Ph.D. Stress and Burnout: 5 Steps To Overcome Overwhelm

I shockingly found myself on academic probation after my first semester of my doctoral program. Talk about imposter syndrome!

After days of crying myself to sleep and mounds of self-doubt, I made the decision that I was going to kick ass the next semester. I was going to prove to the insensitive and non-empathetic faculty that they underestimated me and they could kiss my ass!

I’m proud to say that the next semester I did just that. Hello, 4.0 semester!

May was filled with celebrations and gloating! I was on an extreme high.

Then reality smacked me in the head as I entered my first summer semester.

I was tired!

Let’s just say that I spent the whole summer on the struggle bus.

I did well academically. Personally and mentally was a different story.

I’m not too proud to say that the next semester was more of the same.

Some of this was the results of being in a doctoral program.

A lot of it was because I burnt myself out that second semester and did not know how to recharge myself.

As a Black woman, I was taught that you just push through it. That there is no time for self-care. You have to keep going.

That can only last for so long. I learned that the hard way during my second semester of my second year. That’s a story for another time.

Today, I’m here to tell you 5 things you need to do to get over the hump of burnout and overwhelm.

Know You Why

I had absolutely no idea what it meant to get a Ph.D. Like I didn’t even know what Ph.D. stood for. I was just doing what my mentors told me to do. Apply for a Ph.D. program and finish it before you get pregnant. I mean I remember saying as a small child that I wanted to get all the degrees because I loved school that much. But I can’t say that I had a true why for putting myself through such a rigorous process. That’s the number one reason why I was burning out. I had no idea why I was doing this.

What’s your why? Why are you pursuing a doctoral degree? Are you doing it for you or for someone else? Be honest with yourself.

What Are Your Barriers

Knowing your why will help you to be real clear on what is blocking you from doing the things that you really want to do. Yes, there are program requirements that you have to do that you don’t care that much for. However, in the bigger picture, are you doing what you want to do? What is getting in your way? Are you doing extra projects or giving extra time to things and people that you really don’t care that much about? That you feel a deep sense of obligation to but really it’s not your responsibility at all. As Black women, we often do additional physical and emotional labor out of some deep moral obligation that we are not sure where it comes from. Maybe your barriers are simply things like facebook and television. Whatever your barriers, it’s time to be honest with yourself about it.

Figure Out What You Want

Knowing your why and the barriers preventing you from achieving that why opens up the door to being clear about what you actually want. This isn’t just about what you want academically. It’s about what you want for your life! What happens after your doctoral program? What type of life do you want to live now? Are you living it? Do you even know what you want? When you know what you want, it’s that much easier to tell other people and things no. Because when you are clear about your goals, you have no time for things that do not push you closer to those goals. I find what holds most people back is that they do not want to let other people down, When the truth is they are not at all concerned about letting you down. I’m not telling you to be completely selfish or void of empathy. I’m saying that YOU are also worthy and deserving to have the life that you want.

Plan Out What You Want

Once you know what you want, plan that shit out! It doesn’t matter if you write down the best goals. If you don’t actually plan and execute those plans, then you are no better off than when you started. Find a system that works for you to help you get shit done. This will take some experimentation and some soul searching. What works for your homegirl, may not work for you. Just because I tell you what works for me and what I do, it may not vibe with your personal working style. But you won’t know unless you try it. You don’t want to or don’t think you have time to? What do you have to lose? Face it, you are burnt out and overwhelmed. You have to act and give back to yourself to get out of it. Sorry, not sorry. I’m here to help.

Get You Some Accountability

This is the most difficult step of all because who wants to be vulnerable and ask for help? This woman right here does! I used to be that person who did want to look like I didn’t have it together, I didn’t want to look like I didn’t know what I was doing. But girl, you don’t. No one does. You have to get some sista friends who get it, who will support you, and who won’t be afraid to tell you to get your shit together! There are women who are just like you. Needing some accountability to get what they want out of life. Just do some research on the women you look up to. They are surrounded by a tribe (most likely women) who help them to keep it together, who challenge them to be better. Who is your tribe?

