How to Conquer Stress & Your Inner Critic (and Get Crazy with Dissertation Titles) | Issue 208

Four Surprising Benefits You Get from Decluttering Your Space


Got clutter? How about that mess on your desk or in your closet or car or backpack?

You've experienced clutter's downside—time wasted searching for stuff, embarrassment or anxiety about others' reactions, inconvenience to yourself, and more. Surprising benefits await you should you get organized, according to research cited by Goodnet:

1. Decluttering promotes relaxation. The less you deal with stuff, the less anxious you will feel.

2. Decluttering can help others. Donate your discards from clothing to musical instruments to those in need. Bonus: You get a mood boost at the same time.

3. Decluttering purifies the air. Tidy up your desk to improve air quality—good for mind and body.

Use This Simple Trick To Boost Self-Esteem and Memory

Check your posture. Do you slouch when seated? If so, you can improve your mood, self-esteem, energy, and recall by doing one simple thing: Sit up straight.

Your bodily cues, including posture, influence your emotions.

In a one study, subjects answered mock job-interview questions while sitting either slouched or upright. Compared to slouchers, upright folks felt more enthusiastic, excited and strong, reduced fear, and higher self-esteem.

"Sitting upright may be a simple behavioral strategy to help build resilience to stress," conclude the University of Auckland researchers.

For more: Did you miss Amy Cuddy, Ph.D., demonstrating "power poses" in her wildly popular TED talk ? Her new book Presence builds on the body-mind theme while offering user-friendly strategies to tap your personal power.


How to Disable Your Inner Critic in Five Easy Steps

How much valuable mental real estate gets occupied by your inner critic? For in-the-moment relief, try this simple mindfulness meditation based on Mark Bertin's recommendations in Mindful:

1. When you hear an inner criticism, consider what you'd do if someone else said it. ("Gotta go now.")

2. Notice it without debating it while you pause to breathe.

3. Breathe in. Acknowledge any emotions without analyzing or resisting. ("Right now I feel frustrated".)

4. Breathe out, letting go. See the experience for what it is, then shift your focus to something more useful without self-judgment.

5. Offer yourself compassion. Visualize being at ease with each exhalation.

Self-coaching tip: For a bigger boost, name your inner critic. Now notice when "Downer Dan" or "Nagging Nancy" shows up—greeting him or her by name: "Oh, there you go again!"


Crazy Dissertation Titles You Won't Believe


These alternative thesis titles at sent the ABDSG staff rolling on the floor. The site challenges thesis writers to "sum up years of work in one sentence." Can you top the disarming transparency of these? See more at the website.

Blowing stars up with a bigger computer than the last guy. (Astrophysics, Stony Brook University)

If you want people to make good decisions about climate change policy, tell them about it when it is really, really hot.(Geography, University of Colorado - Boulder)

It turns out that Craigslist and Facebook are better for finding significant others than actual dating sites, because people actually secretly like chance, fate, romance and mystery more than straightforward compatibility algorithms. (Sociology and Psychology, University of Arizona)

Being pregnant and giving birth in sixteenth and seventeenth century England sucked. (History, Glendon College)

It is hard to collect, exhibit, or de-accestion indigenous art objects in museums without being patronizing or racist, sometimes museums do a good job, but usually not. (Art History, Theory and Criticism, Maryland Institute College of Art)

The government hiring people is a good way to bring down unemployment; we stopped doing it because we are stupid.(Policy History, UCSB)


How to Boost Your Willpower with Indulgences


As Sarah Jessica Parker said, "Every once in a while a girl has to indulge herself." Her claim now has garnered empirical support.

A 2016 ground-breaking study reported in PsyBlog found that when dieters planned one "naughty day" per week, they stuck to their diets better. They also reported more pleasure and motivation and lost as much weight as the non-cheaters.

Researchers theorized that non-cheaters wear out their willpower muscle by exercising it frequently in resisting temptation. Giving yourself permission to indulge now and then appears to lower the likelihood of a total breakdown of self-regulation.

Our recommendation is that you plan to goof off at least a few hours this week. In the long run, you'll get more done and enjoy the ride more."

All work and no play is not your best strategy. Instead, schedule regular small fun breaks along your path to your doctorate.

Note: Planned time outs work better than spontaneous detours that often evoke a sense of failure—prelude to the dreaded, goal-killing "what-the-hell" effect.


Avoid Eating This To Dodge Daytime Drowsiness


If you want to stop dozing off while trying to read or write, cut out the fries, donuts, ice cream, and other high-fat foods. [Did you know there are 12 grams of fat in a single Starbucks Bountiful Blueberry Muffin? And 24 in a large order of McDonald's fries?]

"After adjusting for other demographic and lifestyle factors, and chronic diseases, we found that those who consumed the highest fat intake were more likely to experience excessive daytime sleepiness," reports Yingting Cao, a Ph.D. student at Adelaide University, and her colleagues in the journal Nutrients.

A poor diet-and-sleep pattern can easily become a vicious cycle since sleepy folks experience more cravings for high-fat, high-carb foods, which in turn is associated with poor sleep outcomes. So get a good night's sleep first, and then choose your foods wisely.

P.S. For better concentration, coffee, chocolate, blueberries, oily fish, avocados, and whole grains are recommended by WebMD. So how about a tuna and avocado sandwich on a whole grain roll with your iced coffee for lunch today? Check out which fats are best for you.




An accomplished coach, workshop leader, keynote speaker, and educator, Gayle earned her doctorate in social psychology from the University of New Hampshire. Her deep expertise in positive psychology allows her to help clients build their personal strengths, positive habits, and confidence to overcome procrastination, self-doubts and other blocks in order to reach vital academic and personal goals. In addition to editing the ABD Survival Guide, she contributed two chapters to the positive psychology anthology, Women's Paths to Happiness. Contact her at for coaching, presentations, and workshops on thriving in graduate school and beyond, and find free resource 

She also speaks fluent Spanish and delights in new exotic Scrabble words as she savors life in the Chesapeake Bay area, California, and Argentina.


BEN DEAN, Publisher, ABDSG
Ben holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He began writing the ABDSG in 1997. Over the years, the ABDSG has published hundreds of articles and provided thousands of hours of pro bono coaching and teleworkshops to ABDs all over the world. Ben is also the founder of MentorCoach (, a virtual university focused on training accomplished professionals to become part-time or full-time coaches. You may wish to subscribe to the Coaching Toward Happiness eNewsletter! It's on applying the science of Positive Psychology to your work and life (131,000 readers). Ben lives in suburban Maryland with his wife, Janice, their two children, and Dusty, their Norwegian dwarf bunny.



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