Welcome to this month’s newsletter article from your YSSC! This time we would like to share some thoughts about the global pandemic that has changed everybody’s life in or outside research. This is not going to be political or a scientific review of the latest studies and numbers – we shall leave that to the news agencies of the world. We are just looking at ourselves, early-career neurochemists. Fair enough, this might not be, globally speaking, the most recognized group of people recently, but you are important to us and we know a couple of things about it.
Back in February or March probably most of us thought that by now COVID-19 will be a thing for the “This was 2020”- shows that flood our TVs by the end of every year to revise what moved the world during the last 12 months. While some of us are slowly establishing a “new normal” or might even be fully back into a more distant but otherwise normal schedule, we should not forget that this is by far not the case for everyone. Sometimes it is difficult to know what is allowed and what is not. What is safe and what is not is often left to the proper judgement of the individual.
When it comes to researchers we think there are some common issues that we all face, no matter where we are in the world. On the one hand, you might be really keen to get back into the lab, want to restart your experiments, because obviously it was just all going so well right before lockdown started. Now there is uncertainty about funding extensions, and deadlines suddenly being very close especially for PhD students. Some funders are very supportive and understanding, whereas others maybe not so much. You might have made good use of lockdown by writing up your paper, realising there is a number of experiments that would really improve your story, so you really want to get those done now and submit. On the other hand, you might have no desire at all to go back to the bench, because you finally had more time with your loved ones and learned a new side of life that wasn`t there before. You might feel quite anxious, because the pressure is picking up again and after 3-4 months, jumping back into it feels very daunting.
It is OK to go back to the lab and realise that your first thought is: hang on, what am I doing here? How do I start this experiment and why? It will come back, give yourself a few days. The first days of lockdown were probably also slightly awkward. Start with some quick and easy tasks: make a buffer, check if you still got all the reagents, run a test on your equipment for the first day.
Sounds a bit too soft? Shouldn’t we just shake it off and get on with work? We have lost so much time anyway! Well, if you can do that: great, congratulations, you should stop reading this and get going then! If you can’t just shake it off, don’t forget that there are other things apart from your job that might take up headspace. Don`t you think you deserve a little softer start? You might have had kids to home school for the past months and wonder how teachers survive. You might live and work abroad and were unable to see your family, not knowing when you will be able to see them again. You might have lost someone or been ill yourself. The bottom line of this is there are many reasons, different ones for everyone, why the time right after the immediate outbreak of the pandemic is also difficult. One good thing to do when you start going back to work is just to keep that in mind and be kind with yourself and others. It will make you much more efficient in the long term.
So don`t forget to smile now and then underneath your mask!