Having a balanced life is important to everyone, regardless of your career. But researchers, and anyone in the academic sector, often find their lives are out of balance due to the many responsibilities and expectations that come with the high standards of their job. It’s a double-edged sword, since scholars are intelligent enough to know they need to rest and relax, but also smart enough to see the consequences on the horizon if they fail to meet a deadline or juggle a responsibility correctly.
This “all work and no play” philosophy of daily living has caused a major increase in scholarly burnout. Now, psychologists are highly recommending everyone in the academic field adopt a hobby, noting that researchers in particularly may notice an increase in their productivity when stress decreases because of time spent on something they enjoy.
The Real Problem of Scholarly Burnout
Burnout can happen to any one of us. It’s a physiological condition that occurs when three major elements are present:
● You begin to feel overwhelmed with your responsibilities and this shows up as constant fatigue
● You start to notice that your work is unappreciated, making you less apt to put forth your best effort
● You lose empathy or care for others because you have no energy to think beyond your immediate needs, which ultimately impacts your future negatively
In research, these three elements combine to sabotage your present work in ways you might not even notice. When you’re overly tired, you will miss details. When you feel unappreciated, you won’t put in the full 110% to any project. And when you stop caring about how your choices and actions affect others, you’re planting the seeds for problems in the future.
The Science Behind Hobbies and Increased Productivity
As a scholar, you look to the evidence before making a decision about your choices. Faced with the facts, you’ll see that finding a hobby you enjoy is a smart use of your time.
Studies have shown that when people participate in leisure activities, their physical and mental health improves. Physiological reactions such as lowered blood pressure and reduced cortisol levels occur almost immediately. Your brain engages in different types of thinking that helps it to relax. And, more often than you might think, when you shut down your “productive” side of your mind, some of your best ideas have the chance to speak up.
Because you’re relaxed and doing something you enjoy, you become mentally healthier to deal with stresses on the job. Blocks that might have normally kept you from moving forward are easier to jump over, and things that would have taken you hours when you were tired and stressed are done in half the time.
Reduced stress equals increased productivity, and the evidence is clear about this.
How Researchers Benefit from Hobbies
Scholarly burnout is a serious concern for researchers who can’t find a balance in their lives. Hobbies are the answer to mitigating a lot of this chronic stress in a career field where the feeling of overwhelm becomes such a central part of life that you don’t even realize your entire body and mind have adapted to the red-alert living cycle.
A hobby is your body’s outlet to relieve some of this stress. When you’re feeling like you have no control or everyone around you is demanding something from you, a social or physical activity that you enjoy gives you a break from the pressure. A hobby that you truly enjoy acts as a buffering agent between your daily high-impact stress and your body’s natural physiological responses. As you proceed in your activity, your cortisol levels decrease and serotonin and dopamine increase, providing the much-needed rest and relaxation your body so greatly needs in order to be more efficient and productive.