The number one tip against stress in your PhD

Be honest: as a PhD or PostDoc, how often do you get to work outside, somewhere green, where you can feel the sun shine, the wind blow, hear birds, smell flowers or fall leaves? When do you get to see and experience some nature? For most of you the basement lab, the library, or even your computer screen define your daily working environment.

I have noticed the beneficial effects of leaving your normal habitat on many walks with clients in the woods of Amelisweerd, to the east of Utrecht. Taking a physical distance creates a lot of breathing space for work-related issues. But there is more to it than that. Did you know that coaching in a natural environment brings mildness and acceptation and raises your confidence and awareness?


At the “wandelcoachfestival” in Rhijnauwen I got a preview of scientific research showing these effects. Prof. Agnes van den Berg investigated the effects of coaching in nature on health in case of issues of work related stress. I was very glad to see my personal observations and intuitions in this respect confirmed by her findings.

So my number one tip for all PhD’s and PostDocs: go into the woods to get out of the woods!

So next time you find your mind running in circles chasing a fleeting idea, feel depressed at another failed experiment, or stressed for the weight of your teaching load: get out! Even half an hour in the park may work wonders. Start by calmly walking, breathing deeply. Turn your attention to your feet and the steps you are taking. Slowly direct it upwards through your body. While keeping in touch with your breath, let your senses one by one guide your attention outwards and become conscious of the feel of the air, the smells, the sounds, and lastly lower your pace and look around. Notice details: shape and color of the leaves, a cloud, a puddle… And enjoy!


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