Stress 101

by | May 1, 2009

As I sit in front of my computer, my mind completely goes blank and I cannot remember for the life of me what profound words I was going to capture. I do this throughout the day, too, as I talk to colleagues, learners, family, and friends. The joke is that it is a normal part of aging, but I know that it goes much deeper than that! It is the direct result of…stress.

You don’t need me to tell you how much stress there is in the average person’s average day. We are dealing with unsure economic times, in an unstable global economy. We have children we are trying to raise to be competent, caring individuals. We are caring for our extended family members who are struggling. We carry full loads at our jobs. We do all of this, because it’s the right thing to do, and we usually don’t stop to take care of ourselves, because in our American culture, this is viewed as being selfish.

So, with all this, what happens when you add another MAJOR stressor?

Most people get by ok, but if they have any added stress, it tips the scales. Sometimes an illness blindsides them, or maybe it is the loss of a job. For doctoral learners, we purposely add extra stress by deciding to become a PhD. (Notice I say “become” instead of “earn”. You don’t earn a PhD: you change who you are and become a PhD).

Most people can manage adding this, if they take precautions in other areas! If you routinely work 50+ hours weekly, you may need to re-evaluate how many work projects you can take on. If you volunteer, you may need to step out for a while.

I find that I often share with learners all of the sound advice I received from my parents. (NOTE – I never wanted to become my mother, but here I am quoting her. When did THAT happen?)

In my personal and professional experiences, I find that most individuals at the doctoral level (including faculty, sometimes!) seem to believe they have to continue being Superman or Superwoman, even when things are getting really stressful. We’ve talked about this before, but hopefully this refresher will remind you to take care of yourself, and start weeding out the stress in your life that you can control!

2 Responses to "Stress 101"

  1. MICHELLE ABEL says:

    Of late i have been passing through a great deal of strees and most likely due to a good number of the points pinpointed here. I a thorough Nigerian from a large extended family that looks up to me in so many ways. The advise on this webinar has gone a long way to improve the way i should handle my job and family to be able to combat a major stress factor. Michell A.

  2. Johnna Williams says:


    I am glad that this helped. It is so easy to give and give to others, and then realize – I need to step out and take a minute for myself. Too many times, we realize this too late.

    If you can, try to carve out 30 minutes for yourself every day – JUST FOR YOU!! Spend some time deep breathing (in through the nose, out through the mouth); or closing your eyes and visualizing your goals.

    Reading some of the inspired words in this blog has also helped me realize that I am not alone – my colleagues have gone through similar patches during their PhDs. You can complete this!

    Johnna Williams