Coping with Dissertation Proposal Anxiety

Arguing for a dissertation proposal may well be the scariest thing you ever have to do in your academic career. It may help to have strategies for how to cope with stress and fear while writing the proposal. If you have to present to a dissertation committee having some coping strategies becomes even more critical. Signs that you are stressed out or fearful may include:

  • Regularly walking, eating or working in a rushed way
  • Regularly thinking and worrying about the past or future
  • Frequent tension in the body which often goes unnoticed until one slows down, breaths deep and carefully surveys the body
  • Feeling of the "weight of the world" on your shoulders
  • Being emotionally on edge
  • Feeling tired throughout the day
  • Significant need for outside stimulation to feel good

If you are experiencing these signs of stress because of an upcoming dissertation proposal or for any reason at all, there are things you can do to alleviate the tension.

10 Strategies for Coping with Dissertation Proposal Stress:

  1. Add something beautiful to your life on a daily basis
  2. Do some enjoyable activities whenever possible
  3. Walk, work, and eat at a relaxed pace
  4. Take a short break after meals to relax.
  5. If possible, go outside at least once per day and notice the simple things such as the weather, scenery, etc
  6. Breathe deeply and gently stretch and relax any tense areas regularly throughout the day
  7. If you notice your mind racing or worrying about the past or future, take a minute to focus on something in the moment such as your breath, scenery, birds
  8. Take breaks during the workday to relax
  9. Wear comfortable and loose clothing
  10. Avoid holding in feelings day after day, but instead, find a safe place to feel, express and embrace them

Fear is a little different from stress and can have some embarrassing side effects in front of a dissertation proposal committee – like sweating, shaking or some other awkward stress indicator. You can deal with fear in many of the same ways you deal with stress and there are also some additional things you can do to help fight the fear, or at least hide it in a pinch.  recommend these 10 ways of dealing with dissertation proposal fear:

Write down your fears and how they affect your life.

Are there things that you're holding back on, because you're frightened that you are not good enough or of making changes generally? You have a limited time on this earth.Deadlines are called deadlines for a reason!

Listen to your self-talk. Many of us don't so much talk to ourselves as make statements ie "I'll never be able to get that job". This cuts your brain dead and gives it nothing to work on. It's gone for a prolonged holiday!

Start asking yourself questions. For example, ask "how can I make giving this speech an enjoyable experience?". Now your brain has something to do! Don't expect the answer straight away (but be aware of opportunities and situations that provide clues) - but you're going in the right direction. Get into the habit of asking yourself questions rather than making blanket (negative) statements.

Redefine "mistakes" and learn from them. Don't beat yourself up over mistakes you've made in the past and being fearful of starting new relationships, jobs etc. That gets you nowhere. Call a mistake an "opportunity for learning" and seek the learning in every "mistake".

Seek the company of supportive people and reduce contact with those who foster feelings of negativity and have a "fearful" approach to life.

Read books about people who have succeeded despite the obstacles and look at the principles and qualities behind what they did, their thinking and attitude. Closer to home - seek out role models who represent what you want to become. Learn from their approach and attitude.

Know that whatever quality you like or admire in someone is lying dormant in you - waiting to be developed. How else would you recognise it? Make a list of the qualities you most admire in someone else and ask yourself how they can be acknowledged and developed in you.

Your past doesn't have to define your future. Be aware of your past and willing to let go of it. Each day brings a new opportunity to do and think about things differently.

List your goals and the actions you need to take to achieve them every day. Every time you do something that brings you a little closer to achieving your goals, you will feel better about yourself and reduce your unnecessary fears.


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