What's your pressure limit?


Hey all! So what with trying to get this thesis finished off within a few weeks, desperately working on the fellowship application that isn't currently going anywhere fast, and dealing with a supervisor who fluctuates between being fantastic and being extremely difficult.....I wonder how much more I can take.

And then I think about how small those tasks are in comparison to everything that my sup and probably most other profs out there manage on a daily basis. I'm not sure I could deal with the pressure I am under on a long-term basis....but dealing with their pressure? I think I'd explode. Do you reckon they get used to it gradually or are they just born tough? Sometimes I think...no thanks. Not for me. I want to do well, but at the expense of my sanity? Nope.

Anyone else ever think that...or is everyone just striving for the top? (I say that like it's easy to get there!!)
Best, KB


I have no sympathy at all for my super. He lives on his fragile ego as he never passed the 11+ and it's his Achilles heel. I am a national agony aunt and have really tried to give him slack and understanding. But some of his emails to me have been far beyond acceptable. They have been quite frankly barmy. Ultimately, I have to say that I believe he's seriously dysfunctional. And my co-supervisor, a truly eminent clinical psychologist, has gone much further to diagnose him as a pr***. I wouldn't presume.

I've tried to understand. It's pointless.The pressure he is under is bolstered by a fat salary and a 'God' complex. Why should i feel sorry for the pressure he's under? He gets paid to take it.


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I know exactly how you feel as I was like that for most of my PhD particularly as it was very problematic (especially my supervisor but also data collection/analyses) which I won't go into otherwise I could be here all day!  I thought I was about to go crazy towards the end as I was under so much pressure to do all the very time consuming data collection and analyses with a very unhelpful supervisor who wasn't interested in it all! Getting very little sleep didn't help either!  The sanity was definitely slippery there! I was questioning why I thought it was a good idea even though I knew this is what I wanted to do! 

My supervisor's classic line was that they were under pressure too and had loads on their plate etc .... though I'm not sure what (I've have yet to see evidence of this!) and I was a mere inconvenience! I don't think this particular academic got used to it as they didn't seem too good at dealing with stress but that could also be do with their odd/dysfunctional personality! 

I don't suppose it does get any easier but what I think helps is to improve the way you handle stress and try to keep on top of things! I know I definitely need to be more organised in the future as it's very easy for me to get lost in very time consuming data collection and trying to write when you are forced to do so under pressure is very difficult especially as you've been stuck in your project so long!  Or even coming up with new ideas is hard too! I seem to find that ideas come to me at the most random of times generally when I am more relaxed and least expecting it! 

I would like to strive for the top (or die trying ;-)) but at the moment the chances of getting anywhere is pretty slim that I don't know what to do with myself if I don't get into academia as that was my goal of getting a PhD! I think what helped me get through it all was knowing that it was going to end and that I would hopefully be getting somewhere (i.e. up career ladder!)  It hasn't work that way so far :-( but the stress levels are not at PhD levels yet!!!! Though I'm sure that no one who does a PhD is actually sane ;-) so perhaps this should be rephrased how far as you willing to go to lose your sanity? :p


I have a very low pressure limit, but I'm not working in academia, and am long-term ill with a progressive neurological disease. During my part-time PhD I got extremely good at saying no to things. I focused on what I needed to do to complete the degree, and increasingly so as I became more and more disabled.

My husband (also has PhD) is a Research Fellow at our local university and he has quite a high pressure job, but he seems to manage it. He's juggling a lot of different research projects, with a high degree of responsibility. But it seems to work out ok, and he chills out at home in evenings and at weekends. His job is very much a 9-5 one and he turns his back on it out of hours.

Of course you are under an incredible amount of pressure at the moment, in these final weeks as you try to finish your thesis in record quick time. But the pressure should ease afterwards, and I would honestly expect a post-doc/fellowship to be easier than you're finding things right now.