New Beginnings.

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There are some transitions in life that no matter how much you prepare for them, they still manage to hit you like a freight train.

I’m hoping that by starting this blog, I can relieve my anxieties in a healthy and productive way- avoiding having them fester in my mind until I’m unable to see through them.

So, a bit of context for any of you who have stumbled upon this. I’ve finished by Bsc in Psychology and am well on the way to completing an MSc in Psychological Research Methods & Advanced Statistics. I want to be an academic researcher, and now I am at the point where I both need to find a PhD I want to specialize in, but also have the people responsible for that PhD select me over many other candidates.

So far the path has been clear. Go to school, get good GSCEs, A-levels… check. Get accepted into uni, complete 1st class degree… check. Get into Masters… check. But now?

I’ve spent five years in Exeter and my anxiety about not being able to get a PhD at Exeter to start 2017 has led me to agree to somewhat irreversible plans to move home to Surrey. This is a good decision because I will be at a commutable distance from London and all of its opportunities and will be able to live at a very low-cost back with my family where I can get all the support I need to find my feet in my career.

So it’s all good.

But at the same time, I like to know what I’m going to be doing and where. Not knowing makes me very uncomfortable. Whilst I think, “You have a world of opportunities, you could do anything, just pick what you want to do and work on it” my body feels terrified. I turned down a PhD interview in Exeter because of the moving plans, now I’m so scared that if I am unsuccessful, I will forever see that as a missed opportunity. But then I need to remember all the reasons I turned it down, I am a creative academic and there is no place for that at Exeter. Bristol maybe, but not Exeter.

What do I want to do?

I want to make an app based on psychological research aimed to improve the physical and mental health of its users. I figure that, more and more, people spend all their time on technology anyway, many already using self-help apps that are not evidence-based. I just want to make sure that there’s something as helpful as possible available.

One screen could have icons for various behaviors you may want to target; exercise, eating, alcohol intake, smoking, rumination, worry, etc. Selecting one of these, you are (sometimes) asked if you want to increase or decrease this behavior. A series of validated questionnaires evaluates the individual’s profile to identify key idiosyncratic processes behind that behavior and the best way to treat those. The app then suggests a series of short game-like training exercises to improve that behavior. For example, a smoker who associates cigarettes with a positive, approach response may benefit from inhibition training sessions on a Go/No-Go task where the No-Go stimulus is associated with smoking images such that the brain learns new negative and avoidance associations with cigarettes. This example forms the basis of my Master’s
thesis research (you can actually participate here; http://nm3118.wixsite.com/stopsmokingstudy).

I actually found a PhD studentship at King’s College London which is very close to this and I am super-excited (and, of course, terrified) to hear back about that. The interview would be the 20th April.

I think the best advice I can give myself is this; remember, whatever you end up doing you will learn to do it well- so whatever it is, you will be useful, you will do good.

p.s. that is the most unimaginative title imaginable Natasha, you should probably change that if you ever can be bothered.