2nd year misery


hello all! if anyones free could use a quick bit of advice. i think i have officially hit my 2nd year slump. i kept reading about it over the past few months on this forum about how somewhere midway through your phd, it will suddenly all come to a halt and feel so desperate and hopeless. its been building up for a few weeks now, but i have reached the point where i literally drag myself from bed in the morning and drive in fantasizing about all the alternative lives i wish i was leading. Nothing really dramatic or horrible has brought about this despair. i just can't stop thinking about how crap every study ive done to date has been, and how the next study just is never going to work and the waves of abuse ill get from other academics when it doesnt work.(short version is, this next study will have one big methodological flaw. if i get the results i need then it wont matter, but if i dont get the expected results, everyone will simply say ......(continued below)


"why on earth did you go ahead with such an obvious flaw?" and my only answer is that i don't have time to change it.) not to mention my constant anxiety over the other phd students and how they are so much better than me, my ever-decreasing confidence meaning im finding it harder to talk to anyone else even in a social setting (christmas party season not making this any easier making me feel less and less liked in this department by anyone), my fears i choose the wrong supervisor and she doesnt really know what she's doing and so forth. i know i sound like such a misery guts and there are some parts to phd life i like. im just finding it so hard to remember any of them at the moment. so, 2 questions to this post really. (1) does anyone else recognise these feelings as ones they too are going through or went through before (ie, is this the traditional 2nd year slump?) and (2) any advise on how to get through it? thank you!


I am going exactly through the same slump right now. I feel an endless guilt about having to force myself out of bed to work and then struggle to produce cogent work. I keep thinking I am funded, this is my job, quit complaining and just do it - but I still feel in a slump. I'm hoping it is a symptom of the end of a busy 'term' pre-Christmas thing. I'm doing my last piece of work today and tmrw prior to a end of term meeting next week. Then no work until Boxing Day.


Hi dora, i'm not quite there yet, but i can feel the 'slump' brewing (think i am at the stage where you said "it's been building up for a few weeks now"). I've seen it happen to other students in my group/lab and i can see it happening to me very soon indeed. It's pretty defeatist of me, but i think it is an unavoidable phase that, unfortuneately, everyone has to go through.

that's not really adivice (sorry!!) i just wanted to point out that there is no need to feel isolated or alone. Those other students you are anxious about doing better than you are going to enter the 'slump' at a slightly later date!


it's natural you feel down or get lost during the phd process. i suggest you not think too much about it. Instead, just do you work. you know, sometimes it's better to be blind and deaf


I am in exactly the same position as you are...I have been in an almost a permanent slump though! I am pretty depressed right now. I also think about all my alternative 'happier' lives, and the pointlessness of continuing...even though I know my 'other lives' wouldn't probably make me any happier, and even though I know there is a point to carrying on. I am therefore not the best person to give advice, but I've been finding that yoga and mediation helps. My supervisors hate me for having a part-time job but it is really helping me stay sane.

One of the hardest things for me is treating the phd like a job. I don't know how other people manage it, but I just don't work that way-I can't get my brain to just function from 9-5, and I am running out of time so no longer have the leisure to go read stuff in the library just to get a feel for things, and use up my hours that way! Keep plodding on though!! Do more off campus too! :)


Sim -I feel exactly the same. I've just handed something to my supervisor to read, but I'm not happy with it and I know it will come back after Xmas covered in red pen corrections. Reckon that will tip me over the edge into a serious slump.

The other thing that depresses me is that everyone keeps saying your second year is when you really make progress...but it doesn't seem to be happening to me!!!


I feel really desperate today. I feel like everything I write is infused with mediocrity and is opaque. I actually cried today. I'm supposed to be handing in a piece of work tmrw that is supposed to be summming up what I want the thesis to be, its research questions etc I'm about a 1/4 of the way through. It's so hard. I find the PhD process terrifying. I'm definately in a slump.


*hug* you poor thing chris... what can I say, just do as much as you can and then take a good long break at Christmas.


Chris, anything you can work on in the next week or so that you can complete and tick off before breaking for Christmas? It'll give you a moral boost heading into the break.

Likewise, a good break at Christmass will do everyone good. After Friday week, no work till January - that's an order!


I'm trying to get my current piece of 3,000 words done by Thursday evening. I've procrastinated so much, yet I know what to write, I just can't structure it properly , and I keep getting told to improve me abilities to structure. I feel everything that I have produced this term is mediocre - I just wanted this to be the piece that impresses my supervisors. I'm going to motivate myself to do this piece by tmrw and then steel myself for feedback next week. I can do this, I have to. Thankyou for your encouragement.

As Girl's Aloud sing in "Call the Shots" - "I won't cry because I've stumbled through this far".


I was in the same state last month. I attended a conference - I didn't really want to go to, but it was what I needed. Listening to other people's ideas was refreshing and gave me new energy. What I wrote afterwards was substantially better than what I had written just a few weeks back. I would suggest: Go out there, do some networking, and then start again.


hi everyone. i just want to say a big thank you to you guys for all the replies. just taking a break from another hopeless day of data collection and as awful as it may sound, it does make me feel better knowing others do feel the same way. i was worrying i really was losing it for a while, but i now know these feelings are part of the typical process making me feel more hopeful that it can get better! so thank you everyone!


I constantly feel like I'm a rubbish PhD student and am too lazy. Seem to have lost all the motivation that was once there. I'm giving up until January when I *will* have renewed enthusiasm and will be ultra-efficient and brilliant academic all round. I'm sure a similar thing will happen to you, it's a rollercoaster.


Yes to everything on here...

glad I'm not alone. I'm actually dreaming about my transfer report (but not in a good way).