Dealing with Stress/Depression/Anxiety

posted
09-Aug-17, 08:39
edited about 6 seconds later
by Kahn
Avatar for Kahn
posted about 2 months ago
Hello Everyone,

I am a first-year PhD student (started in October 2016). My first year has gone pretty well so far however recently I have been having some issues and would appreciate any advice. Basically, I told my supervisors that I expect to have results and a first draft of my first chapter by September or October. To achieve this and for other reasons like wanting to finish the course on time I haven't taken any time off the entire year. While I used to take one or more often two days off in the week before June, since mid-June I have taken exactly one complete day off. My diet is very health and I exercise frequently. The problem however is that over the past two weeks or so I have been experiencing pretty serious anxiety/depression (non-suicidal) and stress. My hair is falling out, my stomach remains upset, headaches (I never get these normally), low libido and the inability to focus. My daily routine consists of sleeping 8-12 hours, waking up, performing an hour of fasted cardio or resistance training, eat, research, eat, research, walk 30mins, research, sleep and repeat. I pretty much only have my results section to complete now but I am unable to write a quality piece like the rest of the paper. If I spend a day without working I feel a deep sense of guilt and the thought of not progressing even a bit in a single day makes my heart beat escalate as a PhD is not like an MSc or BSc. It doesn't just end after exams or whatever, I have to write my papers whether that takes 3 years or 5, and I am heavily reliant on my funding (which ends in September 2019). Does anyone have any advice on what I should do?
posted
09-Aug-17, 09:07
edited about 2 minutes later
by Pjlu 4 star member
Avatar for Pjlu
posted about 2 months ago
Hi Kahn, I think initially you need to see a doctor (general practitioner) and explain the symptoms you have described on your post and ensure that you are well physically.

Your doctor (GP) will be able to assess your symptoms and make recommendations from there. They may also recommend counselling to help alleviate anxiety and some other supports. This would be the first recommendation I would make if a student or parent raised this concern at my workplace. (I am an Assistant Principal with a major role in student welfare at a large secondary College and this is what we are recommended to do as part of our role.)

I do think there would be other steps you might take as well to help and I am sure other posters will provide much support. However what you describe in your post concerns me, and my initial thoughts and recommendation would be to start with a medical appointment and check up, rule out any physical concerns and see what the doctor recommends.

Your university may have a free health clinic or medical centre on campus that you could call into perhaps, that does not require appointments or payment. Please take the time to take care of yourself. If you do have supportive family near by or who you can contact, I am sure they would want to know that you are feeling this way.
posted
09-Aug-17, 09:32
edited about 18 seconds later
by Kahn
Avatar for Kahn
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From Pjlu:
Hi Kahn, I think initially you need to see a doctor (general practitioner) and explain the symptoms you have described on your post and ensure that you are well physically.

Your doctor (GP) will be able to assess your symptoms and make recommendations from there. They may also recommend counselling to help alleviate anxiety and some other supports. This would be the first recommendation I would make if a student or parent raised this concern at my workplace. (I am an Assistant Principal with a major role in student welfare at a large secondary College and this is what we are recommended to do as part of our role.)

I do think there would be other steps you might take as well to help and I am sure other posters will provide much support. However what you describe in your post concerns me, and my initial thoughts and recommendation would be to start with a medical appointment and check up, rule out any physical concerns and see what the doctor recommends.

Your university may have a free health clinic or medical centre on campus that you could call into perhaps, that does not require appointments or payment. Please take the time to take care of yourself. If you do have supportive family near by or who you can contact, I am sure they would want to know that you are feeling this way.


Thank you for commenting Pjlu. Unfortunately I am alone in this world in terms of support. That's why I have learned to keep a stiff upper lip which may be exacerbating my situation. I will probably take rest for today and if things don't improve I shall contact my GP tomorrow.
posted
09-Aug-17, 11:40
edited about 20 seconds later
by Ephiny 1 star member
Avatar for Ephiny
posted about 2 months ago
I agree about seeing your GP - sometimes symptoms like you describe can be caused by anxiety and stress, sometimes there is a physical cause such as thyroid problems. Either way it would be good to get medical advice.

Also, I can't help noticing that you sound very perfectionist and rigid in your thinking and the 'rules' you impose for yourself, both in terms of your PhD work and diet/exercise regimes etc. Obviously being self-disciplined is a good thing up to a point, but when taken to extremes you can end up putting yourself under unbearable pressure, making you unhappy and ill. The GP should be able to refer you to counselling (in fact, your university very likely offers free counselling for students), where you could explore finding a more balanced approach.
posted
09-Aug-17, 13:28
edited about 27 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 2 months ago
Take a week off. It makes no difference if you don't meet this deadline.
posted
09-Aug-17, 17:55
edited about 24 seconds later
Avatar for dotdottung
posted about 2 months ago
We have similar problems. I feel guilty too if I spend a day without working. But I think we have to learn how to strike a work-life balance. Phd is just a small part of our life. In our life, there are many other things we can do like hanging out with friends, watching movies, swimming and going shopping. We still have two more years to go! Dont give yourself too much pressure!
posted
09-Aug-17, 22:41
Avatar for linzedin
posted about 2 months ago
I work in General Practice as a clinician. I would urge you to make an appointment asap get a bit of support through this difficult time. You need to stay well.
posted
10-Aug-17, 08:32
by Kahn
Avatar for Kahn
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From Ephiny:
I agree about seeing your GP - sometimes symptoms like you describe can be caused by anxiety and stress, sometimes there is a physical cause such as thyroid problems. Either way it would be good to get medical advice.

Also, I can't help noticing that you sound very perfectionist and rigid in your thinking and the 'rules' you impose for yourself, both in terms of your PhD work and diet/exercise regimes etc. Obviously being self-disciplined is a good thing up to a point, but when taken to extremes you can end up putting yourself under unbearable pressure, making you unhappy and ill. The GP should be able to refer you to counselling (in fact, your university very likely offers free counselling for students), where you could explore finding a more balanced approach.


It's certainly not the first time someone has said that I am too hard on myself. But I am the only person in my family to have entered higher education and I feel that my work-ethic has been solely responsible for me graduating top of the class for my BSc and MSc despite growing up in poverty. Now I have funding for three years only and its a once in a lifetime opportunity so I have to play this right and the pressure is very real.
posted
10-Aug-17, 08:32
edited about 8 seconds later
by Kahn
Avatar for Kahn
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From dotdottung:
We have similar problems. I feel guilty too if I spend a day without working. But I think we have to learn how to strike a work-life balance. Phd is just a small part of our life. In our life, there are many other things we can do like hanging out with friends, watching movies, swimming and going shopping. We still have two more years to go! Dont give yourself too much pressure!


But it's easier said than done, right?
posted
10-Aug-17, 08:33
edited about 17 seconds later
by Kahn
Avatar for Kahn
posted about 2 months ago
Thank you to everyone for replying. My GP has arranged for a blood test today in the afternoon. Let's see what happens...

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