Coping with Fears and Uncertainty

I had a supervision meeting last week, the topics of appraisals, conferences, and vivas came up … and my squirrel brain went into immediate chase-the-tail mode.


I am so lucky to have supervisors I can share my fears with, although I could feel the tears prickling the far recesses of my eyes when I was explaining them. They gave me information and advice that would help, but I knew this was something I have to work out on my own first.

One of the main fears is down to me, hormones, being a female of a certain age. I have memory problems. I can be happily talking and suddenly the word I need seems to have dropped into a black hole. Or, even worse (and it happened the other day when meeting a new colleague), I simply can’t remember whole “things”, my mind blanks. It was a simple request, describe what I do, what my role is – I suddenly had no idea. Luckily a fellow colleague jumped in, phew.

Anyway, I dread doing this at an appraisal, or a conference, or worse – the VIVA. However, it seems my appraisal will be more of a conversation and checking that I’m progressing OK, and the Viva is ages and ages off 🙂 All will be OK.


My other fear is the uncertainty, especially about conferences. I have never been to one, I have no idea what to expect, and all this “not knowing” stokes my anxiety. So, how do I cope? Firstly, by going to one simply as an attendee, not to present a paper or anything, but just to participate (or not), to listen, to observe. Secondly, and this was one of my supervisor’s idea, co-write a paper with a more experienced academic and attend, and allow them to present.

What I have realised, through years of coping with anxiety, depression, and high-introvertedness (a word I just made up I think), is that if I stop and think, if I share my fears with others, then I can work out ways to allay the fear, deal with the uncertainty, and make those steps towards the future I desire and deserve.