Survey 2019 found that 36% of their respondents from around the world had reached out for help with depression or anxiety connected to their studies. And that was pre-COVID. It is important to find ways to look after your mental health and take a break. For me, my break was feeding the ducks. When I was writing up my own PhD, I went to a local library each day to write. Luckily for me there was a lake nearby where I often went to eat my lunch. At this lake there were a rather enthusiastic cohort of ducks who would often come very close to the humans sat around eating lunch, in the hope of getting something. I didn’t want to give them any bread as I’d heard it wasn’t the healthiest for ducks, and a little internet research told me that they quite like oats. So every day I would take a little pottle of oats along with my lunch, to hand out to the ducks if they approached. Now taking a break for lunch didn’t always mean that the brainwork stopped, but spending a few minutes each day being completely absorbed by these exuberant ducks was just what I needed to come back refreshed to the afternoon’s work. I will always have fond memories of these ducks, some of whom were bold enough to eat right out of my hand (which is an unusual sensation).

Why am I telling you about ducks, you may ask? Finding things that you can do that will give you a break and give you a boost at the same time can be really helpful. And there are ways that AUT can support you to stay well too. Did you know that GRS runs a series of workshops specifically designed to help you think about and learn ways to deal with issues that can impact on your mental health? Our Mental Health Toolkit sessions happen monthly and cover a diverse range of issues including managing stress, building resilience and getting good sleep. You don’t have to register, and you can attend either in person at WU524 or online via Zoom. You can find all the information you need at https://student.aut.ac.nz/postgraduate-research/postgraduate-student-community-and-events/postgrad-students-wellness-toolkit-sessions. We look forward to seeing you at a Wellness Toolkit session soon.

Woolston, C. (2019). PhDs: the tortuous truth. Nature, 575 (403-406).

About Kathryn Oxborrow

Dr Kathryn Oxborrow is the temporary Researcher Development Coordinator at AUT's Graduate Research School. In her PhD research she investigated how non-Māori librarians in Aotearoa learn about and engage with Māori knowledge in their lives and work. Kathryn is originally from the UK and moved to New Zealand in 2010.

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