Getting out of your own head

As a PhD researcher, GTA and lover of ‘cute sayings’ one of Cherisse’s favourite quotes is ‘In the middle of my little mess, I forget how big I’m blessed’. At last, these She has taken some time to reflect on the confusing, complicated and difficult journey called a PhD figuring out how to stop and enjoy small (extra)ordinary moments. Whether we recognise it or not, it is these moments that keep us going to the finish line.

By Cherisse Francis.

Most PhD candidates can be described as A-type personalities who either have an incurable curiosity or a need to keep outdoing themselves.

For me, I’m an extroverted introvert (some people say ambivert) so this PhD has been challenging not so much because I haven’t been around people but more because of the noise in my head.

A row of trees with orange and red leaves. There is a small lake and a patch of grass in the background.
Image: University of Warwick.

It’s difficult to produce good work, or any work when you are trying to quiet your own anxiety. My advice to you; get outside your head.

I finally figured out in my third year of my PhD that my work is better when I am better I have begun prioritising my mental, spiritual and physical wellness. With that I have learned to balance teaching and research with my personal life (everything that I do). Ironically, while I was finishing this blog, I lost my grandmother and that ‘balance’ which I achieved was destroyed.

For a while it felt as though everything was out of my control and like I would never get back to ‘normal’. In those moments I had to take a strong dose of my own medicine

So here’s my advice to my fellow knowledge-pursuers, result-seekers and challengers of the status quo:

A woman in a grey coat, orange jumper and brown trousers blowing at a large sculptural dandelion.
Cherisse throwing caution to the wind. Image: Cherisse Francis.

Change the narrative

Sometimes, you have to walk the PhD path alone but alone doesn’t have to mean lonely. When people ask how you are doing or how the writing is doing, be honest. Try not to feel annoyed about their questions, most people are genuinely concerned about your well-being;

Lean into who you are and who you’re becoming

On this journey you will learn more about yourself than you could ever imagine, it’s a character-building exercise. Along the way you will experience new parts of yourself and quite often you will learn where your boundaries are.

You will pass.

You will complete, you will pass (even if not in the time you thought). Remember what it was that you enjoyed doing when you were 7 years old and care free; dancing in the rain, singing, going to the beach…do that. That is your truest self.

If you’re looking for other ways to get out of your head, take a look at adding pauses to your PhD and take a break.

What did you enjoy doing before the PhD? Will you try again? Let us know what you will be doing to get outside your head. Tweet us @researchex, message us on Instagram @warwicklibrary, or email us at

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