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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Support Groups » School Stress, Life Stress... Stress all around!

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Author Topic: School Stress, Life Stress... Stress all around!
TheMadMorrigan
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So, as many of you might have gleaned from previous posts, I am a grad student. I'm a grad student in the sciences, to boot, meaning that when I'm not in class, I'm in lab, and when I'm not in either, I'm sleeping/cramming/decompressing. It usually isn't so tough to deal with, but when the stress from assignments or exams start building, a few things start to happen:

1) My concentration gets shot, and I can't concentrate on ANYTHING - school or otherwise. Usual scenario: I'll end up procrastinating and then have to spend a sleepless night or two furiously putting in a week's worth of work.

2) I have and always will have test anxiety, so it usually doesn't seem to matter how much I study - I will invariably start flipping out partway through the exam, blank on stuff I know, and then do rather poorly. My homework is usually quite good, and I participate in class discussions and ask questions, so my professors KNOW that I have at least some idea of what I'm doing but it never seems to be reflected on their exams.

3) During these points of stress, I'll start double-guessing my decision to come to grad school... like, am I really good enough to stick it out in the program? Am I good enough for a Ph.D? I don't even know whether this makes any sense or not, but it feels like I'm not cut out to do *anything*.

I've seen counselors about this before, to really no avail... usually, I'm okay, and even when I'm not, there's still a tiny, rational part of me that tells me to stop flipping out and just do the work I'm assigned.

So, my question to you all is: how many of you have dealt with similar stresses, and how did you deal? This is one of the hardest, most stressful things I've ever done in my life, so any help would be appreciated.

Posts: 33 | From: Gainesville, FL | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
cool87
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- ***Are you the kind of person that waits at the last minute to study ?***

For me, it often helps taking some time to myself apart from studies the night before a big exam. I'll watch movies, chat or do other things, anything to relax and get my mind off the exam. This way, I find it helps relieving stress a whole lot.

Anyway, I've found if I studied the night before exams I get hypermnesia which results in me thinking I have forgotten everything I've just learned the weeks/days before when it's not the case. That totally highers my level of stress so that's why I try to avoid studying as much as I can the night before an exam.

For me, really, I have found the best thing that works in my case is to try to start things whether it's studying or homeworks ahead of time, although I often have to study too at the last minute.


- ***Are you engaging in let's say sports, relaxation activities or anything like that to decompress before an exam right when the stress starts to rise ?***

For me, when possible, few minutes before an exam-- it might sound crazy I know-- I play guitar. It helps me a lot to relax and I have found myself a lot more calm after that. Same thing if I do some basketball shoots or any other sports like that before. It helps me a whole lot relieving the stress.

Relaxation techniques can work a lot for me too when it comes to reliving anxiety. I've got a bunch of them I used to do.


- ***How about your self-esteem ?***

It doesn't seem to be that high here based on what you've told us. (saying you are not cut out to do anything, you are not good enough, the works). Is it the same in other aspects of you life too, besides studies ? It could play a role in all of this as well.

I'll think a little bit more about your case and I will try to come up with some suggestions/advice later on, ok ?

But before, can you be a bit more specific about the counselers you've seen ? Anything specific they suggested to you ? Has some sort of medication been suggested to relieve the anxiety if it is really that disproportionnate ?

And is the anxiety related to school only or to other spheres or your life too ?

[ 03-26-2007, 07:20 PM: Message edited by: cool87 ]

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Ecofem
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Hey, it sounds like you're going through a rough time, Verbum. It also seems like you have a good head on your shoulders re: your comments in the "marriage whirlwind" post.

I'm also a grad student, be it not in the sciences, so I know the weird stress feeling. What type of support are you getting from people in your department? Do you have any type of mentor? What about fellow grad students? (I had a female friend go to grad school for a Ph.D in physics to be snubbed by her classmates, and I've heard a lot about it being hard to be female in such environments.)

I think finding a professor/TA/fellow grad student or two who's going through/gone through the same thing to talk with would be key. Talk to these professors about exams, how you're studying but don't seem to be studying the right thing.

Or find a counselor who's more experienced in this type of thing, because it's a bit different from other experiences (how continuing your studies is sort of a luxury in a way, so you can't understand why it's so stressful and "unfun" at times!) Finding a few fellow grad student friends, be it in a totally different field or department, might also help. It sounds like your old friends may be nice, but have different directions/priorities in their lives right now.

I would absolutely go in for help time management and test anxiety. Maybe an academic support center on campus could help? Figuring out time management is probably one of the hardest things about being a grad student, so you're working hard and getting stuff done, but also finding enough time to kick back.

I'd work on these things, but also give yourself a break. I'm sure you're doing fine and the first year is probably the hardest. Congrats for getting into grad school in the first place! I say try some various techniques and look for help in different places, then make your decision regarding the Ph.D after you're had more time. Good luck! [Smile]

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TheMadMorrigan
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Cool87 -

I do a combination of both studying early and at the last minute. I often start to study a few days (3 or so) before an exam, but end up doing the bulk the 2 days or so before. I know, I should do things much earlier... I'm stepping (slowly) in the right direction on this one. I actually think my main problem is HOW I study, which is a much harder beast to tackle. At the behest of one of my professors, I'm going to look into test-taking and study strategies to try and remedy this.

