Lost my mojo


Advance warning, this is an utterly pathetic, pity thread.

I just don't know how to get back on track. It's been weeks since I've worked solidly on my thesis, I simply don't have the will to do it. I just don't seem to care. It's not that I've been pushing too hard, I backed right off and cut myself slack in order to get past the anxiety I was drowning in. But I haven't rediscovered any motivation, more just decided that it really doesn't matter if I do no work. I don't know if I'm overwhelmed, lazy, sabotaging myself..... I'm completely stuck.

My mood is all over the place, and in the last few days it's been all over the place in a, so low it's subterranean, way. I feel as if I need to massively fight on all fronts just now, my work, my relationship, my mood and mental health. I feel as if I'm drowning and failing on every damn front, even though my life is really not bad and logically I consider myself very fortunate. I feel as if I'll never actually be capable of living a proper life, and that terrifies me.

Any ideas how to get out of this rut?


If your mood is that bad you may need professional help to lift your spirits. Normally I'd recommend seeing a counsellor at your uni, or going to your GP, or even both. This is very important. Don't assume that your mood will lift without this sort of outside intervention.

I've had far too many long periods where I've done nothing at all (I'm talking months here!), and have had to return to the thesis/research far too many times. I always did this by drawing up a to-do list of things to get on with, ranging from big ambitious things, to lots of small ones. Then I would start - slowly - working through the list, picking off the easiest (or least unappealing?!), doing them, and crossing them off my list. That would boost my confidence, and slowly I'd get back into a rhythm again.

Sending you virtual hugs and wishing you well.

Avatar for Eska

======= Date Modified 04 Apr 2010 23:47:08 =======
Hey Teek big hugs (((())))). So sorry to hear you feel this way.

I know it sounds cheesey, but have you tried regular excercise? Or a sociable hobby? Or both? I think the process of doing a PhD probably goes against almost everything we, as humans, are designed to do in order to be happy - apart from the thinking and stimulation part - it negates all seratonin enducing activities. I do complain about being part-time and having loads of teaching, but, really, I think it would be very hard to just concentrate on the PhD, and be solitary and innactive for the amount of time that demands. Even though I teach at different places and meet people through that, I still feel this great sense of isolation sometimes and that can be very demoralising to your general ummmpppphhhh in life. I think one of the great things about work, and what often motivates us to keep ethusiastic, is the sense of camaraderie and shared achievement it gives us, but that goes with a PhD. I think we have to find it elsewhere.

I'm about to join a knitting club, where I'll be crocheting a nice hat and chatting to some fellow knitters for two hours per week, and hopefully working on some knitted art. It's my way of finding that sense of shared work and experience, hopefully it will keep me sane!

P.s. I also agree with Bilbo that you may ed to seea professional, if your low mood continues.


Hey Teek, sorry to hear you're feeling so bad. It comes in waves - you'll be productive and as happy as a postgrad student can be, you just need to ride through this one. But it does sound like you need some extra help. You need to be ok mentally to be able to work, so it might be a good idea if you do go and see counsellor, talk through some issues. Once you start taking action, you might find that this in itself motivates you, and as Bilbo mentions, then start with some easy work.

Be kind to yourself, and do go and see someone. Hugs.


Thanks Bilbo. I feel a bit of a wretch soliciting sympathy from someone genuinely battling the odds, but your support is very much appreciated. I don't know what to do about my mood, mental health has been a problem for me for so long, I've rather lost perspective. Because I can function most of the time and have days or bits of days when I feel better, I tend to think I'm ok. Quite often I think it's all just an elaborate excuse, and that I just need a good smack round the head and told to get on.
Over the years I've rather lost confidence in most counsellors and most drugs, I work on it all myself but it's become yet another issue on which I feel I'm just failing.

I'm a fan of lists as well, today I even picked an item off (although it took me a day and a half to succeed in performing a ten minute task). I know so well that I'm a hundred times happier when I'm working hard, yet I can't get into it. There are so many reasons to be motivated, yet I can't seem to feel any of them.


Thanks Eska and Sue
I know this isn't really the forum for these things, but I really appreciate the support. I don't feel I can lean on my husband with this, my family have their own problems, and this weekend I've just felt so horribly alone.

I'm actually very keen on exercise, although between a current physical injury and the mental difficulty in getting out to do things, I know I'm not as active as I'd like. Socialising gets hard when I'm in a bad phase as my confidence just shrivels up, sometimes I deliberately avoid socialising because I don't feel capable of holding a conversation.

You're right though, I know that being around people is better for me, I'll try and work in the office more this week I think. I do feel as if I've never really got a solid social circle here, I join in with things but it's as if I've forgotten how to go from encounters to friends. Funnily enough I thought about learning to knit so I could join one of those groups myself for that reason!

