Playing with the mind

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It’s been a day where negativity has beaten me into the gutter. Again.

Just now I saw this blog post and watched the video lecture in it. It described an experiment where subjects had to solve a problem. Some of them were told it was an IQ test. Some others were not told this, and were given chocolate. The ones that were given chocolate solved the problem and the ones that thought it was a test of their intelligence didn’t. Moral of the story: chocolate makes everything work out.

Seriously though, the point was not about chocolate but about being in the frame of mind for the task at hand. He seemed to be saying that you need to be happy and relaxed, not anxious, to be able to be creative and come up with new ideas. To be able to get straightforward work done productively however, you need a bit of anxiety (e.g. a deadline). And just like that, it all makes sense. I am in a spiral of anxiety, which is not helping, because what I’m doing right now needs me to be creative.

I don’t think there have been many tasks in this PhD so far where anxiety has been helpful. And yet there has been such a lot of anxiety. In many ways it was far worse in the beginning – the days of regular crying in the toilet over whether I’d made a terrible mistake trying to do a PhD. Things stabilised out a bit after a while, but now that I’m writing for journals and preparing presentations for conferences, terror has struck me to the core again. I think my understanding of what constitutes “interesting research” has become more restrictive, and I expect more of myself, feeling the pressure of the passing of time… and so the uphill struggle has steepened again. But it never helped to feel this anxious in the beginning, and it doesn’t now.

So maybe in working out this poster I should create a comfortable and happy space to do it in. Maybe it should involve paper and crayons, on the floor; calm background music; the wearing of pyjamas; bare feet; chatting things through until they make sense (with myself most likely); and of course… chocolate.

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4 responses »

  1. I was thinking that mabye it will be easyer for you if you write like this in the blog about the anxiety and the things you fell about you phd? I mean sometimes I feel it easyer to let go of things if I write them down, then I don´t have to think about them any more. Do you think it is helping you to write on the blog, I mean to let things go in your mind??

  2. I don’t know Cecilia. I feel compelled to write the blog, and it makes me feel better in the short term. But whether it really helps solve the problems, I’m not sure. I’ve been blogging for 2 years now and it seems that I am still going over the same issues!

    I can sometimes work out what I’m afraid of, but it’s more difficult to actually get rid of the fear.

  3. High stress levels act like alchohol on the mind, and so you are right in thinking that being calm will be more productive.

    Yoga and other mediative exersizes are a really good way to clear the mind and access calm.

    A technique I used whilst studying was to cycle. Whenever I had panic feelings I would cycle with all my strength to somewhere far away from my work. As you do this, your subconsious does a LOT of work for you without realising. By the time you’ve showered and sat back in front of your work, you have new ideas and angles for your work.

  4. FutureGirl – glad to hear I’m on the right track. I haven’t actually done any work today but hopefully tomorrow I will give it a try. I think I might start cycling or running or something like that too. Maybe starting each day in a positive way like that will help things. At this point I’ll try anything.

    After your earlier suggestions to me I’ve started to become more aware of the physical symptoms of anxiety and fear. So in a way at least I know what I’m really dealing with. I’ve tried to believe it’s just stress, and that it’s not that I am really failing with my PhD, but there is just so much uncertainty in the whole PhD process that it’s hard to be sure. But I think making myself more relaxed and treating it as not something so serious and scary might be the way to go.

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