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5 Ways PhD Students And Academics Can Deal With Stress, Anxiety And Depression

By Rhonda Martinez

University is a tiring place. On the one hand, it can get people inspired. On the other hand, it can often take all the energy away leaving one exhausted, stressed and even depressed.

Students often suffer from the overload of assignments and the pressure of future jobs. At the same time, academics are constantly under the pressure of new teaching methods, difficulties with documents, and they still need to improve their skills by doing some research. And what if their research turns out to be a dead end? There are tons of such “what ifs” that are driving PhD students and professors crazy and can often lead to a nervous breakdown.

So how is it possible to stay sane in that insane rhythm of work and battle anxiety as well as depression? We have surveyed graduates and professors who have already been through the same problems, and we have singled out 5 tips on how to stay mentally healthy.

1. Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Feelings

First and foremost, if you feel that you’re under stress that causes anxiety or depression, don’t deny those feelings and don’t be ashamed of them. It isn’t your weakness or whatever “bad thing” you may call it. There is nothing to be ashamed of. You need to accept those feelings and learn about the ways of dealing with them.

You can start with small steps like talking to your friends and relatives. You can learn various soothing techniques. Finally, if you feel that you can’t cope with your feelings alone, don’t hesitate to turn to a counsellor or psychologist for help. Once again it’s not a weakness. It’s a responsible and conscious thing to do.

2. Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

This is quite an old saying, but still so effective when it comes to dealing with stress. If you want to have a clear head, your body needs some exercise. We don’t mean sweating out in a gym until you will fall down. We are talking about regular exercise that will strengthen your body. It can be yoga, stretching, jogging, maybe playing some kind of sport (even playing table tennis will be a good idea).

The thing is that the human body isn’t just your brain as “a king” and the rest of the body working as “servants” to satisfy “the king”. There should be a balance between your mind and body. A person is the whole body not just some part of it. That is why, it’s vital to do some sports.

Even if you don’t have time, dedicate 5-15 minutes a day to some simple exercises helping to relax the muscles of your neck and back. These are the main body parts that get tense when a person is truly stressed.

3. Communicate and Don’t Get into Self-Isolation

Our third advice is communication. It is easy to get lost in your research and working routine, especially when it requires 10-12 hours of your attention a day. Still, don’t self-isolate yourself. If you have a partner, spend some quality time together every day, even if it’s an hour or half an hour. The important thing is to talk, to share your troubles and to listen to each other. For instance, why don’t you have dinner or breakfast traditions, when you don’t get distracted by your phone or TV, and just talk to each other.

Communicate with your friends and family, over the phone or have a meeting once a week. The best way will be to discuss something else but for your work. Have some laughs, watch a movie, or discuss some recent gossip. Such social events are great for taking your mind off something.

4. Pamper Yourself and Celebrate Your Successes

Nothing goes as we plan. It just never does. You can always be irritated that you could have or that you should have done something better. It will never be enough. Such thoughts are responsible for you being under stress all the time. For this reason, stop torturing yourself with constant criticism. Why don’t you pamper yourself and celebrate your successes no matter how small they can be?

Nathan Lewis, a PhD student at the University of Houston and reviewer at LegitWritingServices explains, “You can even keep a journal and write down at least one thing that you are thankful for. No matter how corny it may sound, it truly works. It is the same as placing positive memories over the negative ones. Instead of focusing and blaming yourself for the things you could have done faster, or better, say thank you to the things that you have already accomplished.”

Usually, when anxiety and depression appear, they can mitigate all of the accomplishments, and make a person feel so small. Don’t get into this trap. You are doing a great job. It is difficult, and you are still doing it. It means you really have something to be proud of.

5. Get a Hobby You Will Enjoy

Finally, find a hobby if you don’t have one. This is how you won’t be focused on your paper and research 100% of the time. Your brain isn’t a machine, it needs some breaks (and as the matter of fact even machines sometimes need to reboot).

For this reason, doing something else from time to time will give your brain some rest. What is more, if you are aware of how our brain works and you have read about “eureka” moments, then you should know that such moments happen when we focus our attention at something absolutely different from our research, for instance.

We hope you have enjoyed our piece of advice and found it effective. Summing up, we’d like to wish you strength and stamina to achieve your goals, and we believe in you.

About the Author:
Rhonda Martinez is a blogger, educator and academic consultant for college and university students. She is passionate about helping students cope with dissertation stress and academia-related activities. As a blogger, Rhonda enjoys writing on topics of psychology, linguistics and education.
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