Author Archives: Marialuisa Aliotta

About Marialuisa Aliotta

Full Professor Experimental Nuclear Astrophysics University of Edinburgh - UK researcher, teacher, mother, mentor

Mentoring in Social Distancing Times

Mentoring is a people-centred activity, and a lot of mentors and mentees enjoy the social aspect of it, which involves the two parties meeting somewhere to chat. “Social interaction” is usually one of the many benefits gained from mentoring that mentors and mentees highlight in feedback responses. So, how can someone keep going with mentoring in these times of self-isolation?

E-mentoring is not a new concept. Mihram (2004) defines e-mentoring as the linking of a senior, more experienced person with a lesser skilled individual, independent of geography. It is considered to be similar to traditional mentoring, with primary form of communication between the two parties being electronic (Knouse, 2001; Risquez, 2008; Hamilton & Scandura, 2003).

We have already just highlighted an advantage of e-mentoring: mentoring interactions that otherwise would be impossible. Connecting people from all over the world to help each other is not something to ignore. It widens the pool of mentors and gives the opportunity for more flexible and frequent meetings, by cutting down commuting time, and meeting even when one is away – or both in self-isolation, from the comfort of your home!

However, the virtual nature of e-mentoring could have a negative impact on the development of meaningful relationships, since it requires a certain level of emotional maturity, and some people might find being able to share their emotions through a video/phone call challenging. But in the tough times we are all going through, e-mentoring is the only way to go to preserve our mentoring relationships and receive/give the support needed; maybe now more than ever.

Even though you might not like how you look on Zoom, avoid the temptation to cancel your meeting, because it’s now easier. Yes, it definitely works better if you have a stable network and know how to use the right online tools; so, try to spend some time “playing” with them before your meeting. Also, make sure you prepare for your online meeting as you would for an in-person one; just because it is online it doesn’t mean that the established agenda should not be followed.

E-mentoring certainly takes the relationship in a different setting, but it can still be the useful and meaningful relationship you want to have in your life. So, don’t let the current situation affect it. You might even like it that much that when life goes back to normal you blend online with face-to-face meetings for a super-effective relationship!

Stay strong. 

References:

Mihram, D. (2004). E-mentoring. USC: Center for Excellence in Teaching

Knouse, S. B. (2001). Virtual mentors: Mentoring on the Internet. Journal of Employment Counseling, 38(4), 162-169

Risquez, A. (2008). E-mentoring: An extended practice, an emerging discipline. In F. J. GarciaPenalvo (Ed.), Advances in e-learning: Experiences and methodologies (pp. 61-82). Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing

Hamilton, B. A., & Scandura, T. A. (2003). E-mentoring: Implications for organizational learning and development in a wired world. Organizational Dynamics, 31(4), 388-402

Shrestha et al. (2009). From Face‐to‐Face to e‐Mentoring: Does the “e” Add Any Value for Mentors?International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 20(2), 116-124 

(Version of this article was previously published by Athina Frantzana, PhD on LinkedIn)

Am I an Imposter? – How to identify and manage your imposter feelings

[Guest post by Athina Frantzana, PhD]

Do you believe that others have an inflated view of your abilities or skills? Do you fear that they will find out the truth and expose you as a fake? Do you constantly attribute your success to external factors such as luck?

Then you almost certainly suffer from Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome (IS), or Phenomenon, was first coined in 1978 by P. Clance and S. Imes in a paper on the characteristics and dynamics of IS in high-achieving women. However, we now know that IS symptoms have been noticed not only on women, but a lot of people; for example, someone starts a new job or a new course, or someone who has been promoted or assigned a big project.

Some specific groups of people and lifestyles are also at high risk of IS: students, academics, underrepresented groups, people with high-achieving parents or first generation graduates, people in creative fields. Actually, research has shown that IS affects more than 70% of both women and men at some point in their career!

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So, what are the symptoms that make it clear to you that you suffer from IS and you need to take action?

Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Working exceptionally hard
  • Hiding true opinions
  • Perfectionism
  • Undermining achievements
  • Discounting praise
  • Sabotaging performance
  • Finding a “superior” mentor to impress

We need to notice that if you have other symptoms that are not common to IS, like anxiety or obsessive behaviours, you should seek medical help and advice. IS is not classified as a mental illness or condition.

