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My Experience as a First-Year Doctoral Student

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I can’t believe that I have wrapped up my first year as a doctoral student. I can’t even lie when I say time flies by, but that DOES NOT mean that I did not feel every busy second of it!

I remember that I was getting ready to start my first round of summer classes around this time last year, and I was so anxious. I was anxious to the point I started to have physical symptoms that I had never experienced before.

A lot of my anxiety came from debating if I wanted to even go back to school. I knew this was something that I wanted to pursue in theory, but the thoughts of more student loans, more time, and being under the constant eye of correction was messing with me. 

I had so many thoughts like “can I really do this?”  “you aren’t a researcher; why would you even apply?” all the way to “I’m gonna get kicked out.” That was a huge fear of mine that stopped me from even talking about being in school because I didn’t want anyone to know, JUST IN CASE.

During this process, I have fallen in love with my research topics and have been focusing on the areas of ADHD in women/Black women, bicultural populations and behaviors, and new counselor development. I am interested in so many different topics, and I have just had to accept that I am a multifaceted being.

Going back to school, I had to be intentional about how I went about it. There can be so many external and internal pressures in grad school that  I had to take extra steps to protect my peace. I know when I am under stress my perfectionistic tendencies like overworking, people-pleasing, and checking and rechecking my work, start to become overwhelming.

Here is how I kept my peace throughout my first year:

I reminded myself that I don’t have to do everything

It can be so easy to want to show your professors what you are capable of by submitting to conferences, taking on research, and joining multiple groups and organizations.

I gave myself permission to just take it all in during my first year and establish balance before taking on anything major. It was certainly difficult at some points because sometimes people would openly share what new things they were up to, but I had to remember my why and the individual goals that I created for myself.

I didn’t ask or tell my grades

This one was huge.

In my last cohort, I feel that there was a lot of comparing grades and asking about grades, and that is one thing I made sure I did not do nor listen to. Everyone else grades are none of my business. I am in a race against myself.

 I regarded corrections as a good thing

I am a recovering perfectionist, and sometimes I struggle with making mistakes. So much so, that I take significant amounts of time revising and editing papers and emails.

This year I practiced solid boundaries with myself when I made a mistake and reminded myself that I am human.

I did not add my school email to my phone

In the past, I would have all my emails on my phone and check them almost immediately after I woke up in the morning. Our emails let us know our grades, notifies us when we have received feedback on assignments, and sends us general emails from our professors. 

Since I was feeling more anxious than usual, I decided I didn’t want to have that quick access.

This way, I could set aside time and choose when I wanted to log into that email and not feel tempted to read the feedback or respond to emails right away. 

I reminded myself that what is for me will always be for me

I had to remember that above all else, God got me. No grade, professor, or accolade could determine my worth. I was not going to try to appease every external responsibility at the expense of making my mental health raggedy. It just wasn’t worth it. God will open the doors that I am meant to walk through, and I won’t have to impress anyone to get there. 

Heading into this summer, I am a tad nervous because I know just how fast the summer goes, and we still have the same amount of work and classes as we would in a full 16-week semester. 

I am keeping the same principles that I used for my first year, but I will be picking up a few more responsibilities to learn all I can while I am here. 

I can’t wait to share more about my experiences with you. 

If you have specific questions about becoming a therapist or feel confused about what steps to take next, check out more information HERE  about how I can help you specifically!

MIndfully keeping balance,

Lynell

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