A PhD Survival Guide for Doctoral Students
  • 4-minute read
  • 12th October 2018

A PhD Survival Guide for Doctoral Students

Are you studying for your doctorate? Then it may feel like you’re carrying the world on your shoulders. The PhD life can be tough, after all.

But don’t despair! As well as offering an outstanding proofreading service, we’ve prepared this handy PhD survival guide.

1. Learn Your Stress Signs

Stress is bad for your health. And studying for a PhD can be stressful. It is therefore vital to recognize stress so that you know when to do something about it (even if it is just taking a break). Look out for:

  • Feeling like you always have too much to do
  • Feeling inadequate or worrying about being “found out”
  • Being unable to focus or feeling out of control
  • Physical and mental exhaustion
  • Changes in appetite or libido

All of these are signs that you could be feeling stressed. It can also help to note things that make you feel stressed, as then you can try to take measures to avoid them or limit their impact.

2. Healthy Living

Many academics rely on a diet of coffee and deadlines alone. But in case it isn’t already obvious, this is not an especially healthy lifestyle. Ideally, you should try to do the following instead:

  • Eat a healthy, varied diet (including lots of fruit and veg)
  • Get plenty of rest, including around seven hours sleep a night
  • Have a regular exercise regime

We’re not saying you have to turn into a gym-obsessed fitness fanatic. But a having a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and doing a little exercise will help you feel physically and mentally strong.

3. Don’t Suffer Alone

Compared to undergraduate life, where you often attend classes and lectures with fellow students, studying for a PhD can involve long hours working alone in the library or at home.

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This can leave you feeling isolated, as if you have to do everything by yourself. But this isn’t true. Your academic advisor or professor should be able to answer any questions you have about your work.

And don’t be afraid to talk to your friends and family. They might not be able to resolve your academic problems, but they can definitely provide valuable moral and emotional support!

Sometimes, all you need is a hug.
Sometimes, all you need is a hug.
(Photo: Sander van der Wel)

4. Grow a Thick Skin

Every doctoral student will receive critical feedback during his or her studies. It’s part of the process. The question is how you respond to this feedback. On this note, you have two main options:

  1. Take it personally and refuse to speak to your advisor for three months, after which you’re wildly behind and have no idea what to do next
  2. Learn to accept criticisms and learn from them, using this experience to revise your research and making vital academic progress as a result

The first one is easier in the short term, we admit, but the second is much better overall. Keep in mind that your academic advisor should always be trying to help you. If you truly believe they’re being unnecessarily critical, you may even want to look at finding someone else to supervise your work.

5. There Is Life Beyond Your PhD

Your PhD is important. But a little perspective is a good thing, too, and it helps to remember that there is a world outside your academic bubble. Schedule regular time off. Catch up with friends. Volunteer. Do whatever it takes to help take your mind off your work for at least a little while.

As well as helping you stay sane, taking time off like this can boost creativity and productivity. So sometimes it might even help you solve the problem that was stressing you out in the first place.

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