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Studting physics and general emotional unbalance

  1. Jul 4, 2012 #1
    Hello, everyone.

    This is my first post here. I've read some threads here in the past and I feel like this a place where I will be able to find people that are (or where) in a similar situation to mine. I posted this here because it seemed the most appropriate place to post it.

    Let me just point out that I'm studying Physics at university in an european country, Portugal. Due to the differences between my country's and the USA's education systems maybe some confusion with terminology related to that may arise.

    So here's the story (rant incoming...maybe?):

    I'm almost finishing my first year of university studying Physics...
    ...And I couldn't feel worse.
    I seriously think this year was the year I generally felt worse in my lifetime so far. Not terribly depressed, but unmotivated, sad, unenergetic, etc.

    Since two years back I've felt like Physics/Math was the only thing I could choose to study, because nothing more really motivated my rational self. On that I still feel like I'm partially right. However, I always feel more and more like Physics is the the area that I least dislike, instead of the area I like the most.

    I find myself not understanding most of the things the professors expose in theoretic classes and being unable to do the exercises proposed by them, but instead of that being a motivation to work harder to try and grasp the concepts it's almost like an automatic switch to a "why bother?" mode. I have fear of trying to do the exercises or trying to understand the content of classes, because I fear coming face to face with my own innability and intellectual incompetence.

    I always end up studying at least before exams, because I somehow feel obliged to by an "outside force", so I have managed not to fail at anything (so far); so although positive, my grades have obviously been pretty bad.

    I feel like this isn't something I like sufficiently to dedicate my heart and soul and to spend enormous amounts of my time working hard to accomplish something. Yet, nothing in my life really is. I like a lot of things, but I don't adore a single thing. Because of that, I can't dedicate myself just to one thing more than other things.

    I seriously feel like I'm just placed somewhere where there are neither paths clear for me to take or goals to aspire to.

    I have already done professional carreer guidance tests, so I know this isn't a matter of not being in the "correct" course(major, I think you call it?) for me.
    I've also been doing psychological therapy for some months now, and while it has been helping me with my emotional stability it clearly hasn't affected either my productivity as a student or my capacity to stop procrastinating and work in a positive manner.

    So I think my questions are:
    -Has anyone been in a similar situation?
    -Were you able to gain motivation? How?
    -Did your academic results improve because of it?
    -Did that make you feel better emotionally?

    Thank you for reading this, as I know it is quite long.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 5, 2012 #2

    Choppy

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    Hi Umdois,

    It's quite possible you're hitting a wall that's reasonably common at around the first or second year university level. I don't know Portugal's education system at all, but if it's anything like the one I went through, I suspect that through high school you did fairly well without having to put in a lot of effort. You were just one of the 'smart' kids who caught on to concepts quicker than the rest.

    Now you're in university and that no longer seems to be the case. There are a number of reasons for it. For one, you've experienced a bottle neck. You're no longer among the top five percent in your class - you're closer to average amoung those who were all in the top five percent of their high school classes. Second, many 'smart' high schoolers tend not to develop good study habits because they don't have to. Other factors such as an unfamiliar environment, stress over issues like tuition, new freedoms, time demands, and a meal card that gets you unlimited junk food and it's a no wonder that you're losing motivation.

    Some suggestions:
    First and foremost take care of yourself. Eat as healthy as you can. Get ample and regular exercise and sleep. Identify and do what you can to eliminate sources of stress. Limit the drinking and partying, do allow yourself to let off some steam. And keep any medical conditions under control.

    Find time to explore your interests. University schedules can be hectic, but there's only so many questions about angular momentum a mind can take. Read just for fun. Ask ridiculous "what if" questions.

    Find like-minded friends. It really helps to be around positive interesting people that have similar goals to yours. Join the physics undergraduate society (or start one). Or join another club that has nothing to do with physics.
     
  4. Jul 5, 2012 #3
    Hi Choppy,

    Thanks for your response. I must admit that I fit the description you made.

    Now, onto the advice you gave me (thanks for it):

    I already take good care of myself. I do regular and intense exercise, and I have a diverse and complete diet. It's really part of my lifestyle. I guess I could get some more sleep though.

    I think the stress I feel is due to my overall situation. I can't really say that it's due to specific circunstances or things.

    I normally feel so apathetic that I don't really have motivation to focus on any of my interests. The only one I endulge in regularly is sports, because it's already part of my weekly routine. My other main interest besides physics is music, and at the moment I'm recording and mixing a self-released album. I can't really work on that type of thing unless I am in a mood that allows creative thinking, which often isn't the case.

    I am really jealous of my colleagues that are able to do the "reading just for fun" that you mentioned. I normally feel so mentally exhausted that I can't associate anything related with academics to fun when I get home after a day of classes. I really envy them in the sense that I would love to have such a genuine and passionate interest in physics that would alow me to work on things endlessly for hours, like some of them do, without starting to became psychotic and being on the verge of mental breakdowns (that's basically what happens to me when I have to study many, many hours; a bit hyperbolized, of course).

    I have made good friends at my University. People that are really interesting and overall positive. However, I think they all tend to seclude themselves a lot when it comes to academic-related work. This kind of behaviour is something that I find to be the norm on physics students here.

    Thanks again for your time.
     
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