The final months of writing my dissertation, preparing my work for publication and defending my research could have been really stressful months, but I choose not to run on the hamsterwheel and keep my head cool.
I haven’t always been so cold-blooded. As a student, I used to be quite anxious for exams – sometimes up to a state of paralysis where I couldn’t study because I was worrying so much about not having enough time to study, and consequently didn’t really do great on the exam itself.
Over time, I learned how to plan my time, how to study for my exams and what effort was necessary to do great – it gave me confidence, and a sense of control over the situation. If I pour in X hours of concentrated studying, I’m sure I’ll get >80% on the exam.
At the beginning of my PhD, that sense of control and “knowing how to do things” were completely gone. Even though I knew how to study, I still had to learn how to research. I was the novice again, and -admittedly- was falling back into patterns of worry and wondering how to assess my work. When is it good enough? How do I even do this?
But by failing, learning, improving and testing the waters, my confidence grew again. I traveled that learning curve faster than during my studies. By the time my nerves had to stand the test against the dissertation, they were as strong as a concrete slab.
Of course, my heart beat went up as I saw the long list of comments from the committee, or when I couldn’t get a hold of my supervisor when he had to sign the paperwork. But overall, I just kept calm, figured out what needed to be done, and planned for it. Piece of cake.
I didn’t totally overwork myself – yet I did stay in for Saturday and Sunday when necessary, or until later in the evening. But, overall, I had enough time to sleep, do sports, eat my veggies, meditate and write for fun.
You, too, could keep calm and carry on. Ditch the drama, roll up your sleeves and move forward: one edit at a time; one graph, one cup of tea and one paragraph at a time. That is all it takes. It is simple, but not easy.