And what if you have these symptoms? How can they affect you?

Potential consequences of  IS include:

  • Minimising interactions with others in fear of being discovered which leads to isolation;
  • Fear of taking up new tasks by creating unrealistic standards which leads to missing out opportunities;
  • Feeling unworthy and not good enough to progress in your job which leads to staying stuck in the same position and responsibilities;
  • Comparing yourself to others, like family or friends, which can lead to isolation from important people in your life;
  • All the above can lead to fatigue and depression, which can worsen all the IS symptoms.

Well now, I know many of you might be going through one of the above situations, but do not despair! It is possible to move beyond your imposter and be the best version of yourself!

How?

Brené Brown talks about the 3 C’s, the 3 things you need to take on your life-career journey: Courage, Compassion, Connection. You need to be yourself, feel the pain and still move forward, keep in touch with your values and the people who love and respect you. Focus on facts and on your strengths.

Do you own your success? Having a strong self-awareness of your personal successes is the first step to overcoming IS! Equally important is to get clear on your strengths. People who suffer from IS tend to overlook their strengths and focus on their weaknesses. And finally, it is important to talk about it. Talk about your feelings to your peers, your mentor, your coach, an expert..

Professor P. Arnold once told me how she deals with her IS: “I write down all the nice things I have done or been told, keep them in a folder on my desk, and I reach out for them whenever I need to.”

Do not feel discouraged if your imposter feeling don’t vanish quickly or completely. As you work on it, you learn; and there is always more to learn!

 

EVERYONE FEELS LIKE AN imPOSTER SOMETIMES, AND THAT'S OK. (1)

 

If you feel like you need more help with this, I run a 7-week 1-2-1 Coaching Program focused on managing your Imposter Syndrome and boosting your self-confidence. Click here to have a look using the password LETMEHELPYOU and enjoy 50% off the program! The offer expires on the 31st of August (midnight UK time), and it is available for a limited number of programs starting from the 7th of September until December, on a first come, first served basis. So, be quick! 

 

 

Athina Frantzana,PhD is an Equality, Diversity & Inclusion and Mentoring in STEM specialist-researcher. She is the founder of Spread the Word, which helps individuals, companies and organisations to create inclusive workplaces through innovative, evidence-based and tailored strategies. 

Staying physically and mentally healthy

Our lives have changed dramatically in just a few weeks, and the future looks uncertain, hence a certain amount of anxiety is normal. Some people might have responded well to the transition, but it is important to recognise that some employees might still find this new norm difficult.

Staying sane during the lock-down is a matter of planning and caring for ourselves. For some people, self-care is simply about sitting back and treating yourself with compassion. That does not seem like much, but at a time when we are bombarded with terrifying news updates and depressing figures, sitting still might help us get rid of these negative distractions and focus on ourselves.

Self-care is about avoiding overstretching yourself and burning out by setting boundaries mentally, physically, and socially. The triangle of body, mind and soul is the core where self-care is built on. Here, I summarise a few sets of actions for the three parts of the self-care core, that should help you feel rested and more connected to yourself:

BODY

Working from home is a great opportunity to eat healthy food. Don’t let the full access to your kitchen tempt you!

Follow these top tips for guaranteed success:

* Plan your meal times – plan out when throughout the day you’re going to eat, just as you schedule the rest of your day. Planning a menu ahead of time will make it easier to avoid eating junk food, which is quick and easy but not good for you.

*Eat away from your work space – try to avoid the temptation to keep working and get as much done as possible, and have a total break from work to help you clear your mind. Being distracted during a meal can lead to over-eating and decreased meal satisfaction and fullness.

*Focus on balanced and nutritious food – it keeps us fuller longer, it helps us focus and it makes us more productive. What we eat impacts our mood and energy level. Focus on protein, fibre, healthy fats, fruits and veggies. You can and should reward yourself though with a sweet snack on Friday after a successful and productive week. 

body

*Drink plenty of water – dehydration can lead to headaches and fatigue, which are both not good for your productivity. Keep water next to your work area at home as you did at the office, stay away from sugar-loaded drinks, and avoid getting overcaffeinated.

