How to Feel Better and Finish Your Dissertation

In the post, I will discuss, my past struggles of feeling like shit and the main tool that helped me to feel better and finally finish my dissertation.

Weed, Wings, and Whiskey

Have you ever heard of those unicorn people who talk about their dissertation experience as this magical easy experience that they actually miss? #HowSway

If you’re anything like I was, you’re having a difficult time with this whole dissertation thing. I was so looking forward to not having any more classes; to spend my days writing and researching. I had these dreams of waking up, going to the gym, being all healthy, and spending a decent amount of hours writing and interviewing. I would spend my evening watching my favorite Netflix show and hanging out with Bae.

That is not how it happened at all.

Instead, each day I would wake up in a state of panic and anxiety. After hours of scrolling on my phone daydreaming of running away and leaving all behind, I would throw myself out of bed. I would find some too tight leggings, a suffocating sports bra, and a shirt that showed the bottom of my belly and drive over to the gym where I would sit in my car for another hour “getting my mind ready” to go into the gym. Only to work out for 30 minutes before going back home. It would be another 3-4 hours before I would attempt to open my laptop and spend all night writing (or maybe just staring at the screen). I would smoke weed or have a drink so I could go to sleep to wake up and do it all over again.

Eventually, that had to stop. I had to finish. While I can’t say I completely figured out everything, I was able to change things enough to finish my dissertation in less than 8 weeks.

Now two years later, I have grown so much from that person. And I wish I knew then what I know now. I have a MUCH MORE healthier routine and my productivity shows. I am able to maintain a successful business, a 9-5 in Student Affairs, relationships, and an actual health routine.

I didn’t get here overnight. I want to share with you the main thing that helped me to get here. I don’t want you to the things I’ve done. I want you to be better.

The Model

One day, I discovered the purple mic icon on my iPhone and decided to click it. I was interested in this new career called life coaching. So, I tapped ‘how to be a life coach’ into the search bar. A podcast called The Life Coach School by Brooke Castillo came up. I decided to listen to the first episode. Mind blown! Brooke has been my teacher ever since. Her model is what I’ve used in all areas of my life, not just with my dissertation.


First thing, you must know and believe this:

  • Your thoughts control your emotions.

  • Your emotions control your actions.

  • Your actions control your results.

We all have circumstances in our life. For instance, a current circumstance for you is that you are currently enrolled in a doctoral program. Or you’re reading this blog post. Circumstances are things, facts, items that most people would agree are happening.

As humans, we have thoughts about circumstances in our life. Thoughts are things like, “How did I get in a doctoral program?”, “This doc program is hard!”, “I can’t believe I’m almost done with this program.”

We have so many thoughts (like over 60,000 a day). Most of the time we are not even conscious of thoughts running through our minds. We also have the tendency to take our thoughts as facts, as circumstances. Just because we think it, we believe it must be true. And because we believe it true, it creates certain emotions.

So, if you think, “This doc program is hard!” you may begin to feel, “defeated”. You have accepted that this doc program is hard because you had that thought. When something is hard, it can seem like we can’t do it. Therefore, one emotion may be to feel defeated.

What do you do when you feel defeated?

I think about my head being bowed in shame. I started trying to obsessively plan and research about the thing. I talked to my friends about it, more complaining about the thing. Those are the actions I engage in as a result of feeling defeated because I am thinking that the program is hard.

Now, this planning, researching, and talking to my friends could absolutely help me to accomplish the thing or in this case, the doctoral program. I may achieve my goal; which are the results that I wanted to achieve.

What if I could achieve the same results of finishing the doctoral program but feel better while doing it?

Then, I would need to change my thoughts about it.

Instead of thinking, “This doctoral program is hard!”, I could also think “This doctoral program is doable.” This slight difference creates a different emotion. Instead of defeated, this thought generates the emotion of “determination”.

I may still do some researching, planning, and talking with others about how to best finish the doctoral program. I probably won’t bow my head in shame. I probably wouldn’t complain as much. I probably would even finished faster because determination is a hell whole lot different than defeated.

My results would be to finish the program in a more healthier state of mind and faster. Having a better, more unicorn-like experience.

Let’s recap:

Our intentional situation

Circumstance: Enrolled in a doctoral program.

Thought: This doctoral program is doable!

Emotion: Determined

Action: Planning, researching, and talking with friends.

Results: Finish the program feeling good, healthy, and ahead of schedule.

Our initial situation

Circumstance: Enrolled in a doctoral program.

Thought: This doctoral program is hard!

Emotion: Defeated

Action: Bowed head. Obsessively planning, researching, complaining to friends.

Results: Finish the program tired and burnt out.


Okay, if you made it this far then you’re probably thinking like this is some bullshit and you’re still intrigued about it. I get it. I was the same way. I was like how could this possibly work?  I have tried it. I’m just asking you to think about it more.

Next week, I will tell you how I exactly use The Model EVERYDAY. When I don’t use it, there is a major difference in my day, my health, and my productivity.

What do you think about the model? Let me know in the comments!