Today I submitted my PhD thesis. To mark it, I would like to share my acknowledgements section. From reading several theses, I got the feeling that this section tends to be an afterthought in most authors minds. Which is understandable. The process of writing one is brutal. Possibly the mental equivalent of the many who take on expeditions up mountains or across oceans each year. Since the acknowledgements are usually written at the end and are one of the few sections which aren't examined, the individual simply wants to finish. To me though, the acknowledgements were the most important part. It is the only section I am allowed to express how the process made me feel, and perhaps more importantly the influence others had on me...
In 2015 I had Serotonin Syndrome. Overnight I went from someone who had never experienced any physical anxiety symptoms - to major panic attacks, agoraphobia, and constant general anxiety. I no longer had the capacity to do my PhD and took temporary withdrawal for a year where I had to learn how to function as a human being again. Upon returning to my PhD, a major achievement in itself, I realised the stress of even half an hour’s worth of work rendered me not only incapable of functioning for the rest of the day, but the day after too. If I was to complete my PhD, I needed to figure out how to work a stress-free day. Over the course of a couple of years I learnt and refined a routine that helped me to achieve this. I still struggle a lot of the time, I fall out of the routine and take shortcuts. I am human after all. But I sit here with a finished thesis and time to spare. The following documents a single day of the routine. This is how I did my PhD.
The day starts with the night before. I have found sleep to be the most influential factor in how stressed I am the next day. Have you ever noticed how you can feel extremely agitated and stressed in the evening and the next day as fresh as a daisy? Sleep. I have yet to discover a process anywhere near as beneficial for an anxious, stressed mind.
I try to be in bed by around 8 – 9pm with the aim to get up from 6am-7am. A couple of hours before I will clip on my special blue-light filter lenses (I realised a blue light filter on your phone is useless if you spend your entire evening bathed in artificial lights!). Just before I get into bed, I write my plan of tomorrows tasks to achieve, both work and socially. Then I write/reflect in my diary of all the things that happened today. Both these things help to dispel worry from my mind. Clearing it so I can be relaxed enough to get to sleep.