Monday, 12 March 2012

Why it's important to be honest

When people are under stress, I tend to find there are two ways of dealing with it. Some people tell everyone, in some way venting the stress proportionately to the number of people they tell, and others internalise.

We all deal with stress as PhD students - it's part of the deal, really. Sometimes, though, stress comes along which we have no control over.

In the last couple of weeks, there's been a bit of a crisis in my boyfriend's family. I hasten to add we're both fine, but it's a stressful situation.

Previously, I've always been the sort of person to internalise when things were going wrong, but this time I faced a unique situation. There wasn't actually anything wrong with me, but my boyfriend was under a huge amount of stress and really needed my support. It seemed like a tricky situation to manage - how could I give him the support he needed without falling behind or to be seen as slacking?

Thankfully, I have an understanding supervisor. I spoke to him honestly about the issue - including the fact that it wasn't really me involved, but that I wanted to be there to support my partner. We agreed that I could work at home whenever necessary, pop into uni if I wanted or mainly catch up via email while the situation is still urgent.

That meant that I was able to take care of all the "home stuff" as I like to call it - cooking, cleaning, driving, last minute arrangements and so on, that you're not always in the right frame of mind for after a full day in the office. I was - and am - available to give bf the support he needs, without it impacting on my work. In fact, I've made more of an effort to be productive seeing as I'm not in the office.

I'd like to add too that his university have been incredibly understanding. Staff have been tactfully and discretely notified by the tutor he spoke to, and preparations are in place should he need an extension or exemption for coursework.

All this support from our universities has meant that bf has been able to be there for his family, and I've been able to be there for him, without the added pressure, stress and worry about uni work. I wanted to share, because unfortunately it's something you might face one day and I can't say it enough - be honest with your supervisors and/or tutors, because they can't help if they don't know what's happening. Their support has been invaluable to both of us, and it's meant that while things have of course been difficult, they haven't been nearly as bad as they could have been.

And if you TL:DR'd - If you have a problem, let your university know as soon as the situation occurs, and they will bend over backwards to help you. They want to see you do well, and will help however they can.

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