Under pressure! Need some encouragement


Hi guys,

I need help!

I am under great pressure right now! I am a year one PhD student. I am currently writing my proposal which is due this month. I am losing my motivation for doing my PhD. My boss has always asked me to revise the proposal. Actually i have finished it already. Although it is not the best piece, it looks fine enough as a proposal in my opinion. I do think that I can submit it for internal examiners to assess. But my boss is so demanding (or picky), always requesting me to do a lot of rewriting. I have been working non stop for months from 10 - 10 . I feel exhausted. I cant sleep and eat! I start to think that doing a PhD is not suitable for me.

What should i do? Anyone with similar experiences can give me some advice? How did you get through this difficult time?

Thx for your help!


Keep your chin up dotdottung - it will soon be submitted and no more revisions to be made to it. Look at it this way - probably your supervisor's feedback has enabled you to improve the quality of the proposal, and next time you come to write something, you will be able to preempt some of the kinds of comments he/she is going to make.

Take a break. Seriously! Sleeping and eating is far more important than what your supervisor wants. When you're rested and refreshed, you can look on your PhD with fresh eyes. You might find that it is rewarding once you get the feedback from the external examiners, and this may encourage you to continue.

I can't relate entirely, as my supervisors aren't demanding (I wish they were a bit actually). But I can relate to a difficult first year experience. I was unhappy for most of my first year. Second year was better. I'm beginning the third year now and really enjoying myself. So my advice - prioritise your health, don't neglect other parts of your life (eg. hobbies, friendships), and persevere. It'll get better. A phrase that helped me throughout my first year when having to submit continuation reports and such like was "I can only do what I can do". : )

Avatar for Pjlu

Hi dotdottung, I'm worried when you say that you have been working from 10-10 everyday non-stop for months, and am not surprised you are exhausted. I think Tudor's point about your workload is very important. Do you ensure that you give yourself regular breaks each day also and regular opportunities to rest or do something that you really enjoy or find relaxing. Without this it can be hard to get a sense of perspective, both about your work and your pathway.

If you think you are ready to submit your proposal now, perhaps you need to let your supervisor know this and also know that you are exhausted. Supervisors are usually very busy people with multiple responsibilities so they don't always observe their impact on us. An example: my primary supervisor is a very sympathetic and understanding person by nature, even so, she only really knew about the times I was struggling when I told her about it. Once she did understand, she did not step in with solutions but she did listen and support the actions I took to help myself manage some of the really challenging aspects.

Do you think it would be helpful to acknowledge you have finished your proposal and have a conversation with your supervisor about this, so you can come to an agreement about submitting it very soon? Then, perhaps you could take a few days off before resuming your program.


Yes, 12 hours a day is not sustainable for long. Many of us do it in our 4th years (and it's really, really hard) but you don't want to be doing it in your first year.


Thanks for your replies! I am feeling a bit better now after talking to some of my friends and sharing my feelings here. I think I will submit what I have done when the deadline comes - Unless my boss lets me extend the deadline (but i would rather she wouldn't give me any grace period because I really need some rest.)