Today’s blog is guest-written by Susanna Harris, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
thing to hear that everything is going to be okay. It’s another to know it and
make it that way.
At the end
of a lab meeting where I had outlined my last of six years getting my PhD, my
advisor announced she would be moving the lab from North Carolina to Massachusetts
in about six months. Just when everything had settled into place, this
announcement turned my bookshelf of plans on its side once again. Suddenly, I
didn’t know what would happen next.
I chose to
go to grad school partly to challenge myself to accept uncertainty. When I
started my PhD in Microbiology in 2014, I thought this would mean reading new
papers and adjusting experiments accordingly. As it has turned out, the real
challenge has been to constantly get back up as life and graduate school knock
me flat on my ass. Yes, I needed strength to power through, but even more than
that, I needed resilience.
The world we live in is increasingly high-paced and demanding of time and attention. Cell phones and social media keep us constantly stimulated. This kind of environment can lead to stress. Stress is a normal reaction to high-pressure situations and can be a healthy mechanism to help us increase performance for a short period of time.
While stress is a response to a specific situation, anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness that may not trace back to an identifiable source. Anxiety is a perfectly normal feeling to have once in a while, especially during or just before or after periods of prolonged stress. This feeling can be beneficial in some cases by creating a heightened awareness and preparing us for what is to come. Continue reading “What are you so worried about?”
There do not seem to be any great statistics on the prevalence of addiction; however, there is quite a bit of information on the number of people using alcohol and other drugs. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2010 reports that approximately 8.9% of people over the age of 12 use illicit drugs (defined as illegal drugs or nonmedical use of prescription drugs). Only about 3.1% of the population who use illicit drugs feel the need for treatment, although the majority of these people do not actually seek treatment for a variety of reasons including not feeling ready to stop and not having access to treatment programs. Accessibility can be difficult because most treatment options are very expensive. Insurance companies are beginning to include coverage for expensive stays at alcohol and drug treatment centers. (In this article, the term addiction and addict includes alcoholism and alcoholic, respectively.) Some facilities have funding for people who are indigent at the state or county level, but need for treatment far surpasses the funds budgeted. Looking at the biology of addiction, it is clear that treatment of some kind is required to get the disease under control. For any treatment to be effective, however, the addict must decide they are ready to stop using the drug. This can be a difficult decision because addiction is strongly tied to identity. Aside from the biological aspects, battling addiction is a long process that requires a lot of effort, usually a complete redesign of the addict’s lifestyle, and intense counseling to uncover issues that led to and resulted from the addiction. Continue reading “Your Brain on Drugs: Hope for Today”