*Exercise for at least 30 minutes – studies have shown that doing 30 minutes of exercise in the morning can boost productivity.

*Get at least 7 hours of sleep each day – sleeping the right amount of time keeps you refreshed and energised, and your mind clear for the next day’s tasks.

MIND

The World Health Organisation (WHO) are also expecting more people to start experiencing increased levels of anxiety during this uncertain time, and this should not be ignored. On the contrary, anxieties and fears should be acknowledged and addressed by individuals, but also by governments and communities. One of the key factors of experiencing anxiety is a sense of feeling out of control, and especially now this is very likely the main factor. 

It is really important to monitor your mental health, especially if you’re prone to anxiety or depression. If you are unable to focus or feel sad or overwhelmed, and you find it hard to function, think of what has worked for you in the past. For example:

*Schedule some ‘me time’ at least twice a week – take some time where you are not focused on achieving anything at all (i.e. having a bath with candles and relaxing music).

soul

*Practice mindfulness and/or deep breathing exercises for at least 10 minutes a day –  practising mindfulness and meditation have been scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety, and if practised regularly, can help you feel more in control of your feelings, thoughts and emotions, and protect your immune system.

*Exercise for 20 to 30 minutes daily – it can significantly lower anxiety levels as it boosts endorphins and serotonin and fills your brain with happiness. 

*Listen to music – a recent study found that certain songs reduced listeners’ anxiety by 65 percent. It seems like specific melodies can significantly calm stress and anxiety levels. Try out various types of music to see which one calms and relaxes you or makes you more focused and productive.

SOUL

Humans are social creatures by default, so being at home may feel difficult, especially for those who are extroverted by nature, and enjoy the social aspect of their job. Research has shown that loneliness is one of the world’s most significant risk factors for premature death. If that’s the case, what happens now that people’s freedom of social get-together is severely limited?

It is possible to foster connection and maintain relationships during this time; we just have to use the right tools, be patient, and get used to it!

*Connect with other people – talking to your best friends and loving members of the family is one of the best ways to feel more confident and valued. This is the best time to be thankful for social media, apps like WhatsApp, and even old-fashioned texting. If you need to, or if you feel like someone else might be in need, reach out. Send a message or have a video call and connect, with your parents, your best friend, a colleague, a neighbour. Even if it’s for a minute or two, it can make a difference.

videocall_friends

*Invest in relationships that benefit your energy level – if certain people are difficult and drain your energy, preserve yourself and your happiness and cut them off, even if it might be uncomfortable. In case it is not possible to entirely cut off a person, find coping strategies to deal with them without damaging yourself. 

 

To adapt to the current situation, try to think of it not as self-isolating but as self-retreating. The ability to adapt can make us feel that, even though the current global situation is out of our control, we can always choose how to react.

Stay healthy, physically and mentally!

 

Oh, and if you feel you need some extra support with your academic life at a time when other colleagues or suprvisors might feel miles away, please do get in touch. I’d love to hear from you. You can book a free 30-min slot on my calendar here. Take care!

 

New Online Course: Time Management & Productivity Mindset

I HAVE GREAT NEWS FOR YOU!

I am very pleased to announce that my very successful Time Management and Productivity Mindset Bootcamp (TPB) is now available as a self-study online course!

TPB_PROMO_JUL20

If you:

  • feel unhappy about the lack of progress in your work
  • struggle to cope with the many demands on your time
  • want to create meaningful change in your work/life situation, so you can experience freedom, fulfilment and excitement

then this course is for you!

During the program you will become clear about your goals and ambitions and explore what direction you want to create in your work and life.

You will discover how to confront the negative inner voices that sabotage your progress, and how to establish a clear set of actions to move forward and get closer to what you want.

The course is delivered through a period of 7 weeks to give you time to fully absorb the content of each module and put into practice what you’ll be learning.

However, please feel free go through the course at your own time. You’ll get indefinite access to the material in this course!