Interested in learning more about how to practice these five steps and getting some support from some kick-ass women, click here to join the Hustle Blueprint 5 Day Challenge.

Through this challenge, I will show you step-by-step how to go through these five steps so that you can feel better and get shit done. I personally send you daily emails with mini activities that take about 10-20 minutes a day. That’s it.

Are you worth 10-20 minutes a day?

Yes you are. Join me!

Until Next Time

You Can Change, I Can Show You How

Last week, I told you a little about how my upbringing influenced my adult life.

Today is a more concrete explanation of how I transformed from negativity to a more purposeful life full of life

I felt stuck, not sure of my purpose

I felt alone, relationship in turmoil

Isolated from friends and family

High anxiety and depression

Felt really bad about myself, like I did everything wrong

Always felt take advantaged of and used

Felt no one cared about me

After finding a counselor and deciding to change,

I took steps to help me feel different

I now have purpose, sure of what I should do with my life

I now have and accept a circle of supportive loving friends, family, and love ones

My anxiety is under control, no longer ruling my life

My depression is almost nonexistent

I speak up more for myself and get what I want and deserve

I’m finally getting the love I give, deserve, and want


7 Step Process

  1. Make the decision
  2. Decide what I want
  3. Figured out my starting point
  4. Examined the root of my issues and my limiting mindset
  5. Put a plan into action to get to where I wanted
  6. Continue to educate myself
  7. Give more to myself than to others

Want to know more?
I’ve created this 7 Day Challenge. Join Me!

How I Transformed My Life And Learned To Love Me

I was lost.

No idea what to do.

I was crying all of the time and had no control over my emotions.

My second year of graduate school was ending and I wasn’t sure I should return.

I had no job because I was laid off.

I was broke, no money and no idea of what to do next.

I had been playing around with the idea of starting my own business for the last two years. There was a woman that I followed who started her own business and it was really starting to take off.

I watched her build her business from the beginning and she inspired me to do the same.

One day, she sent out an email saying that she was offering free calls to her followers who wanted to talk about starting their own business. This was my chance, my way out. If I could talk with her and everything would be good. While I wasn’t sure what I was going to say to her, I knew this was going to be a massive step in the right direction. So, I signed up.

The Call

During the call, she began by asking me questions. She was reviewing my website and asked me what I wanted from life. I remember that it was difficult to answer those questions and I felt very awkward.

At the end of the call, she made her pitch for me to join her business class that was starting in the next few days. I told her that I literally only had $5 to my name and there was no way I could afford to pay her or find $300 for her course.  

She told me that if I was serious enough, I would do what I had to do to get the money. There were many other women who were worst off than I was who was making it happen.

I was angry, hurt, and confused because it seemed like she couldn’t understand or didn’t care about my situation.

I felt dismissed.

After I hung up with her, I decided that I would show her that I could do it on my own.

Fast forward a few months later, I wasn’t any better off.

It seemed like no matter what I did, things in my life were getting worse.

A friend suggested a counselor to me that she thought could help. The only problem was that my student insurance couldn’t cover the session and I would have to pay out of pocket a $100  a session.

I was desperate.

The Change

This time, I didn’t care what I had to do, I wanted my life to change.

I worked with that counselor for about four months. In that time, I was introduced to books and other resources that put my whole life into perspective. The time spent with her helped me to take responsibility for where my life was and helped me realize that I had the power to change it.

I was the only one who could do it.

It wasn’t that she was some miracle worker or that she had all the answers.

It was that I was finally ready to stop being a victim and start being an active participant in my life.

Now two years later, I have my own business.

I’m about to graduate with my Ph.D.

My relationship with my boyfriend is going better than ever.

I understand myself and have more control over myself and my emotions.

I’m not exactly where I want to be but I’m miles and miles away from where I was.

