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Battling with anxiety

Seek help. I'm no expert on anxiety disorder but I was a student counsellor for several years, and I think it's really really important to seek help about anything even if you're not sure if you need it. I think that postgrad life is really stressful and if there are other concerns in your life as well, the pressure and doubts could be piling up a bit and coming out in these behaviours. Not only that but the anxiety about having anxiety can snowball really quickly. Even if it doesn't get more serious it's clearly upsetting you now and that on its own is ALWAYS enough of a reason to go get help. It might be helpful to you just to have a few chats with a counsellor -- there might be options open to you or he/she might suggest things you hadn't thought of. Anxiety is something that is immensely normal, controllable, understandable and recoverable from, but its also a skill like any other and it's best to learn those skills from an experienced professional. Can you talk to your supervisor about it?

standing at the base of the mountain

Ahh, PHDcomics.com, I have come across it already. I expect it to be a great source of procrastination ideas in the next three years :)

So, somehow, I have just started my third day (how did that happen??), and I know how to get to the library and coffee shop and have started to write lists of all the things I need to do.

Something about this though, having been out of academia for three years and having done some very good (but not terribly scientific) work in that time makes me feel like I'm in a different situation to "normal". I keep reading tons and tons of PhD advice about the "bewildering first few months," and how being a postgrad is so different to being an undergrad, but having already done a MSc and finished some large paid commercial projects I feel that I just want to get stuck in. I'm not daunted by the scale of the task, I'm daunted by the complexity of the work.

I need to learn to think like a scientist again. It seems that I have almost the exact opposite strengths and weaknesses to a new student straight from University. Does that make sense?

Complete turnaround in tone from my first few posts, I guess...

What I mean is that I'm worried the steep learning curve ahead. Now that I'm actually here, with a desk and a pile of papers, I just want to get on with things and get started. My topic is in a rather different discpline to both my degree and MSc and whilst it's closer to the "real world" work I've done, the rationale and methodology couldn't be any more different. I have to learn / re-learn maths and stats, brush up on my programming and get myself together for some demanding fieldwork. I see lots of induction training days on project management and working with supervisors but very little about balancing four or five very steep learning curves at once. I've written 80K documents in much less time than three years, so I don't need training courses on those things... I need to be trained on becoming a scientist again and I don't see any guides about that! Is it that I'm already meant to know? Or am I meant to simply learn the practical side of things through osmosis?

I hadn't felt properly daunted until this morning... In this new sunlight, my mountain looks like an endless, towering exposure of rock, and I suddenly feel ill equipped. Which room / department / handbook / training session / document / administrator do I go to in order to borrow some ropes???

standing at the base of the mountain

Thank you everyone!! And a great big hello to the other newbies here, if the rest of you are as worried as I am then we'll all have a great three years ;)

Doctor Soul -- I have most of the same worries as you. My subject is amazing but I'm worried that I don't have the skills needed to get good results with my research, and right now I don't know how I'm going to catch up with all the literature and training. I would say don't stress too much about having a lit review ready before you start, I was aiming for that too but I think I'm putting too much pressure on myself (especially as I start in two days!).

I suppose the main thing to remember is that I do have three whole years in which to learn my subject, that's not much of a comfort to me because I tend to need to understand things BEFORE I start.

Right now I just need tips on organisation. I'm going to find out about what referencing software to use because I want to get that going right from the start (I already have 35 papers and two books and I haven't even started yet).

Are there any good ideas for personal organisation? I plan to set up a calendar with daily, weekly and monthly goals (I had the procrastination bug badly in University but I've picked up some good habits in the "real world."), but I'm always on the look-out for other tips, especially from those who wish they'd been more organised from the start...

My subject means a lot to me and I really want to do well. I have a great supervisor but I don't want to let anyone down. Coming from a difference science (and being out of academia for three years) I think I'm going to have quite a steep learning curve in probably three key areas, so I feel like I'm going to have to work very hard from the start. I'm already worried about using my time productively (is it better to spend that spare hour on organisation skills, software training or reading key papers?), and not learning / developing fast enough.

...not that I'm prone to over-thinking, or anything...

Thanks everyone for the great advice you've given :D

standing at the base of the mountain

Hi! This is my first message here, so I'm bound to do something daft: post in the wrong place or suchlike.

I start my PhD at the beginning of September and I am so excited and scared. It's been 3 years since I finished my Masters and I've worked in the real world for all that time. It feels so weird to be going back to being a student again, I'd almost given up hope of research.

I have so many questions about becoming a student and completing a PhD -- first of all, my main supervisor seems absolutely amazing and has already been extremely encouraging. He has high expectations of me and I don't want to let him down.

Secondly, I'm most worried about all the practicalities -- what is the best way to keep track of references? How will I motivate myself through difficult patches? How can I avoid getting into debt? What if I fall behind? What if I just can't understand something that I should know about? What if the other PhD students don't like me?

Three years seems like such a long time, but more than the time I feel like I have such a huge task ahead of me, an absolutely enormous mountain to climb. How on earth will I get up to that peak, of having a completed thesis? It seems so high up and far away...

I'm scared!!!!