Here is what a participant said for their bootcamp experience:

My stress level decreased, my health condition and my mood changed dramatically; I managed to successfully complete my studies on time, as well as work on other projects, while also having a part-time job.

Additionally, Marialuisa helped me identify better my skills to help and share with people, which is something I really enjoy doing.

Being a participant of the boot camp was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn new tools and ways to be more productive, as well as to share my experience and hopefully help others with similar struggles.

Do you wish you got the same level of support and guidance to help you achieve your greater desire and goals?

Buy the course NOW at the promotional offer of ONLY £97 £47:

https://academiclife.coachesconsole.com/tpb.html

If you are still not sure if this is the right course for you, you can book a free consultation call with me here:

https://academiclife.coachesconsole.com/v3/calendar/complimentary-slots

Every great achievement begins with a first step. Ready to take yours?

 

 

Productivity during a pandemic

be_productive_getty

Image credits: Getty Images

The lock down has been eased here in Scotland, but we are still going through an overwhelming situation trying to adapt to the “new normal”. If you don’t feel especially productive while you are social distancing or in quarantine, that’s absolutely OK. In this post, I will try to give some tips to facilitate productivity during this mandatory ‘working from home’ period. And who knows, they might be useful even later, when life goes back to as we knew it!

Everybody is different; regardless of your personal style, though, it really helps to create a working routine, that also includes breaks to regain energy in order to complete your daily tasks. Just make sure not to let a break turn into a day-long procrastination spree! Alternatively, you can just include your procrastination time in your schedule! 🙂

Setting up a daily schedule and goals is necessary for working effectively; however, the practice of setting daily intentions, especially in these tough times, can change your life.

Setting intentions allows you to focus on who you are, recognise your values and live within the interpretation of them. Intentions give you purpose, and motivation to achieve this purpose.

Over-consumption of news and social media, especially regarding the pandemic, can lead you to feel depressed and overwhelmed. Also, comparing yourself to others and the way they are spending their quarantine time is not a good idea right now.

Instead, try to focus on yourself and the things you want to achieve. So, turn off all the unnecessary notifications and use technology in your favour. For example, there are a lot of free online courses out there that might help you gain a new skill or develop your existing skills, learn a new hobby or expand your knowledge on a specific topic. You can even get certification that might boost your motivation and your CV, or just have fun with something not work-related. Also, using the right online tools can make a huge difference for working remotely.  These tools, together with a positive mindset, lay the foundations for success. If you haven’t used these tools before and feel confused, set aside an hour to go through tutorials and videos to learn.

That magic hour of learning the right tools will save you many hours of lost productivity later.

staying_connected_email8

Image credit: Vulcan Post

As humans are social creatures by default, being at home may feel difficult, especially for those who are extroverted by nature, and enjoy the social aspect of their job. However, it is possible to foster connection and maintain relationships during this time; we just have to use the right tools, be patient, and get used to it!

Regular phone calls, video calls and virtual meetings help maintain communication, and help employees to continue to feel engaged and part of the team. Choose the right communication platform to get in contact with you, and keep your team informed about your work-at-home schedule.

Setting an agenda, giving the opportunity to speak to everyone, providing structure and clarity are important to ease anxiety, keep healthy collaborations and relationships and the meetings at a professional level. 

Also, when we work remotely, we miss out on all the impromptu chatting with our colleagues (i.e. before and after meetings, catching up in the hallway, and stopping by each other’s desks). In a virtual environment there is a tendency to focus more on tasks than on relationships. Make sure you schedule time for informal conversation at the beginning and end of meetings or arrange calls specifically for catching up. This will hugely help your mental and social health.

Of course, during these tough times, everyone needs to think about what makes them productive and happy in everyday life (i.e. taking a walk at lunch time), and work around their schedules. Managers, leaders, and supervisors should take this into consideration, show empathy, and make themselves available to talk about fears, and answer questions in order to reassure their staff or students.

It is important for everyone to be aware of significant changes you may see in the personality or performance of a colleague because it may be a sign that a person is struggling due to isolation or loneliness.

This situation has been hard, and the longer it continues, the more we will feel isolated and alone. But the truth is we are not alone. We are in this together.

Take good care.