How Can You Do It?


Make the decision to accept the sacrifice.

Change requires you to do something different than you’re used to doing. That is not going to be comfortable or easy. You are going to have to sacrifice something. It could be money. It could be time with loved ones. It could be chocolate cake. If the change is important to you and you are serious, desperate even, you will sacrifice what you have to in order to make the change.

Find someone who can help you.

I don’t mean your friends or your family members. You need to find someone that you pay. This is important because their only job is to listen to you and help you get where you want to get. They are not obligated to lie to you or make you feel good. Their one goal is to get you from point A to point B. AND if you pay for the help you are more likely to take it more seriously.

Make the decision to keep at it even when you don’t want to.

In the beginning, your excitement will make you give 150%. That will disappear a few days into the process. It will no longer be exciting and the hard work will start to set in. This is the most important time to keep going. It helps to remember that it is not about being perfect and doing everything at 100%. It’s about your persistence and your progression towards your goal.

Create a morning routine.

How you start your day sets the tone for the rest of the day. Some things that you can include in your routine are:





Eating breakfast

Listening to a certain playlist

This is customizable to you and what will help you be the most productive. Maybe you wake up 30 minutes early to work on that book you’ve always wanted to write. Or to put your meals together for the day so you can avoid eating out. It can be whatever you make it.

Figuring out what you want from life.

This can be done through goal setting, creating vision boards, and even reading the biographies of people you look up to. This will help you find out what you are attracted to and the other possibilities for life. Once you can identify what you want, you can begin working towards it.

Remember, clarity comes from doing as Marie Forleo says.

I’ve done these things and continue to do them. These were a major part of how I changed my life around. Interested in learning more about how you can incorporate these into your life, click here to schedule your FREE 30-minute call with me.

What is your morning routine? Let me know in the comments.

The Next 90 Days

For today’s activity, you will select one goal that you wish to accomplish in 2017.

Ex. I want to be able to run a 5K race.

Next, break down your original goal into something that you can accomplish within the next 90 Days.

Ex. I want to be able to run one mile.

What are the steps that you will need to complete to start this goal? Take five minutes to brainstorm.

Buy running shoes.

Download the Couch to 5K app.

Find workout clothes.

Make a schedule to complete trainings.

Next, place some due dates by each step.

Buy running shoes. (01/10/2017)

Download the Couch to 5K app. (12/29/2016)

Find workout clothes. (12/29/2016)

Make a schedule to complete training. (01/10/2017)

This is about progress, not perfection. It’s okay to start off slow, just as long as you keep progressing.

To hold yourself accountable, create some milestones that you would like to meet for the next 30, 60, and 90 days.

30 Days:  Run/Walk consistently for at least 3 days a week.

60 Days: Run for at least half a mile before walking.

90 Days: Run a mile without stopping or walking.

That’s it!

Now, it’s your turn!

What is your 90 Day goal?

Let me know in the comments!

Your Ideal Life: A Different Approach

I attended a Passion Planner party last week that was hosted by a friend.  My friend printed out copies of the first few pages for those of us who did not own a Passion Planner.

One of the first thing that you would complete in your Passion Planner is Your Passion Roadmap. It asks the question, “If I could be anything, do anything, or have anything, what would it be?”

I thought that this was perfect and timely for today’s topic.

If you have downloaded the Get Happy Guide, then you would be at the point where you have to do some goal setting.

You may be still having trouble deciding what to do. The Passion Planner activity may be the thing you need.

I have adapted the original activity to fit with the Get Happy Guide.

For each of the four areas, you will write down what you would like to accomplish in each area.

Use the brain dump and ideal sheets to help you.

It is suggested that you set 5 minutes to complete this activity.

Here is an example of a completed map:

Write as many things down as you can think of in the 5 minutes.

For each section, what is the one thing that you would most like to have for 2017?

Let me know in the comments!

Get Happy: What Do You Want?

Unhappy with life?

