Feeling down and struggling


Hi all,

I'm new to this forum but thought I would post something to see if others are in a similar situation to me. I'm currently in the final 6 months of my PhD (due to submit in September) and struggling so much with my mood and stress levels. I had started feeling down just after New Year but put this down to being ill with numerous colds and couldn't go to the gym and enjoy time with my friends but all of that has cleared up now and I'm still so down in the dumps. It feels like I'm never going to get my final experiments finished so I can start writing up and with that I'm so tired and distracted that I don't know where to start! Has anybody here gone on ADs, had cognitive behaviour therapy to help them during their final few months or just struggled through?


Hi Murtof,

I am currently in my final 7 months and I feel quite down in the dumps too. I am not sure what is wrong with me- I can't seem to sleep until late which makes me groggy and unproductive the following day. This has been ongoing since January. I slipped off the exercise band wagon and need to get back on I think! I think the reason I feel this way is I had a sucky time with health towards the end of 2015- I had an operation and was on LOA for 6 weeks. Since January I have had additional health niggles as an after effect of the operation I had.

I have not tried those forms of therapy, but in my first and second years I used to go to a hypnotherapist for anxiety and it was amazing. I am considering going back as I believe I am not sleeping due to worrying about the thesis.


Hi Murtof and Zutterfly

I'm in the 'six months to go/sleeping badly/constant stress' camp too! I haven't sought any treatment but have been trying to do stress management techniques I've used in the past, with mixed results this time. I just try to tell myself that my feelings are very specific to this period, and that my PhD will end, and it will end fairly soon. One thing my supervisor said was to identify my very busiest period, and to look forward to getting that out of the way and then feel that things were easing off after that - my busy period is right now as, like Murtof, I am still collecting data as well as pushing on with analysis/writing - it helps to know that an end is in sight.


Hi Zutterfly and Chickpea,

Thank you both for your replies. It's nice to know I'm not the only one in this situation. All my friends who are doing PhDs seem to be doing fine so I try not to speak about it too much to them. Sorry to hear that you've been ill Zutterfly but if you can try get back on the exercise then it will help you. I exercised on Saturday and Sunday after 3 months and I felt great but when I took a break yesterday I had real bad brain fog in the lab. It's strange how the little things help. That's what gets me the most is the brain fog and literally feeling slow and tired :( And Chickpea, that's some good advice from your supervisor.I completed some data collection yesterday for one chapter, which makes me feel slightly better. I have an appointment with my doc next week to discuss options of therapy so I don't struggle when I need to be at my fittest. I'm leaning more towards CBT rather than tablets. Fingers crossed it helps!


Hi Chickpea and Murtof, I do remind myself frequently of what you have said there. I have recognised it is when I think about EVERYTHING I have to do all at once is when I become demotivated and get 'brain fog'; when I just think about the task in hand, whether it be completing a chapter or reading an article, I am much more productive.

I have just come back to the PhD after 4 days off over the bank holiday weekend and it has been a wildly unproductive day :(

Murtof, I will be back on with exercise this week. I know I will feel better for it! I also think some form of therapy over tablets is a good way to go. I was recently put on sleeping tablets for a physical health issue, but they are apparently also used as anti depressants, and the side effects make it impossible to work; they give me blurred vision and a drunken feeling!


I'm also in the final 6 months to submission! I keep trying to think of my self as being in the 'home straight' and other such clichés, but that's not quite enough to spur me on to get those words written!


It's strange, isn't it? I kind of expected to find myself powering through things at this stage, through sheer terror of my funding coming to an end while I still only had half a thesis, but I'm still procrastinating!


In a similar camp though maybe a little closer to the end. FT student, have a full draft and want to submit in the next 4-6 weeks. I'm struggling a little at the moment but things that have worked for me in the past with procrastination are regular breaks, good planning and mytomatoes.com. Stress and anxiety wise I have found mindfulness meditation and exercise to help, neither of which I have done much of in the past 3 weeks :-/ That might say a lot about my own stress and anxiety...


It's odd that we are all very aware of the benefits of exercise and taking care of ourselves (I also do meditation Grumpymule but like you, have not done much recently) yet we are all here grumbling haha I think we all need to dust ourselves off and get some gym time in!

I used to use MyTomatoes but I found the 25 minute timer distracting so I have moved to 'timertab' and set my own countdown timer (usually 1 hour max or 30 mins minimum) which is usually helpful.

Chickpea, I am also well aware of my funding deadline looming and thought i'd have so much more done by now!


I'm not sure what encouragement I can add but I can add solidarity.
My funding has already expired, I'm beyond my original deadline and paying a writing up fee to continue with my studies. I knew I wouldn't complete on time for long before I missed that first deadline so that wasn't so bad, I knew I had a successful extension in my backpocket, but writing has still been punishing.

All the experiences above are very familiar. The mantra of 'finished is better than perfect' is constantly thrown in the direction of the students in my department. I suppose this is meant as encouragement but somewhere between the graduate training people and our supervisors an expectation that finished is perfect creeps in. This sense has kept me from finishing my drafts. I would get locked in a 'its not good enough' mindset even with my drafts despite rationally knowing that they weren't meant to be great and that I need feedback on them I would avoid seeking it. No longer working in my office while enabling me to find quieter spaces in which to write (sharing with thirty is too many, open plan is hell) it did leave me isolated which is one thing I encourage everyone to avoid. Not the working in a quiet space but the self-imposed isolation, in my case it grew to the point where I felt guilty for doing anything away from my computer. That just leads to those draft chapters looking like an impenetrable blur that will never become clear.

Seeing friends who have completed all I can add, I think, is to keep contact with peers who you have known during your project and that you shouldn't be afraid of sending unfinished raggedy drafts to a supervisor and just saying "I need someone to look at this before I can do anymore", own up to writers block if you have it. I didn't and trying to power through without progress looked like I'd been skivving off and got me in trouble instead.


I agree, HuntAnthem - it is hard to learn to send stuff off for feedback when you know it isn't 'perfect', but it's so important to get your supervisor's take on it too. I have a constant battle with this, spending weeks trying to polish and edit things before I will send them for feedback! I also relate to what you said about isolation (mine is a necessary evil as I just live too far from uni for it to be any other way). Still, these are things that are specific to this temporary period and one day we will leave behind the PhD and get back to a healthier working lifestyle :-)


It all sounds very familiar. I have 8 months to go, I work full time and am the single mother of two kids. I also used to keep fit, meditate, eat well and sleep well. I also believed that once the pressure was seriously on that I would spur into action. I've written about 20k words and haven't even started my analysis. I have faith, though. Good luck to you all.