Today, I want to give you some ideas on how you can cope with the post-PhD blues when it hits you.
First of all, don’t be like 2013 Eva who wanted to just keep steaming ahead and get those papers from her PhD published. Instead, try one or more of the following strategies:
- Allow yourself to rest and recharge: After completing your dissertation, it’s crucial to give yourself permission to take a break. Give yourself time to recover both physically and mentally. Engage in activities that you enjoy and that help you relax. Take a vacation, spend time with loved ones, or pursue hobbies that you may have neglected during your PhD journey. Now is the time to catch up on life after you’ve been busy with the final push for the past months.
- Reflect on your achievements: Take some time to reflect on the significant accomplishment you have achieved by completing your PhD. Remind yourself of the hard work, dedication, and perseverance it took to reach this milestone. Celebrate your success and acknowledge the value of your research. You can ask well make a list of all the things you have achieved during the PhD: presentations, courses you took, lectures you taught, papers you wrote, as well as all the skills you picked up during your PhD, from programming languages, over lab skills to soft skills.
- Seek support from other recent PhD graduates: Reach out to recent PhD graduates who have gone through a similar experience. Share your feelings and concerns with them. They can assure you that what you are going through is normal, and share with you what they are feeling. If all else fails, you can commiserate together over a cup of coffee.
- Set realistic expectations: Understand that the post-dissertation period is a transitional phase, and it may take time to adjust to the changes. Avoid putting undue pressure on yourself to immediately have all the answers or jump into a new project or career path. It’s okay to take some time to figure out your next steps. You may also be dealing with a lot of paperwork as you are getting your degree translated and validated in your home country.
- Stay connected: Reconnect with friends, family, and colleagues who may have taken a backseat during the intense dissertation period. I snail mailed my dissertation to many colleagues and wrote a personal letter to go with it – it was a great way to recognize all the people whom I met during my PhD years, and a good exercise in gratitude (and an “easy” thing to do to keep my mind from ruminating).
- Focus on professional development: If you are not sure yet what you are going to do, you learn something new. Attend workshops, online courses, or conferences related to your field of interest. You never know who you might meet or talk to at such an event who can help you figure out your next steps.
- Engage in creative outlets: Explore creative activities such as painting, writing, or playing a musical instrument. You can catch up with a hobby you neglected during the last months of your PhD. If you get to do these activities with other people, so much the better, as you get to rekindle social contacts outside of the lab.
- Practice self-care: Focus on yourself and taking care of yourself. Exercise regularly, maintain a balanced diet, and get sufficient sleep. Practice mindfulness or meditation. Consider having a gratitude diary. Get pampered at the local spa.
- Maintain a routine: Now is not the time to stay up watching Netflix until 4am and sleep while everyone else is working. Try to keep a regular routine and rhythm to your days, If necessary, compartmentalize you day and assign a time in the day to think about your next step (yes, you can put “worry time” on your schedule and tell yourself that you’ll deal with these ruminating thoughts during that time-slot. Make sure you add regular exercise, healthy meals, and time for fun to your schedule. Try to sleep and wake up around the same time every day.
The post-PhD blues is a normal part of the journey for about half of us, so remember that this is normal and that this too shall pass. In the meantime, try to practice some of the strategies that I outlined in today’s post, and give yourself the time and space to celebrate your achievement.
What did you do to cope with the post-PhD blues?