Throughout a PhD there will be good days and bad, which will impact your experience accordingly. The nature of research can be difficult and frustrating, but it can also be exciting and interesting.
Stress vs reward
It’s no secret that completing a PhD is not an easy task. It takes a lot of work and dedication which, at times, might seem fruitless. Some days might feel wasted, whereas others might feel highly productive. It can therefore be both a stressful and rewarding experience.
Learning to manage PhD pressure and switch off from work is an important skill to develop, particularly during your PhD. As your work schedule is completely in your own hands it can be tempting to overwork. Often, this will end in burnout.
But ultimately the PhD is a degree of passion. You will find many moments of joy and success which far outweigh the difficulties and long days.
You might have heard of imposter syndrome already. If not, then it is the feeling that you don’t belong. Due to the nature of academia, many people face a lot of pressure, rejection and criticism. Most PhD students at some point will feel undeserving of their position. But it simply is not true.
The best way to deal with imposter syndrome is to talk with other students. Seeking support from people in a similar situation can help validate and normalise your feelings. Even academics often feel imposter syndrome and so it might be something to talk about with your supervisor.
Another good tip is to make a file and save any praise or acceptance letters you get throughout your PhD. Returning to this will help remind you that you are capable.
Dealing with PhD pressure
Ultimately, having a positive PhD experience will require you to learn to deal with the pressure that comes with producing original, worthwhile research. It’s important not to let yourself feel overwhelmed by the size of your project – it can help to think of it as a series of interconnected projects rather than a single monolith. It’s also a good idea to set yourself achievable goals and not impossible targets.
Becoming part of an academic community
The more you involve yourself in wider academic activities, you will quickly feel part of a community. Many universities foster active postgraduate communities and offer plenty of opportunities to get involved with the department.
Meeting and working with other students and staff passionate about your areas of interest will make you feel like part of an exciting group. Getting involved, presenting papers or running events can be extremely fun, satisfying and confidence boosting.