Catherine is a PhD researcher in the Centre for Research in Ageing and Cognitive Health (REACH) at the University of Exeter. Her PhD research examines how people with dementia use social media. In 2016, Catherine graduated from the University of Bath with a BSc (Hons) degree in psychology. She is a cyberpsychologist interested in online communities and health research. She is also interested in internet-mediated research ethics, digital methods, and body image. Catherine is also the Vice-Chair of PsyPAG, a national organisation for postgraduate psychologists.
It’s been a while…Over the Christmas break, I received some news which has completely thrown me. The safety net has been dragged right out from under me and everything I once thought to be stable, is now a shattered mess on the floor. After taking time off at Christmas to relax, I came back to my PhD exhausted, distracted, and more stressed than I was before the holidays. I have nine months left of my PhD. I wanted to come back to work and hit the ground running, but instead, I feel overwhelmed and have zero motivation to get anything done. I like to think of myself as a bad-ass researcher, but just lately, I feel anything but bad ass.
One of the hardest parts of doing a PhD isn’t the content itself, but the process of keeping up momentum. So what do you do when you’re drained and feel like you have no momentum left? This must be a problem that affects so many PhD students. We aren’t just researchers who only exist within the realm of academia; we are people with our own dysfunctional lives, and sometimes the dysfunction of it all coupled with the culture of academia is too much.
I’m still working through my problems and, quite frankly, I feel drained. My cognitive and emotional load is at full capacity and I feel like I’m going to explode at any moment. I fluctuate between being super high-functioning and productive to being a total mess.
So, how am I coping (or not coping) during this time?
I’m trying to be kinder to myself, which was one of my new year’s resolutions. I’ve had my share of 2019 negativity and I don’t want to add to it by beating myself up about my PhD work. I’m trying to engage in lots of self-care and I have set myself realistic, achievable work expectations. If I’ve felt a bit low, I have taken a mental health day. The advantage of doing a PhD is the flexible working hours, so I am trying to work at times that are best for me. I am trying to celebrate the little things and not look at the bigger picture right now. I am also spending lots of time with my super supportive friends and keeping myself distracted.
I recognise that the next few months are going to be an emotional rollercoaster, but I am finally starting to pick up momentum and sometimes feel like my old self again. Life happens and there is nothing I can do to stop that, so I am going to continue making ‘me’ a priority and live by my new year’s resolution of being kinder to myself. Watch this space.
Blog post taken from Catherine’s personal blog: https://catherinetalbotcyberpsych.wordpress.com/2019/02/06/doing-a-phd-when-your-personal-life-is-falling-apart/
Written By: Catherine Talbot, PhD Researcher in College of Medicine and Health. You can find out more about Catherine and her Research by following her on twitter @Catherinetalb