It is difficult, but…?

Ending up on a PhD program means that you have probably been very good at what you have been doing up to this point in time. The choice to commence a PhD often positively reflects passion, commitment, and the willingness to go through the work and experience required to earn this degree. But what happens, when we start facing the challenges a PhD throws at us?

Today’s challenges shape tomorrow’s successes

Yes. A PhD is difficult. Whether we are at the beginning of the road or heading towards writing up, each stage has its own challenges. Because of the length of the process being at least three years, some of us eventually begin to question ourselves as soon as we get stuck.

The PhD Life

It’s true, a PhD throws us out of our comfort zones, but is that really all bad? We should never suffer, this is not the point. The truth remains, that everyone goes through some difficulties in some shape, way, or form on their journey. The long hours, busy schedules, the perfection many of us are after, and the escalating stress may all take their toll on us. Moving from a different city or being an international student, feeling homesick could also add to the equation, as spending long months away from home could come with its own set of challenges.

“Comfort is the enemy of achievement.” – Farrah Gray

The difficulties such situations may bring could understandably lead to feelings of fatigue. However, behind this confusion, we often tend to overlook that the PhD journey is one that, although tough, is enlightening, strengthening, and empowering. We tend to know and approve of this at the back of our minds, we just do not remember it well enough at those times where things appear to be very difficult. 

Staying within our zones of comfort is easy; however, it would not help us moving forward. On this journey, we are growing, we are harvesting skills and experiences, and we are becoming better on both the personal and intellectual levels. Difficult times tell a story, but having this small positive outlook on things could probably help resetting the bigger picture into its perspective by reflecting constructively on what we encounter.  

Remember to Stay kind to Yourself

If you feel burned out, try talking to your family, friends, or other students. Pick up where you left off with a musical instrument or a book, take a walk outside, spend an hour at the gym, or take some time off to reconnect with yourself. Anything that works for you would be great at instances as such. Also, seek professional advice in relation to mental wellbeing if you feel the need for it, it is at times very important. I personally often find a walk outside in nature or some time playing the piano as my “go to” activities. Once my mind is clear, it becomes easier to pickup where I left off with the tasks, and I have got more motivation to keep going.

Piano playing session

Trying to be aware of what we tell ourselves inside our own heads is crucial, and could keep us moving towards a direction that can eventually refuel our energy. Steer away from negative vibes and ensure your mind body code is set to the positive mode.

Please be proud of coming this far along the journey, and remember, you are not alone.

Yamine Elsahhar

Doctoral Researcher at Wolfson School, Loughborough University
Yamine Elsahhar

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