UW Graduate School

January 17, 2019

Postdoc Well-being

As postdocs, you are much more than just researchers, scholars and scientists. You are whole people, with families, personal commitments and a full spectrum of interests. The academy sometimes focuses on your intellectual contributions alone. Evidence now shows we do our best work if we have plenty of sleep, connect with others and have breaks for play and other “offline” activities to reset our minds.

The January 2019 issue of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s publication, ASBMB Today, is dedicated to Wellness. Several authors wrote in their tips for maintaining wholeness while doing the challenging work of being a postdoc. Take stock of where you are now. According to the Gallup Wellbeing to Work scales, feeling solid in these five domains can make a difference to your work productivity (For a well-written explanation and example of this, read Craig, 2019, Finding the help you need):

  • Purpose well-being: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
  • Social well-being: Having strong and supportive relationships and love in your life
  • Financial well-being: Effectively managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
  • Community well-being: The sense of engagement you have with the areas where you live, liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community
  • Physical well-being: Having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis

For you as post-docs, it may be very difficult to feel solid in most of these categories without considerable effort. And your feelings about these categories may change day-to-day. At the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, we recommend reaching out, finding people around you (in or out of the UW) who have shared interests, and putting YOURSELF on your calendar each day, even for 30 minutes.

Our OPA team contributed to a piece on holistic mentoring to the ASBMB Wellness issue. The piece includes a guide to asking expansive questions; Given the roles you play as mentors to students and others around you, you may find this helpful. Let us know what you think — we welcome your feedback!

In the meantime, it is 2020 National Mentoring Month, so take a moment to thank someone who has been a mentor to you over the past few years. We certainly recognize you and the valuable role you play as mentors at UW and beyond, and we thank you. Even as you are serving others, you must continue to take care of yourselves.