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PhD life: A little bit of this, a whole lot of that

PhD life: A little bit of this, a whole lot of that

I am going to cover the following three topics here:

  1. Trying to continue work and life as normal while going through PMS/being on your period.
  2. Why does it feel like time flies as you get older?
  3. Writing my literature review, and writing in general.

Trying to continue work and life as normal while going through PMS/being on your period.

Despite running this blog for almost a year now, within which I have had 11 periods, I have never spoken about the challenges of working and continuing life as normal during this time. I guess that is because women just get on with it. But this month I have decided to bring it up, because it’s important. I will not make assumptions that all women feel like this, but this is what it’s like for me… 

Firstly, trying to do anything while PMS-ing is like walking a tight rope with a sack of potatoes on your back, where, if you fall, you will destroy everything and everyone on your way down. Not a great way to feel at an important meeting, or when your boyfriend, who you haven’t seen in a while makes the effort to come and see you and all you want to do is cry. Trying to keep it together during PMS is exhausting. Secondly, the pain that comes with a period is like someone has climbed inside of your uterus and is scraping it with a knife, whilst trying to dislodge the vertebrae in your lower back. Trying to focus on work whilst wanting to keel over and overdose on painkillers in a dark, but comfortable corner isn’t easy. Finally, bleeding is not pleasant, and sanitary products are NOT comfortable, no matter what adverts say. Oh, and they’re expensive. 

I love being a woman, and I find the female body and what it is capable of doing, creating, and enduring absolutely phenomenal. However, I wanted to bring this up because I don’t think we take enough time to appreciate women all over the world, who go through this EVERY month and still get s**t done. 

Why does it feel like time flies as you get older?

Recently, I have had quite a lot of anxiety around this. Partly because I am almost a YEAR into my PhD, and partly because I feel like my life has been on fast forward the last couple of years. To make myself feel better I have pondered over this and have come up with a few explanations as to why it feels like time flies as you grow up:

1. As functioning grown-ups, we spend almost all of our present planning for the future, working to improve our prospects; we are never actually present in the present. And the future never really comes, because once we have achieved one goal, e.g. a promotion, we are then working on the next goal, once again, for our future. So, we never live in the moment, and we miss it. It’s like when you have a daydream, once you come around from it, you are completely unaware of where the time went.

2. Technology is a HUGE problem when it comes to this topic. We are used to instant rewards, having about a million conversations at once, and staring at our screens. 

  • We forget the simple pleasures of daily tasks, like cooking a meal instead of ordering one, taking the time to go to the shops instead of ordering online, or figuring out a proper paper map instead of letting Google maps give us all the answers. We don’t take in the process of getting from point A to B, we just teleport to B, and miss out on the in-between.
  • We don’t take the time to focus on one person, one conversation at a time; our brains are overloaded with information and we don’t absorb what is actually being said to us properly. Our thinking is scattered, which makes our present feel fuzzy. This is one of the many reasons I deleted Facebook.
  • By constantly staring at our screens, we miss out on the world around us. When was the last time you actually spent at least ten minutes looking at the sky? We have not evolved to live like this, and because of this we are ungrounded, irritable, and rarely present in the here and now.

Writing my literature review, and writing in general.

Back to reality… Over the last few weeks I have suffered from horrendous insomnia and have had way too much time to think about the above. I have however discovered Yogi - Bed Time tea, which has really helped. 

Anyway, I have been working 8-10 hours every day this week, without procrastinating, and I still haven’t finished my literature review. I can totally see how people fail/miss deadlines/need extensions on their thesis. It is SO EASY to underestimate how much time it will actually take you to complete a written task. For example, what I thought would take me a day to write, has taken me four. However, my GANTT chart has really helped me stay on track and has kept me motivated. If all goes according to plan, which it probably won’t, I should have a draft by Wednesday. 

Pro tip for PhD students out there: When doing your project GANTT chart, allocate some time for “pondering” or “thinking” about your work. One of my fellow students was penalized in his confirmation review for not including this. I mean, it makes sense, it’s a doctorate in philosophy after all. 

Right, now that I’ve written on here, I am going to go write my literature review…

Have a successful, grounding, and fun week. Remember to be present.


Anastasia Doronina is a PhD researcher in Water Engineering. This story was published on August 12, 2018, on Anastasia’s blog, The Diary of a PhD Student (available here), and has been republished here with her permission.  

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