First-time poster but long-time lurker to these forums, I simply wanted to share my experience with the viva and handling severe anxiety in the hopes that it may be of benefit to someone. For context, I should state that I passed my viva with minor corrections back on December. Since then I've wanted to take a moment to reflect on the experiences before viva and offer these words to everyone: it's okay to be anxious.
From being post-viva, it's easy for me to say this; however, prior to viva, I certainly didn't feel I could pass the viva and doubt I would have listened to my own advice. Personally, I found the experience up-to the viva to be dreadful: I suffered with anxiety (often having panic attacks whilst walking the dog in the morning), I barely slept in the weeks leading up to the viva and I was convinced I'd fail miserably. In searching for someone with similar experience, I mostly found prior PhD-students reflecting on how they had spent months preparing for their viva, knew their thesis inside-out and thoroughly enjoyed their mock-vivas. For myself, reading these upbeat posts wasn't helpful as none of the posts I found discussed experiences similar to my own.
Unlike most others, I began preparing for viva 2 weeks before the exam. This was perhaps adding to my anxiety, but at the time there was nothing I could do other than try. I hated my mock-vivas, finding them stressful and adding to my anxieties and decreasing any confidence I had in handling the viva. To the contrary however, I found my anxieties about the viva to be unfounded and the experience oddly pleasant, remembering more about the thesis than I thought I would.
As a final word, what I will say is this - even though it may be awful now, try to believe, if not in yourself, then in your thesis; you wrote it, you know it, you've got this.
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