Writing your dissertation can be the hardest part of completing your terminal degree. At this point, you have completed much of your course work, and it is easy to lose connections to peers or cohorts. During this time, the writing is a solo activity, and with imposed deadlines or expectations it is easy to become overwhelmed. Two ways to improve well-being include having a writing community, and practicing self-care.
As scholars, it is extremely important to have mentors, but you also need “BFFW” (best friends for writing). These writing partners can serve many different roles and you can choose who and what you need most. Some of your chosen BFFW community, will read only, others may read and edit, but most importantly they all should provide attentive feedback. Now is the time to build relationships, which are thoughtful and purposeful. This community should consist of mentors, peers, family and friends; their various expertise and ways of knowing can only make your document stronger.
Start this process by joining a department, or campus writing group. If none exists, create your own; ask your mentors or chair for assistance. Once you have chosen your community, establish an agreement regarding your writing tasks, with reasonable deadlines. This writing community among your peers assists you in strengthening each others work, and building networks throughout. It also provides glimpse into your journey for family and friends, as they continue to support your efforts.
In addition, carve out time for relaxation, and recreation; both can overlap. Relaxation involves a reduction in work, meaning you should have some downtime, when you do very little, or nothing at all. For example, deep breathing, meditation, music/art therapy, and massage. Recreation involves activities that you enjoy, solo or in a group, but you are more active. Anything physical from formal exercise at the gym, to a leisurely walk, or sports activities are recreation. Other recreation includes travel (day trips count too), games, cooking, and dance. In short, do something that does not involve, researching, or writing, even if you have to schedule it, and it makes you feel well. Taking small breaks from the writing process can recharge you; simply getting up from the computer 5-10 minutes for every hour, is impactful. Remember to eat, and drink water (caffeine, should consumed in moderation). Your brain and body work better when they properly fueled and hydrated. Longer breaks, whether for a few hours or a few days, offers perspective and allows you to reconnect to yourself and the outside world.
The journey of the terminal degree is full of hills and valleys; having community and resources grounded in self-care can assist in emotional support. If you feel well emotionally, it is easier to navigate the writing process, and adapt to the changes.