Thursday, July 16, 2009

Feeling isolated?

We all know that graduate work is going to be intense and well, a lot of work. Something we don't always anticipate is that it can also feel like an isolated, or solo, or lonely process. The research process in particular... one's first research project, a thesis, or a dissertation.... these endeavors can be a lonely road.

There are a few reasons for this. For one, when we are preparing to do research, conducting the research and writing, we have a ton of work to do, and typically, much of that is done alone. Thus we spend hours alone in the library, or in a home office, or at a desk somewhere... just working.

Secondly, we are typically more immersed in our topic than anyone around us and while this depth can be intellectually stimulating and exhilarating, I think that it also can contribute to feelings of being alone in the work.

Finally, there is often pressure with this work... deadlines to meet, a chairperson to work with, committee politics, a defense to prepare for... there can be a lot riding on the project and this adds stress and feelings of isolation.

There are no magic answers to resolve this completely. However here are a few ideas:

1. Find someone else who is also immersed in research and meet (or connect via phone or email) on a regular basis, maybe once a week or once every two weeks. This person doesn't necessarily need to be in your field. Just talking with someone else who is also immersed can be affirming and alleviate some of the isolation.

2. While you probably have less time to spend with family and friends, be sure to keep connected with at least a few of your closest peeps. You need this.

What have others figured out about why this work can feel isolating?

What are additional strategies to deal with these feelings of isolation?

Take good care,

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