The Road Goes Ever On: How I’m Coping With Dissertation Stress

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I actually took this photo in June, back when I was visiting my parents, hanging out of the car window. I thought it would be appropriate for my post today as the lake is so serene, and the fields and hills so beautiful and lush, whilst the road speaks of progress, leading us on to something else. (Pretentious much?)

Currently, I’m in the middle of writing my Masters Dissertation. Well, I’m actually pretty near the start, and so very far behind considering I only have three weeks until the deadline.

Oh god.

Anyways, I wanted to procrastinate write a quick post about staying relaxed, and keeping focused on the task in hand. Not that I am very good at this – I suffer from massive anxiety issues – but sometimes it helps to plan these things, so I guess this is a little bit of my relaxation plan!

It’s so easy to get burned out really quickly and feel mentally exhausted when all you do day after day is read, think and write. When times so short it feels like you can’t afford a break, but here are a few things I do to try and make it a bit easier on myself…

 1. Drink lots of water – I know this should really be a bit of a given, but I find that when I’m studying really hard I’m a lot more prone to dehydration headaches than I am usually. I’m crazy into coconut water at the moment, so if I’m going to the library I’ll always take a few cartons to line up on my desk, and that seems to stave off the worst of the headaches.

2. Do some exercise – Again, should be a given, but I’m really quite lazy. Having more important stuff to do gives me a great excuse not to do anything, but if I’m studying all day that means I’m a lot more sedentary than usual. After a few days I find I really feel the effects of this, becoming lethargic and pretty much just feeling a bit icky. I have an exercise bike, which is great because I tend to put on a tv show to cycle to, so I get the exercise and a bit of headspace at the same time.

3. Have a good read – This is how I motivate myself when I’m really struggling to concentrate. I pick a good, easy read (no Tolstoy ’til I’m done!), preferably with short chapters, and then reward myself with it. So, if I’m reading for my writing, it’s an article, then a chapter of my book, then another article, etc.

4. Bath – I find I relax a lot more in a bath than in a shower, so I go for a bubble-bath with a super lovely scent, and soak. The calm and quiet really help unwind my mind, and then when I hop out all clean and refreshed I feel ready to start again. I also do have some moments of inspiration, which is why I keep a notepad next to the tub!!

5. Face Masks! – Haha, anything to pamper myself, right? Again, this is kinda the idea of a wee break that leaves you feeling shiny and new, and ready to get on with it. Healthy mind in a healthy body. Or at least a clean one…

6. Quick Tidy Up – Classic procrastination technique. However, I really find that I work much better in a tidy environment. That’s why some days, when I just can’t hack the state of the kitchen, I head to the library, just so I can concentrate. When I wake up in the morning it takes me a long time and about two cups of tea to be capable of any coherent thought. Whilst I stagger around grunting, I try to make use of this time by making sure everything is where it’s supposed to be.

7. Cook fresh food – I am a stress eater, and when I’m studying nothing in the house is safe from my belly. My boyfriend has started hiding his food. I have spent some time looking for it. Anyways, it’s easy when you’re feeling out of steam to grab that frozen pizza with the cheese stuffed crust night after night and just whack it all in your mouth, maybe with some onion rings and curly fries to keep it company, but you will just feel gross later. Cook something properly yourself and not only is it time concentrating on something other than your work, but it will probably also make you feel healthier.

8. Vits. and Mins. – I don’t always take supplements. I get a little bit anxious about the whole thing do you turn into a carrot if you exceed the RDA of vitamin A? when I’m being my normal-self. However, I know that when I’m studying, despite my last point, my diet will be all over the place. I try to make sure I take a general multi-vitamin to hopefully keep my body a bit happier, but I couldn’t swear if this is anything other than a placebo.

9. Scented Candles – OK, it might feel a bit weird if you get up at 8 and light a candle, but I do a lot of my studying at night, so this seems a bit more socially acceptable ? then. I suppose it’s all about feeling nice and relaxed, so able to focus without distractions. I find a comforting smell just helps to make me feel more at ease and clear my mind.

10. Rainymood.com – Really, this list is making my realise that environment is everything. Rainy Mood is a website that just plays the sound of a rainstorm on loop. I love it. A friend introduced me to it years back. He used to put the site on, and then play heavy metal over it. Not quite my thing. However, I get far too distracted if I listen to music, but I can find silence quite oppressive. This is my compromise.


 

So, that’s what I do to try and stay calm. As I say, I’m not that great at it, unfortunately.

Anyone out there got any tips to share? Or did you find any of my points useful? Leave me a comment and let me know xx

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