I find myself experiencing back to school anxiety as a new semesters begins in less than three weeks, mainly because the unpredictability associated with graduate life.
In some ways it feels less structured than other endeavors such as starting a new semester as an undergrad, starting a new job or moving to a new country, since in graduate school you have to constantly prove yourself using your creativity and intellect and you have to do it alone. Whereas in industry (or some other structured work) you always have the opportunity to move up, or stay where you are at just by showing up to work, in academia there is plenty of room to free fall.
Things are on my mind at the moment:
- How do I maintain a healthy relationship with my professor(s), how can I get them to look favorable toward me as a student while not appearing overzealous?
- How can I find a new research topic that is interesting to me AND has practical application AND leaves room for future works AND satisfies my supervisor's research direction AND get it published AND host a conference about it AND grabs attention AND leaves room for collaboration AND... ... ...
- How do I balance these extremely open ended research oriented courses? Will I find time to keep up my health and keep up my grade? Is my body even capable at waking up at 8:00 in the morning anymore?
- Can I still learn given that I have forgotten so much and can't even understand the things I learned 4 month ago?
- What if I hit a dead end and fail? What happens next? It is unthinkable.
Yes we all experience anxiety from time to time, but never is there a time when all these anxieties are bundled together then unleashed all at the same time.
Of course I could always pretend that things are going to be okay and just "deal with it"...but I find going into a new semester with a lot of anxiety does create problems, such as getting extremely upset at professors when they make a small mistake (it would be as if they are "intentionally" ruining my year), becoming overzealous at proving myself that I miss the point of a course altogether and professors are annoyed by high-fi questions only tangential to their course.
Is this feeling normal and is there anything one could do to alleviate some of the anxieties?