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PhD-bound: Doing whatever it takes to keep myself afloat

PhD-bound: Doing whatever it takes to keep myself afloat

As motivated as I was last Monday to “get back to the grind,” that sort of fell through. Turns out, sometimes willpower alone isn’t enough when it comes to trying to climb out of a mental health dip; you need time and support. I don’t even remember much of last week, it all feels a bit clouded; I’m sure I did something productive, just not sure what that was.

I do, however, remember sitting next to an injured rat for two hours on Tuesday, most of which I spent crying because I felt like no one else in the world gave a shirt, and the reason I sat there so long was because I was waiting for an RSPCA officer, who unfortunately didn’t arrive before I forced my frozen and sad self home. I don’t know what happened to the rat; all I know is that I tried everything I could to help. So, that knocked me down a bit. What made the situation even worse was that I left work a couple of hours earlier than usual so I could take it easy on myself – that failed!

On Wednesday, a friend of mine, who is in their final year of PhD, told me that they spent the start of the week curled up in a ball crying/screaming out of frustration from how much they just wanted their PhD to end already. As bad as it sounds, it made me feel better about my setbacks, less alone (I did put together a self-care pack for them with chocolate, gin, and body care stuff, so I’m not that bad).

The one thing I do know is that I cannot keep going on like this, but I don’t think it’s possible to have a fail-safe state of mind during a PhD and so, instead I’m going to do whatever it takes to keep myself afloat.

For me, this currently means:

  1. Talking to my supervisors about the way I feel (I’m not one to shy away from sensitive topics).
  2. Dragging my butt into work even when I don’t want to (it’s never not been worth it).
  3. Doing lots more exercise (the best medicine). 
  4. Spending less time on my phone (better focus).
  5. Spending more time in nature (so I feel like I can breathe again).

I’m definitely motivated enough; so here’s hoping my next week’s post is more positive. 

P.S. Can it be summer already?

P.S.S. For anyone suffering with depression/anxiety or knows someone that is (aka everyone) I highly recommend Matt Haig’s book ‘Reasons to stay alive.’


Anastasia Doronina is a PhD researcher in Water Engineering. This story was published on February 11, 2019, on Anastasia’s blog, The Diary of a PhD Student (available here), and has been republished here with her permission.

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