Ana Cristina Atanes recently appointed the title of Honorary Research Associate from the School of Healthcare Sciences, Bangor University
Last April I was awarded a Ph.D., under the supervision of Peter Huxley analysing mindfulness, self-compassion, academic burnout and engagement in health and social care students. The journey however, proved to provide much more than the Ph.D. knowledge itself.
As a mature student, mother of teenager triplets and married to a Londoner, I was funded by the Brazilian agency Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico / Brazilian Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) for a four–year Ph.D. My initial contract was with the School of Psychology to research mindfulness.
After one year, however and for reasons beyond my control, the contract was terminated by the School. So, when I first met Peter, my confidence was very low and I can confidently say that his experience and support greatly contributed towards a happy end. His gentle guidance was essential in overcoming the loops of redesigning a proposal from scratch, convincing the funders that everything was under control (not easy, believe me…) and all the rest involved a process of a Ph.D. From the ethics approval, to recruitment, data collection, statistics and writing in English when my first language is Portuguese; with the bonus of a Londoner husband living in North Wales and teenager triplets.
Trusting Peter’s experience affirming that it was going to be correct and make sense at the end (despite not believing in it until the end), was one of the learnings I most treasure from the Ph.D. experience.
Moreover, I can confidently say that, beyond mastering a multivariate analysis of variance, learning to apply self-compassion in my life as a student, mother and wife (specially with the latter – hehe) was indeed essential to my own academic engagement; despite any research findings. Trusting Peter’s and Rob’s kind encouragements to let go again and again of my well-known friend, the impostor syndrome, was essential… and gave the courage to apply for a postdoc scholarship with the Federal University of Sao Paulo (UNIFESP).
Aiming towards the Brazilian scheme promoting internationalization of research, the project counts with the partnership of two associate scholars of UNIFESP (from Psychobiology and Nursing departments), Peter and myself as a PI; which promises to improve my skills to a different level.
I’ll have the opportunity to conduct a mixed methods randomized trial with a team linked to the Centre of Mindfulness and Education in Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP). Testing the feasibility and effectiveness in improving higher-education student’s mental health through online MBRP delivered by a trained mindfulness instructor (rather than an APP); possibly replicating the study in the UK.
Not yet explored by Bangor University, the topic of this project has the potential to generate mutual gains if replicated in future, benefitting and strengthening the relationship between Bangor University and UNIFESP. Investigating different ways to support higher education students through the online format is going to be truly rewarding. Surely, if the funding is not approved for any reasons again beyond my control, I shall think of something else. Afterall, if I have learned something during this whole process is to trust the process.
By the way, my husband loves living in North Wales (he says he will never go back to London again) and the triplets are at different Unis around the UK. All learning online, due to the current public health scenario.