Dissertation Stress & Anxiety
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Are you a born worrier or do you only worry when deadlines and stressful situations loom? We all experience stress and anxiety at some point during our lives and approaching dissertation deadlines are no exception; they are stress and anxiety inducing and over time, they can cause quite disturbing and influential physical and psychological symptoms. As important as ‘getting the grade’ is, it’s not catastrophic to have to repeat a year, but many people have family, social and financial pressures that do make the concept of failure FEEL catastrophic and that’s when stress and anxiety can take hold. Stress is a normal response to too much life pressure, but when you start experiencing the symptoms of anxiety, such as sleeplessness, agitation, sudden feelings of fear, panic attacks, disturbing thoughts and phobias, not to mention all the physical symptoms such as palpitations, dizziness and nausea for example, it really is time to take control. Over the years, we have helped many thousands of students facing exam and dissertation pressure to make sense of their fears, to remove the inappropriate thoughts, to alleviate the symptoms and to become calm and focused. It’s a tough time, no one would contest that fact and I struggled with chronic anxiety throughout my four years at university but when the deadline for my dissertation loomed closer, I was a true mess. At the time, I didn’t know that medication wouldn’t help. I didn’t understand the true nature of what I was experiencing and certainly had no one to support, guide or reassure me. I was lonely, isolated, lost and frustrated. I needed to find answers but at the time, the only course of action was an endless stream of tests and prescription after prescription for tranquilisers and antidepressents. Did they work? No. I was desperate for answers but no one could even offer me a shoulder to cry on. Four years later with a 2:1 under my belt, although I have no clue how I got there, I was in the exact same predicament, but this time, the need for an income overwhelmed me and although I was lucky enough to live with my working girlfriend, who is now my wife, the financial pressures became unbearable. I did my best to work but the TV industry was hard. Late nights, early mornings, seven days a week working with intolerable people with intolerable attitudes; not exactly the recipe for a stress free life. Eventually I cured my anxiety completely. I won’t go into the neurology or the long story of how I discovered the solution because it’s not important to this article, but suffice it to say that after 27 years of horrendous anxiety and panic, I became anxiety free and remained that way. Since then I have helped over 155,000 people to do the same.
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- As soon as you start to feel the familiar surge of stress or anxiety start to rise, stand up, move around, use distractions such as listening to a pod-cast or language tape. You can do anything at all as long as it combines intellectual and physical activity. When you have calmed down, return to your work.
- If you start to feel overly anxious or panicky, splash your face with cold water to activate the dive reflex which should slow your heart rate and calm you down quickly.
- Time management – Use an hour-by-hour diary to input a schedule for working, eating, sleeping and ‘you time’. Even though you have deadlines, you must maintain your body’s healthy chemical equilibrium.
- Be sure to work in places where you won’t be disturbed, where you are warm and comfortable and have fast and easy access to healthy snacks and drinks. DO NOT take sleeping medications… even herbal ones and DO NOT use energy drinks or any such substances… they will cause physiological havoc.
- Take daily exercise – not foot-numbing sprints. 40-50 minutes walking a day is plenty but make sure you enjoy it. Take your iPod with you, pre-loaded with an interesting podcast or talking book perhaps.
- Posture – Your posture is vital. Sitting for long periods of time compresses the thoracic cavity that compresses the lungs and heart and prevents effective circulation and respiration. It can also cause digestive issues. Humans were made to be upright and mobile so take regular breaks even if it to just walk around your room and stretch. Learning to stretch effectively can pay dividends.
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