How to handle a PhD life.
Updated: Feb 8, 2022
What is a PhD?
The doctorate in philosophy is called a PhD. It is an academic degree awarded by universities around the world. The doctoral degree is given to researchers who have conducted original and extensive research in their field. Doctoral degrees are generally the highest degree that a student can obtain. Nevertheless, the purpose of writing this blog was not to explain what a PhD is; rather, it was to explain how one can manage a PhD life.
Regardless of their subject, PhDs are primarily concerned with two main factors: stress and time. As it makes things easier for you to understand, let me begin with my own journey. When I began my PhD in 2017, I was very excited about doing research. However, as time passed, I became increasingly stressed. Why? That's a big question. I'll tell you why. Because it isn't easy to discover something that has never been done before. This is the most challenging part of implementing your someone's or your own hypothesis since it has a very high probability of not working out or requiring additional aspects. At this point, the PhD begins in earnest, and stress builds up and time passes. What are your strategies for dealing with such stress and time?
Stress builds up over time. To prevent it from developing, you need to be vigilant and act early enough. This means that you need to discuss your work with others and communicate with your colleagues or supervisors. However, if you don't see any results, for example, if you don't work or get results for 5-6 months, it stresses you out. If this is the case, I recommend posting your question in online forums such as Research Gate. In most cases, the second scenario happens when nothing works, you become stressed, and that continues for weeks, so you are unable to concentrate on your work. Here is an effective way to deal with this problem. According to Dale Carnegie, "if you want to avoid worrying, do as Sir William Osler did: live in "day-tight compartments." Don't worry about the future. Live each day until bedtime. It will help you to break the cycle of stress and give you better sleep. After only a sound sleep, you can come out of this and most importantly you should give your brain a break and relax on the weekend. For relaxation, I recommend going for a long walk or talk with your family or friends, or you could indulge in your favorite hobby.
Light exercise every day or three or four times a week is ideal for managing stress. My activities included a bit of exercise and running three to four kilometers every week. No matter how early in the morning or how late in the evening, you can go to the gym or work out at home or in your student dorm. It will also keep you active and improve your sleep, which is a problem for PhD students. The importance of a good night's sleep for PhD students should not be underestimated. Getting quality sleep is essential for a productive mind which is the purpose of PhD.
PhD students have limited time. In order to finish your work in a limited amount of time, you need to be disciplined. As a suggestion, I suggest that you create a daily checklist of what you have to accomplish (like 4-5 points), for example: At 9 am, I arrived at the lab and wrote down what I had to do. Here is what I did, I started my experiment at 10 am, I ate lunch at 12 pm. I attended a seminar at 2 pm, and I finished it at 3 pm. In the end, if the experiment proceeds as planned, many things will be accomplished without stress. At the end of the week, you will have a positive result if you work like this for 5 days. In addition, I read lots of books before going to bed. Normally, I don't check my phone for two hours before going to bed.
When doing a PhD, you will learn how to learn, how you learn, and what teaching methods you are most comfortable with. Once you identify the methods that work for you, you can then teach yourself any skills you may need in the future. This is helpful whenever you come across a challenging or unfamiliar situation. A PhD will usually improve your time management skills and your ability to work with others and handle pressure.
Dr. Shah Alam is a neuroscientist and the views expressed in this article are his own.