As for activities, I used to go to yoga 2 times a week when there was less work to do. I am making efforts to go back, and practice meditative breathing and poses on my own. I also draw to relieve stress, which sounds silly but helps zounds.

My self esteem is... difficult to qualify. While it's not the greatest out there, it's a heckuva lot better than it used to be. That is possibly one of the hardest changes to make in my life, and it's easy to slip back into the "my life is woe" attitude when you have a gazillion things to be doing and, do to spreading yourself out, don't get them done as as well as they ought to be. The counselors I've seen on the issue were from my undergrad university - he worked on helping with the visible signs of stress (ie, not eating well, not sleeping), but basically informed me that it was up to me to think more positively about myself.

I have never taken medication, as I don't feel there's a need if I can resolve my issues with a psychologist through regular therapy. The anxiety is primarily about school, though it has been known to creep in if my mother is sick, or if money is tight - I gather that those are pretty normal reactions, though. I have a reasonably healthy body image and am generally positive about myself, school aside.

Ecofem - Thanks [Smile] I try.

The environment is ok in my lab - I have a great mentor for a major professor, but he travels often so we tend to communicate via e-mail or the phone. I've gone to him with some of my concerns, though, and he's always been very helpful. The other lab students are about as cynical as I am, in the grand scheme of things - there's really no sympathy there, outside of the standard kvetching about professors/classes/topics. It's kind of a fend-for-yourself social atmosphere.

Several of my friends in grad school are going through similar things right now, I know. I don't know much about my University's counseling center (I've heard good and bad things, so I'm a little wary), but it's there, and I really ought to check it out.

Thanks for all of your help!

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KittenGoddess
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Are you actually in for the masters or the Ph.D. right now?

I'd second Lena's suggestion about getting connected with other grad students from inside and outside your department. If it's a "fend for yourself" type vibe within your department, then you actually might want to focus on meeting grad students outside your department, that way department politics won't be such an issue. Are there any grad student groups/organizations on your campus? If so, then I'd look at those. Even if you don't want to join, I bet they could hook you up with others who might be able to help. Also, talk with the graduate school office. They often have grad student support groups (sometimes the counseling center will sponser those as well).

I'd also encourage you to think about the balance in your life right now. One of the hardest things to do as a grad student is to acheive and maintain some type of balance between school/work and not-school/work. Grad programs can easily become the whole of your world if you're not careful. The happiest grad students I know are those who know when it's time to walk away from school and do something totally unrelated and that they enjoy.

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Sarah Liz

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TheMadMorrigan
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KittenGoddess -
I'm at the end of my first year of a four-year Ph.D program, so it's accelerated a little bit from others of its kind. For example, I'm taking my qualifying exam in June, whereas others don't start the writtens/orals until their second year.

There are a few grad student groups and organizations on campus and within the department, but I'm finding that the times they meet and the times I have are usually pretty different. Or, conversely, the times they meet up and discuss are fine but their activities are planned when I've got class or lab (as is the case with Vox, which is a shame).

One of the problems is feeling like I don't do *enough* - my peers are always talking about their 50+ hour labwork weeks, when I'm usually around for half that. They're always mentioning studying for exams a week and a half ahead of time, when I think 4 days is plenty. I mean, it's not healthy to compare myself to them, but I often wonder whether I should be doing more.

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Ecofem
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I may be too bold with this assumption, but I would guess that there's a bit of space between you and fellow grad students in your program. Maybe you're all a bit different, maybe they're jealous since you're more accelerated, how knows? But this would also make me suggest to get more involved with other grad students outside your department.

Assuming you're satisfied with your grades, your results, and your advisors/fellow researchers feel the same way, you're fine. Maybe putting in a few more hours at the lab might help build a teamwork feeling with others, but not necessarily. They might need the extra time or those 40 hours could include not just work but a lot of socializing, too. I'd definitely talk to your advisor about times to double-check.

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KittenGoddess
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I feel ya, really I do. In my college, we don't take quals until the end of the second year of course work. I'm almost at that point myself, and I'll confess to feeling incredibly burnt out. Especially if you've been going straight through school, that last bit as you're moving up to exams is incredibly hard. So do rest assured that feeling overwhelmed and stressed at this point is normal.

In terms of other people, I'd agree with what Lena said about putting in a few more hours if you think it'll build relationships for you, but if not don't worry about spending more time there. Remember too that people will often talk a big game (especially in competitive departments), but really just be trying to make themselves seem and feel smarter/better/etc. If you're satisfied with your progress, then just worry about you.

I'd also second the idea of getting with folks outside your department. Even if you can only attend some of the meetings, at least that would give you the chance to meet the other people. Perhaps you can find a couple of people and meet up for lunch/dinner/coffee/whatever on an informal basis.

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Sarah Liz

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