by Elke Close |

The end of a relationship is never easy. We’ve all been there. No matter what the circumstances are, it is always difficult to say goodbye to a part of your life that you shared with that one person – be it 7 days, 7 months or even 7 years. The whole ordeal can be emotionally draining and all-consuming, making it very difficult to focus on other aspects of your life that you are meant to be dealing with. Like writing a PhD for example. Even at the best of times writing the thing seems like one of the last things that you want to occupy yourself with. And when one part of your life has been turned upside down, this certainly does not change. So, what do you do then? Here are some tips that helped me through my personal funk last summer.

  1. Allow yourself time to process.

Everyone deals with a breakup in different ways. It is important however that you let yourself process at your own pace. Do not force yourself to write 2000 words per day just because you have to finish that chapter before your meeting at the end of the month. It is not going to help and you might end up crashing completely. If you need a couple of weeks or months where you hardly think about your PhD, take that time to sort out yourself. Even if it means that you need to postpone your submission or review by a few months, you will be happy that you did in the end. Trust me.

  1. Go do something fun.

If you need to, it is important that you take a break without feeling guilty. After all, you are going through a period of change which can preoccupy your mind entirely, particularly when you did not expect it. (If you had told me six months ago I would be back at home living with my parents, I would have laughed in your face. But hey, here I am.) Therefore, it might be beneficial to step away from your computer or books for a while and do something that you enjoy, such as paying a visit to an alpaca farm. Or if you are not a fan of alpacas – who isn’t? –, there are bound to be other things that you enjoy doing like sleeping. When you are feeling down in the dumps, there is often no point in staring at that empty Word document wondering where it all went wrong or reminiscing about the good times. Instead go explore the fields of alpacas awaiting you – or not. Do whatever makes you feel better.

  1. Talk about it.

This is an obvious one, albeit still helpful. Talking to those around you that support you will clear you mind as it can lift a burden off your shoulders. At the same time, the other person might have some helpful advice or ideas that might make you feel better.

  1. Tell your supervisor.

I am not suggesting that you tell them all the details of the sordid affair, there is no need for that. But I have found that letting your supervisor know that you are having a tough time because of a breakup is a good idea. That way they understand that you might need a bit of extra time completing a chapter or a report, or why you are not responding to their e-mails.

  1. Regain your focus.

When I was trying to get back into the rhythm of completing my thesis, I found it extremely difficult to remain focused for longer than five minutes. I would spend hours behind my desk but get no actual work done. It took some time for me to get out of that funk and I found the best way to do that was to set myself a small goal that needed to be done by the end of the day and not going home before I had completed that small task. I also made two lists: one with the reasons why I had wanted to do a PhD in the first place and the second things I wanted to do after I finally finished. These lists helped me reshape my focus and gave me a boost of motivation that I needed to get back into the zone. So if you are having trouble focusing (which plagues every PhD student no matter what the state of your love life is like), try writing one of these lists, set yourself a small goal to work towards or try to think about nothing else but the thesis for a set period of time. Whatever helps to get your mind back on track. And once you are able to do that, everything will fall back into place.


Elke Close has submitted her PhD in Classics at the University of Edinburgh on the influence of the Greek polis of Megalopolis on the ancient federal state known as the Achaian koinon. You can find her on her or university pages or on twitter as @ElkeClose. She has recently also started an instagram account and Facebook page dedicated to the history and archaeology of Hellenistic Greece and is now teaching Latin and history at a secondary school in Belgium. She is also the main organiser of the conference ‘Federalism in Antiquity and today: a continuing story?’ taking place in Edinburgh 28-30 of September.