Universiteit Leiden

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Graduate School of Humanities

Mental fitness

Fitness is more than physical health alone. An equally important aspect in our general well-being is mental fitness. Mental fitness refers to fitness of the mind. During the course of your PhD research, there might be periods in which you feel insecure or down. It is important to take good care of yourself. Don’t wait with taking action or asking for help. The most common problem areas PhD students face are listed below, as well as how one can begin to fix these problems.

Are you harassed at work?

Unfortunately, harassment or bullying are common within organisations, including universities. Harassment comprises humiliating, intimidating and threatening behaviour. This has serious consequences, both for the health of the victim, and for the co-workers who are witness to this harassment. To find out what you can do, read the Harassment at work brochure. You can also contact the Confidential Adviser on Undesirable Behaviour in cases of (sexual) intimidation, aggression, violence and discrimination. Together with the adviser, you can look into possible solutions to the problem in an atmosphere of absolute confidentially. One option is to submit a complaint to the special complaints committee set up for this purpose.

Are you stressed or at risk of a burn-out?

At some point, many PhD candidates feel overwhelmed by their projects, stressed out, or even at risk of a burn-out. There are three main areas of symptoms that are considered to be signs of a burn-out:

  1. Exhaustion: People at risk of a burn-out generally feel more drained than normal and emotionally exhausted. You might feel that you are unable to cope, tired and down.
  2. Alienation from (work-related) activities: People who are at a risk of a burn-out find their jobs increasingly stressful and frustrating. You might find yourself becoming cynical about your working conditions and your colleagues. At the same time, you might distance yourself emotionally and start feeling numb about your work. 
  3. Reduced performance:  A burn-out mainly affects everyday tasks at work, at home or even when caring for family members. People suffering from a burn-out are very negative about their (everyday) tasks, find it hard to concentrate, are listless and lack creativity. 

If you feel overwhelmed, stressed or think that you are at risk of a burn-out, don’t wait but seek help now! You can, for instance, contact the PhD counsellor at your Institute or the University doctor. Anything you discuss, with the doctor or your PhD counsellor,  will remain confidential. He or she can help you to find a solution that suits your situation.


Contact the University doctor

The University doctors never divulge information without your explicit permission. The University doctors at the Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) department can be contacted via telephone number 071 527 8015. You can also use the online form.

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