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I Already Have Anxiety Problems...


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It's too early to hear back from the programs I have currently applied to. Heck, I still have 4 more applications to do. But that doesn't mean my anxiety isn't just a constant, and like my title says, I already have issues with anxiety.

So, in all, I feel like I have strong applications. I'm doing well on my Masters course, I have a solid research project, a forthcoming publication, good LORs, etc, but this doesn't stop my anxiety.  Back when I contacted the POIs they were all extremely interested in my project and wanted me to apply.

So I have applied, but when I applied it was in the midst of exams and I wasn't feeling well. I'm sure it affected my SOPs. It probably affected my writing samples. Also, my supervisor is the most un-encouraging person about these things -- we had someone be the only admittee to a competitive program last year, who was his student, and he wasn't encouraging for that student until they got in. His mantra is "it's all luck anyway no matter how good you are" so he won't encourage anyone. Not even his most talented students.

So, in the midst of all of this the anxiety is driving me crazy. It's not rational...apart from some typos and perhaps not being the perfect fit at one school, I keep telling myself I don't have to worry.

It's not working. I'm having nightmares every night. Even the advice to "work on your thesis" or something to keep my mind off it is unhelpful, because my thesis is so much a part of my applications that I can't separate the two in my head.

Chatting on here would be nice. Especially if I can get a better perspective than that of my supervisor's...                                      

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There is always some element of luck in these things, but I don't believe that's all it is. You have to be good enough to get to the part where luck can do the rest. You've done all you can and it sounds like you are a strong applicant. No one can make you any promises, but someone like you should be successful. Most likely this application cycle, but even if not, it's not the end of the world. You can go on and try again next year. Academia is about stamina and resilience in the face of uncertainty more than anything else. I think what your advisor is doing is one way of dealing with the anxiety and uncertainty--if you don't get your hopes up, you don't get as disappointed when, inevitably, something doesn't go your way (paper gets rejected, grant doesn't get funded, etc.) No one is successful 100% of the time. It's not something I personally think advisors should do, I think advisors should be supportive and build up their students' confidence, but it's a legitimate choice. For yourself, however, you do want to adopt parts of this approach. There's a lot of rejection out there, even for the most deserving candidates. But no single thing you do will determine your career, and there is always another chance, until you decide you want something else. All you can do in the meanwhile is try your best, which it sounds like you're already doing. I am aware that this doesn't take away the anxiety, but since this is going to be a permanent thing in your life if you're going to be an academic, you might as well start learning to cope with it now. 

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I find myself in a situation very much like your own. Master's thesis going well, one publication, another in the works, good grades/LOR, continued correspondence with potential POIs, etc. Despite this I also feel a great deal of anxiety regarding the possibility of receiving all rejections. I tend to focus more on the negative aspects of my applications; my GRE scores are nothing spectacular.

My adviser has always been supportive, and has mitigated much of the irrational stress that I have been experiencing during the application process. While I agree luck is certainly an aspect of acceptance into a specific program, it is not the end all be all. You have already taken steps to minimize luck playing a significant role in upcoming decisions. POIs informing you to apply to their program means you have found a potential adviser who believes you are a good fit for their program. I'd venture to say those who have encouraged you to apply are likely to vouch for your acceptance.

If your adviser isn't willing to provide any support, I would suggest try finding it in from someone else in academia who knows you well. Try speaking with those who provided LOR, or friends within your current program. A little support goes a long way in settling the mind (though I must admit I do continually check my email).

Edited by Igyhypo
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