This week for a slightly different kind of post, we asked some of the Pubs and Pubs team ‘what has been the most stressful thing for you lately? How have you coped with this?’ Here is how we get through when things seem to be going against us:
One of the main challenges I find, both in general and over the last few weeks, is staying focused on my core task of working towards the PhD. There’s always another semi-relevant book to read, or conference proposal to write, let alone maintaining contact with friends and loved ones. For various different reasons I’ve also been unable to attend my regular writing group this term, which was usually the time when I refocused my efforts on my thesis. In the last week, I’ve been much stricter about setting aside time for writing, and have done some new plans of my current chapter and the overall thesis. This has helped me to reconnect with my own work, and begin to make more definite progress. I think that I also need to update my diary more regularly again, to maintain a sense of direction and purpose. If I have a message for others here, it’s to be aware of your own working practices, and change them if things don’t seem to be going right.
I recently said yes to a few too many things and as a result have to deliver papers at an average rate of one-per-week in November. While I am grateful for the opportunities, it has also left me with an unwieldy workload. My solution was to liaise with individuals organising the conferences/lectures and, where possible, alter my originally agreed title so that I could deliver a similar paper at most events. This meant I could hone one specific topic thus significantly reducing my stress levels! The general takeaway point, I guess, is to never be afraid of reaching out to people who have the ability to help you.
I have always been a sickly person – it’s good I did not live before antibiotics or I would never have made it out of childhood. I have never, however, experienced anything like the past few months. In these final months of my PhD I’ve had a wide and alarming variety of health issues, the latest of which is tonsillitis. It has been absolutely remarkable to see just how much of an impact stress can have on my body. Unfortunately, I am still in the process of figuring out how to deal with this. Step one, and something I think every PhD student I know could be better at, is to actually take time off. We all know forcing ourselves to work and stressing about the time we are missing does not help us get better, but it is incredibly difficult to fight the impulse. I even offered to write this post solo – from my bed – before the committee wisely decided on a joint venture. So, I’m turning over a new leaf and taking some time off this week to lie in my bed and watch Netflix. I can’t promise it will be guilt-free, or that I won’t be checking my emails, but it’s a start!
Recently I have been suffering from the final year blues. The deadline for submitting the PhD is hurtling towards me at an indecent speed and I’ve still got so much to do. Yet my brain seems to have stalled, I struggle to make it think at all. Even recalling memories from family holidays or characters from films/book seems to require a colossal effort, whilst I can’t seem to stop replaying the same worry on loop- how will I ever finish this??? Over the summer, however, I joined the Edinburgh City Brass Band. I come from an area that is famous for brass banding and have always played. When I started the PhD though, as with so many other things my cornet got neglected and my valves began to stick. Playing again has been a Godsend, for two hours a week I physically can’t think about work because there is a man waving a stick in front of me demanding I hit that Top A. Come to think of it that might be part of my problem- maybe I’ve been constricting the airflow to my brain. It has also provided additional structure to my week, a guilt-free break and a new group of people to socialise with who have nothing to do with the office. I can’t get sucked into talking about migration theories or micro-history- nobody cares! After rehearsals I feel refreshed and able to reset. I know there is nothing new in encouraging people to maintain hobbies outside the PhD, but as someone who finds it hard to turn off I think if I didn’t have a hobby that demands my undivided attention I would be really struggling to cope.
Being on what feels like the final stretch of the PhD has proven surprisingly stressful. I think pacing yourself is much easier when the task ahead seems very large – you can’t climb that mountain in one day, so why would you even try? But when the end seems close, the temptation to work a bit harder and longer creeps in. All it might take is one final burst to the finish line – or so it seems, because of course finishing is still a pretty long process that can’t be knocked off in the course of an afternoon.
Actually dealing with this realisation is another question. Self-awareness only takes you so far, and to a certain extent you actually need that extra impetus to get you over the line. It’s a race between finishing and burning out at this stage.
Everyone’s path through the PhD is different, what we’ve offered here are a personal challenges at techniques at particular points we have all reached in our studies. If you’d like to share you experiences and tips, tweet us! And consider joining our team to help PhD students across the world feel a little less alone, you have one week until the deadline.
You can find out more about Sam, Maurice, Laura, Roseanna and Fraser on our Who We Are page
Image 1: Stress, CC-BY-SA, Nick Youngson
Image 2: Pexels.com, CC0
Image 3: less is more, CC-BY, Floriana
Image 4: Pixababy.com, CC0
Image 6: maxpixel, CC0