What are you exactly unhappy about?

Is there anything in your life that is going well?

How much thought have you given to it?

Today’s activity will do just that; help us figure out what is going on.

On the third page of the Get Happy Guide, you will see today’s activity.


First, take out a sheet of paper or use the guide.screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-10-39-34-pm

Select any four areas of your life. In the guide, we go over romance, work/school,  health/wellness, and social. Choose whatever works best for you.

Next, draw a line down the middle of the page. The left side will be for all the things that are going well and the right side will be for all the things that you would like to change.

For each area, you will identify what is going well and what you would like to change. Try not to think too much about this. Write down whatever comes to mind.

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

For the next section, all yourself to dream. Please, don’t get caught up in the “how” do I make this happen. This is not about being realistic. This is about dreaming about the impossible! Open yourself and allow it to come to you. It’s not about getting it right or perfect. It’s about dreaming.

Write down your ideal life within those four areas that you identified earlier. Be bold!

Earlier this year, I was asked to write about my ideal life. I will share what I wrote to give you an idea of how this section can be done.

Ideal Life Narrative

I live in an open, loft-style apartment. I have a great view overlooking the Atlanta skyline. In the mornings, I enjoy starting my day out on the balcony with my doggy. I take the time to reflect, meditate, and drink my warm lemon-ginger water. I spend about 15 minutes stretching and opening my body and mind through my mindful yoga practice. Afterward, I get dressed and head to the gym for an intense workout. I spend my time working on intentional and helpful programming and coaching for my clients. I travel 2-3 times a month to different cities and countries with my boyfriend and girlfriends. Those in my inner circle are supportive to my business goals and me.

I feel at peace and at home inside my mind and my body. I love caring for myself and looking in a way that honors and respects my body. I no longer am bogged down by activities, peoples, or things that do not support my goals or wishes for my life. I feel supported and loved.

This has changed a bit as I keep working on it over time. Now, it’s your turn.

What does your ideal life look like? Let me know in the comments.

Want to talk about it more, contact me to set up a FREE complimentary session.


Brain Dump: How To Figure Out What You Want

In order to get what you want, you have to know what you want.

Most people think that they know what they want but when asked about it, they can’t tell you.

They may give you a very broad goal such as I want to be happy.

They can’t tell you what happiness means to them. “You know, I just want to be happy,” they would say.

What do you want?

Do you know?

Today’s activity will help you get closer to knowing what you want so you can get what you want.


Take A Brain Dump

Grab a sheet of paper and a pen.

Take 20 minutes (actually set a timer).

I want you to write down everything that comes to mind when you think about what you want from your life.

Some questions to help you think about this are:

What does your dream life look like?

What do you love about your life now? What do you not like about it?

What do you wish you had more of in your life? Less of?

If you had an endless amount of money, what would you do with it?

What did you dream about when you were a kid?

As you reflect on these questions, be sure to write down every thought. It does not matter if your brain-dump-linkthought has anything to do with these questions or what you want to accomplish. Just let your mind go and let your pen write. You may even need additional paper for the 20 minutes.

You may even need additional paper for the 20 minutes.

This is not about being perfect or having the perfect answers. It’s really about paying attention to your thoughts. Seeing where your mind naturally gravitates towards. This helps you to tap into those deep desires and helps you to get really clear on what it is that you want.

After your 20 minutes are up, take a break. Do something else. I usually watch a video on YouTube. Your mind needs a break from the dump. You could even come back to this tomorrow if you don’t have the time.

Examining Your Dump

Look over what you have written down.

What stands out to you the most?

Are there some words, phrases, topics that stand out to you over and over?

Where did your mind tend to go as you were writing?

Those things that stand out for you are the most important to you. How do you feel about that? Are these things that you want? Are there other things you want instead?



I have created cheat sheets for you to use in completing this exercise. There is no need to print anything, you just need a pdf reader.


Anything surprise you? Let me know in the comments!