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Combating Fear During Your Doctoral Process

Updated: Aug 14, 2020

When entering the doctoral process, one may feel overwhelmed by the process as a whole. There are many factors that go into working towards obtaining a Ph.D or professional doctorate, and while there are resources set in place to help guide a candidate, one may feel hesitant in a certain regard. The candidate may think to themselves, "Will I really be able to do all of this?" or "Am I in over my head?" Although the waters ahead may seem murky, it is important for the candidate to understand they will clear them, and fear will not have the opportunity to thwart them in doing so if they do not let it.


When it comes to the body's natural response to fear, there are a lot of factors that play a role. When someone becomes fearful, they may experience symptoms of uncomfortable physical and mental responses. In a mental regard, the person's thinking may become foggy or compromised due to a fight or flight response. This will aid in the candidate becoming frustrated and may put a halt to their research.


“Once the brain issues a fight-or-flight instruction, the heart begins supplying the body with the blood and oxygen it needs to carry out either option. That’s what prompts each of these changes, and what can lead you to feel like your heart is beating out of your chest when you’re afraid or nervous." -Dr William N. Kornberg, Physician Partner of Main Line Health

When entering a doctoral program, a candidate will most likely not know everything there is to know about the process. This feeling is normal. Rest assured, by following the guidelines and orders from their chair and committee, their journey of obtaining a Ph.D or professional doctorate will be on the right track to success. Along with this reassurance of support, there are ways a candidate can actively combat anxiety. Practicing meditation or deep breathing exercises can allow for a clear brain and the opportunity think forwardly.


Harboring feelings of fear at any point in the doctoral process may aid in the buildup of anxiety. Although it is normal to have a certain amount of fear when delving into any new process of the unknown, an excessive amount will not contribute to success. Instead of becoming overwhelmed and experiencing the unpleasant effects that fear incites on the body and mind, a candidate may find themselves becoming more productive when looking at the bigger picture and acknowledging that the process is meant to be difficult. Fear stands no match to a candidate with the tools to encompass the right mindset and are willing to apply them during their doctoral process.



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