Following on from my previous post on my ups and downs during my 1st year, this post covers my main ups and downs from my 2nd year.
I had a really hard time around Dec to March of my second year. This mid-PhD struggle is pretty common among PhD students. It’s a point at which you can feel like you have been working non-stop for a long time, but with little to show for it. Your perception of time means that you can paradoxically feel that you don’t have enough time left to complete all the remaining work, and yet there is too long to go to be able to feel that the end is in sight. This is also a time when many people have multiple studies running simultaneously, so it can feel like you are juggling too many things at once. For me, things got much better once participant recruitment was completed for one of my big studies. This took the pressure off in two ways as I was no longer worrying about recruiting enough participants, and it opened up time for me to concentrate on other studies. If you are struggling, I really recommend talking to your supervisor about it, taking some holiday, and talking to student services about what help you can access. PhDs are hard, and most people have a point where they find it really tough. However, it should not put your health and wellbeing at risk, and suffering isn’t a necessary part of the process, so please access support.
As I mention above, the pressure was off once I had finished recruitment to one of my big studies. This was more than simply the removal of a source of stress. Along with finishing recruitment for my other big study, it was the biggest success of my second year. I am lucky to be in a very supportive lab who understand the importance of celebrating all the smaller successes within a PhD, and so I felt that these milestones were celebrated and my hard work recognised.
During my first and second years, I worked as a teaching assistant to earn extra money (I will do a separate post on money matters). In my 2nd year, this work mainly consisted of a huge amount of marking. This marking contributed significantly to my mid-point struggles, as it was intense bursts of work throughout the year, and at times conflicted with PhD priorities such as participant recruitment. It meant long days, working some weekends, and occasionally required me to delay some PhD work, and it was really hard going. However, my bank account is much healthier for it, and I have started my third year much less anxious about money. Ultimately, I wish that I had managed it better by planning my time more efficiently, but I am pleased that I did it. I am also pleased that I am not doing it again this year!
Seeing friends graduate
One of the strange things about a PhD is that each year, you see people you know leave and you welcome new people. In the summer of my 2nd year, I saw two good friends who had been in their 3rd year when I was in my 1st, graduate with their PhD. Having seen all the hard work that they had put in, this made me incredibly happy and proud of them. It also gave me hope that I will get there too.
Follow me on Twitter @abbiejones86