I'll make an appointment with my GP as well, I won't hold out for any pearls of wisdom but it won't kill me to go. Thanks again.


I agree with Bilbo, you need professional help. Consult your local barman for possible remedies. My personal suggestion is 16 units worth of Ireland's finest export (and I'm not talking about Ronan Keating.)

How about a trip to see your family/old friends? That normally helps me.


Thanks slizor, that suggestion did make me smile. Although wryly, as I have noticed my interest in alcohol growing over the past few weeks.
I've had weekends off to see family and friends recently. It does make me feel a bit better at the time, but as soon as I'm away from that positive encouragement....... back comes the black dog, drooling on my jeans.


Hey Teek. First of all, please allow yourself this period of time. The good thing is it you are acknowledging it and sharing (sometimes easier with strangers). Try the GP/counseling as others suggested. Hearing yourself aloud and saying things to someone that you don't have to be so careful with does wonders. Big hug...


Thanks 404. You're right that it's easier with a stranger - what would I do without the internet eh?


hi Teek, sorry to hear that your mood is down. I hope you feel better today. I definitely understand what you mean; I have been depressed off and on; I wasn't sure if it was PMS or the phd or England or the dark skies etc.etc.

Heres a strange thing though--whenever I get depressed, I go to my office and I feel better there!!! Even if I'm not doing any work. I think it could be the light. At home I don't open the curtains, all the windows are closed, the shades are closed, everything is always locked. This is because my home was burgled last year; I think I have got over it but still, I am afraid to open the curtains lest people look inside and see that I have a new computer at home etc. etc. Paranoid paranoid paranoid.

Last year a couple of teenagers also sneered at me and called me names. After that I became afraid of teenagers on the streets (lads on bicycles, lads in the park, you name it) and would take great trouble avoiding them (walk longer etc.). Now I am not afraid of them anymore.

Another thing I do when I am depressed is, I leave the house and walk a bit. Maybe its the exercise :-) .

If you feel low and you don't do anything (you stay the same as you were), you are likely to continue feeling bad or get worse. So try your best to do something else when your mood is low.

I also like to dress up whenever I feel depressed. I put a new lipstick or curl/straighten my hair, this somehow brightens my mood.

As others have posted, do get some help; see a counsellor etc.
love satchi


Hi Teek,

I just wanted to send a short reply to let you know you're not alone! I felt like this plenty times during the PhD... almost like feeling as if there was no real point to doing any work. This was really true a few months ago when a lot was going on at home. A family member was diagnosed with a terminal illness, which took me away from the PhD more, and even though my supervisor told me to take time off, I felt guilty at the thought because I'd been so slack in the months beforehand. In the end I just didn't have any motivation to do anything, yet was riddled with guilt for feeling that way.

What I did was to just set small targets. If I was writing a chapter, I'd say in the morning "I will get part A of the chapter done today", even if that was only 500 words. Reaching my target each day made my motivation grow, because I could see the work getting done - even if it was slow progress, and eventually was finishing tonnes of stuff each day. My advice would be to just set small targets until you're feeling more motivated. Ruts are hard to dig ourselves out of but I always think its easier to take each rung of the ladder on at a time, instead of trying to get to the top in one big jump. (I realise how cheesy that sounds).

Good luck!!


Hi Satchi
Poor you being burgled! I think I'd have to buy an enormous dog if that happened to me, I aleady think I hear things late at night.

I do try to manage my mood, but when I'm feeling bad I get horribly anxious, and just moving to another part of the house can feel overwhelming (as absurd as that must sound). Sometimes I manage to really perk myself up, but then I crash down again and it feels such a rollercoaster, I almost want to stay down and at least know where I am.

I've been having conversations with myself all morning, trying to persuade myself to get to the office. I know it will be fine and yet the prospect has me rooted here in fear. But I have made a doctor's appointment. I'm not entirely sure why as I've become rather anti-drug over the years and I know that's all they'll offer me. Still, you have to try.


Thanks Jinkim

I know you're right about the targets. I just have to accept that even the smallest one is better than nothing and stop sitting at my desk hour after hour, expecting an impressive workload to appear. I've got to stop this avoidance.


Thanks to everyone for the encouragement.
I went to see my GP today and was amazed, he spent half an hour with me and genuinely listened. Because there's so much history he didn't feel he could conclude matters, but he managed to arrange a referal for me to see a consultant within a few days (and in the meantime I have some stuff to calm me down a bit). It's still a wait and see but I feel so much better for having been taken seriously, it's a very different experience to prior attempts.
In the meantime I've made a schedule for my day and have even made it to the office.