UW Graduate School

April 9, 2020

Postdocs, we are in this together.

As we have entered the virtual Spring Quarter, it is important to acknowledge that this is an unprecedented time for all of us, especially you, postdocs, given how our world has changed dramatically in the face of COVID-19. We are advised by the governor to stay home and stay healthy, but we need adaptation and reconfiguration to continue playing the roles of effective researcher, trainee, and teacher in academia. At the same time, these changes have impacted how we normally operate and make plans, which could result in additional stress and anxiety. Please trust that you are not alone if you are experiencing feelings of isolation, job and financial insecurity, the stress of balancing work and family, and general information overload. Here, we offer some strategies in the hope of supporting you during these challenging times. 

Adjust and adapt. When the normal daily routine gets disrupted, we can take some time to plan for a new routine. Daily, most of us are used to going to the lab, commuting to the office, or meeting friends and colleagues for coffee or lunch. Now, we are working from home, reducing the time outside to a minimum, setting new expectations with PIs, and making new plans for research progress. Most likely, we also need to attend to the family’s needs in the midst of finding a new healthy ‘work-life continuum.’ This is overwhelming, but now, you must adapt. Remember, focus on the things you can control. There are things FOR EVERYONE that you can’t control or predict. It is normal to fear for the unknown and get stuck with negative feelings. The truth is, everyone is worried about similar things to you; for example, falling behind in your previously planned research schedule and being not as productive as expected. Please make new plans, carve out work hours, and separate designated workspace from personal space, if possible. Check out the guidance from the UW Office of Research on mitigating the impact to research during this time. Most importantly, be flexible – with yourself and others. Everyone is doing the best they can. 

Take care of yourself. It seems the world has stopped functioning when every trip we take has to be “essential” to our lives. Without being overwhelmed by what we can’t do, think of all the things we can do and enjoy: Taking a nap, reading a book for fun, going for a walk, trying out a new recipe, practicing yoga and meditation, setting up a karaoke station, zoom/Facetime with family and friends, cleaning and organizing. Now can be a great time for reflection, re-assessment, and reorientation – things that should be done regularly but often aren’t prioritized in our regular workdays. Please be mindful of your feelings; ask yourself: am I feeling disappointed, overwhelmed, sad, or worried? Recognize these feelings, and don’t judge them. Check out some ways to help you mitigate the impact of stress and 21 self-care resources

Stay connected. Please take our advice to remain physically distanced, but socially close. You are not alone during this time. Stay connected with your family, friends, colleagues, university offices, professional societies, and groups on social media. If you are experiencing information overload on social media, take a break from your electronic device. There are national resources you can reach out to, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP(4357) and teletherapy through HIPAA compliant means. We, your UW postdoctoral community, are here to support you through online channels: reach out to the OPAUWPA, and PDA whenever you need it. 

At the OPA, we recognize this is a challenging time, but also one for new opportunities. We are working diligently to continue providing professional development opportunities via online format to our postdocs. As we work together, please reach out to us if we can be of support and assistance. 

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