I can do this. This is the right place for me. I know exactly what I’m doing. I always spend my time in the most productive way.
Is feeling like this the reality?
Well, it isn’t the case for me that’s for sure. Every second of my time is not spent solely on my research and all things PhD related (shhhh),a lot of my time is spent organising things ‘life’ related. And sometimes, it can all pile up and seem like there is a mountain of things that you cannot see yourself ever getting done, which can lead to an awful feeling of self- doubt, which usually ends up in a downward spiral and that is really really not a good (or productive) feeling.
When I decided to tackle a life as a scientist in research I was told that this journey would be unlike anything I have done or will ever do, and boy – oh – boy has that been right on the nose so far. I remember meeting students that were going through the PhD journey and their general mood being in the ‘tired – what the heck am I doing’ range. Some tried to warn of this path and others gave me tips that involved a WHOLE BUNCH OF CAFFEINE (which naturally I was more than happy to try out). And I remember thinking – naively – that I am prepared. I WAS NOT PREPARED. No No No No NO! 1.5 years later and I still have days where I feel completely lost and am filled with self doubt. When that happens I usually go one of two – ways: 1) I go into overdrive, work crazy hours and take very minimal breaks or 2) I shut down and basically try to put off doing any ‘real’ work. Neither of which are good options. Whhiiccchhh brings me back to the point I was trying to tackle at the beginning of this post (we went on a bit of a tangent there didn’t we?). How you use your time is important and your mood actually has a large influence on how you decide to spend it. It might not be something we realise however our emotion can dictate a lot of how we move forward so remember to account for downtime or you’ll burn out.
Also, having a good support system does help when things get really bad. This can be your co-workers/team, family or friends. For me, the downward spiral usually comes to a close with a combination of these:
- My family – I don’t live with them and we’re pretty tight knit so it can get tough. When I’m having a particularly bad case of self doubt, they tend to get around 50 FaceTime calls a day. And I can be pretty grumpy so they’re all good eggs for dealing with me 😛
- My friends (family part 2) – we usually discuss totally random things to distract each other, a pick me up here and there, joke around, a minute of serious talking, a whole bunch of light heartedness, then the ‘Mother’ of the group does the tough love thing and motivation gets kicked back in.
- My cousin – again, we don’t live close to each other – but day or night she’s got my back.
- My supervisor – I have to say, I have been incredibly fortunate with my supervisor and if I really am struggling with something I know I can go to him with it.
- Praying – my faith is something very important and personal to me. So when things are not going the way I planned, it really helps me to calm down and look at the whole situation with a different perspective.
Well, I think we’ve come to the end of this post. I started this with an idea of what I’d like to say but as I started to write it kind of took on a life of itself. I decided to keep with it, because I think that it’s important to show that sometimes good things can come out of something unplanned (I hope!).
So I hope you enjoyed this and remember you’re not alone :).