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How do you get through the slumps?


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Hi everyone.  I was wondering how you fine folks find the motivation to push on.  Lately, I've been in a slump.  In an effort to make this short: finishing my third year, project feels like it's going nowhere, have two children, financial troubles, time constraints, and the lingering thought of "quit, quit, QUIT!" in my head.  Thank you so much for your advice in advance!

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Sorry to hear that. I had the same thoughts several times last year, and I also have two kids, etc.


For me, I don't think I would still be here if I didn't have such a great support system in my colleagues/friends and advisor/faculty. The way I get through slumps is to:


1. Realize that I'm in a slump and that things will get better (there's only one way to go, and that's up!).


2. Let myself feel the emotions (in other words, don't try to deny or ignore them).


3. Do whatever I feel like doing, whether that's sitting around the house, "wasting" time on FB and YT, or not changing out of my pajamas. I'm still learning to not feel bad about "unproductive" days.


4. Talk to friends who are good listeners (who are not necessarily fellow grad students).


5. Remind myself of the alternatives... and that grad school is the best choice for me right here, right now.


I hope you feel better soon! :)

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Complaining to my cohort mates, finding tangents or side projects that are more interesting, re-organizing and cleaning the lab, taking on an undergraduate to work with. 


Slumps are a fairly regular and consistent part of the life of every graduate student I know, in a number of different programs and disciplines. 

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Two things:


1) I typed up and printed my motivating reason for going after the PhD (my MA program was super-stressful) and hung it on the wall where I could see it every day. Some days, I didn't feel much, but it did remind me that I had a valid reason for my course of action and the sheer masochism it requires to complete.


2) Campus counseling services. I learned some helpful stuff, though the most helpful thing I learned was to give myself permission to not be perfect. I felt guilty, at first, for spending a few hours of time not doing homework, family time, or work, but, in the long run, it was worth it for me.

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I do what wildviolet does!


Sometimes you just have to let the slump happen.  Allow yourself to feel good about wasting a little time and getting some downtime, playing with your kids.


Third year is freaking rough.  That was the worst year for me; after it was over I just wanted to leave.  It's very normal.  If you are thinking about quitting, allow yourself to evalute it objectively.  Is it the best idea for you?  Do you want to finish or are you just going through the motions?  Remember to separate your short-term feelings ("OMG SO FRUSTRATED RIGHT NOW") from the long-term thoughts ("You know, I don't actually want to do ANYTHING that requires a PhD.")  In that sense, failure is an option - if you just don't want to finish it, you don't have to.  But if you DO want to finish, you definitely can!


Another way that I distract myself is that I do something else for pay.  I always have a side job, number one for money, and number two because it engages my mind in a way that's different from the program.  The last two years I worked for residential life and sometimes I just loved to concentrate on that stuff and not my PhD work.  I also volunteer on the weekends, and this year I am going to play in the student symphony orchestra.  You have to live your life and sometimes the rest of life is more fun.  It's okay.  I would get back on track eventually.  Doing other things, and getting the slump out of my system, made me more enthusiastic about my work.

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