When is work stress too much?

A lot of PhD graduates experience at times high levels of stress or dejection. Long days & weekends in the lab trying to get an experiment to work, to complete a manuscript for submission or to finish their thesis might sound familiar. However, too much stress can lead to mental health challenges.

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When is work stress too much?

A lot of PhD graduates experience at times high levels of stress or dejection. Long evenings and weekends in the lab trying to get an experiment to work, to complete a manuscript for submission or to finish their thesis might sound familiar. However, too much stress can lead to mental health challenges such as burn-out. 

In the highly competitive world of academia, an important question is: when is work stress too much? This question, however, is not easy to answer, as it is different from person to person. But as approximately one-third of PhD candidates are at risk of having or developing a common psychiatric disorder like depression, this is a topic that warrants more attention.

Fortunately there is more consideration to excessive work stress, burn-out and mental health issues in PhD candidates world-wide.

Further reading:
“Being a PhD student shouldn’t be bad for your health”
“The mental health of PhD researchers demands urgent attention“
“Ph.D. students face significant mental health challenges”

I have an issue related work pressure, but who to turn to?

There are various people who can help in a tough situation related to too much work pressure or an uneven work-life balance at the Radboudumc.

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I have an issue related work pressure, but who to turn to?

There are various people who can help in a tough situation related to too much work pressure or an uneven work-life balance at the Radboudumc: 

Friends, family and close colleagues
Naturally, a good first step is discussing your problems with people who are close to you. However, friends and family might not really know what a PhD is all about. PhD-candidate Kate Samardzic writes about her experiences in her Nature Career Column: “What I wish my friends and family knew about my PhD.”
 
Supervisor(s)
As your supervisors are very involved with you and your research topic, it can be a good step to discuss issues related to work stress with them, to talk about expectations, and a healthy work-life balance. However, as this is not achievable with every issue, PhD-candidate or supervisor, for various reasons, there are some other options in the work place.
 
Human Resources (HR)

The HR department is an integral part of any business to give advice, provide support and best practice tips, help with the recruitment of new staff, negotiate terms and conditions of employment, career counselling, amongst lots of other essential duties.
 
The HR Advisor from your department can also help you find the support you need. Every department of the Radboudumc has a designated HR advisor and HR officer. To get to know who this person is for you, check this link (page only available in Dutch).
 
Occupational Health & Safety and Environmental Service AMD
Alternatively, you can also contact the Radboudumc counsellor of the AMD. You can make an appointment for a confidential and independent interview via ‘Arbo- en Milieudienst (AMD)’ Route 351, (024) 361 54 00 or by sending an email to spreekuuramd@radboudumc.nl.
 
Often after a few conversations, you can get a better grip on your situation and regain your work-life balance. If it is necessary, he/she will advise you about other assistance options.
 
More information: link.  
 
Mentor
Your mentor can help you with your scientific and personal development during your PhD. In case of a conflict, your mentor can also act as mediator. Confidentiality will be maintained at all times. 
 
Confidential advisors
The confidential advisors are not primary contacts for work pressure. They are there for issues related to Academic Integrity, Undesirable Behaviour, Labour Conflicts and Whistle-Blowing. 
 

Activities

Radboud University, Radboudumc and RIMLS organize events related to work stress and vitality.

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Activities

Radboud University, Radboudumc and RIMLS organize events related to work stress and vitality.

Peer coaching for PhD candidates (Intervision groups)
We will be starting a pilot for RIMLS PhD candidates at the start of 2020.
 
In a peer coaching group (“intervisie groep”) you can discuss your (non-technical) problems or dilemmas in a structured way with peers. This method is often used to  reflect on current practices; expand, refine, and train new skills; share ideas and to solve problems in the workspace. You can now register for the RIMLS pilot with PhD peer coaching groups that will start in the first months on 2020.
 
A peer coaching group consists of up to eight RIMLS PhD candidates . Each group will receive a training in the methodology (2 hours) once a year. Thereafter,  the PhD students will gather for about four 2-hour sessions per year, led by one of the participants. The things discussed in the groups will be strictly confidential, creating a safe environment to share the existing challenges.
 
If you wish to participate in this pilot, please send an email to rimls.graduateschool@radboudumc.nl. It is also possible to register as an existing group.
 
Themed RIMLS PhD drinks
In the beginning of 2020, the theme work-related stress will be discussed during a short presentation of a HR officer. This is followed by a short game. In this informal setting, you will be provided with practical tips how to cope with work-related stress. The date will follow soon. 
 
Radboudumc Vitality week
Every November, the Radboudumc organizes a week of activities on the topic of vitality at the work place.
 

Relevant courses

Several helpful courses are organized by Radboud University.

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