Feeling overwhelmed? There was a point in the semester when I felt like I was not going to be able to continue. Was it because the work was too hard? Was it because life was too busy? Was it because of low grades? No one thing was the cause, rather it was a combination of little things that added up to me feeling like I could not continue.
In a traditional graduate school setting I would have had a small chat with my professors after class and tried to gain some confidence through my peers. In this case, both of those options are more complex because of participating in a distance education degree. Could I have phoned a professor? Sure. Could I have emailed a peer? Absolutely. Both of those options seemed like they would be less effective than an in-person conversation, so I had to find another solution.
First, I sat down with my wife and talked through the feelings I was having. She was able to come up with solutions like more quiet time to work, reaching out for help from my professors when I was struggling, and taking some time for myself. Were any of these solutions the “magic bullet”? No, but they helped remind me that people cared about me and gave me some actionable items to implement to help.
Second, I came up with a plan to get through the week ahead. It seemed like that week there were a lot of small things that I was concentrating on all at the same time. Rather than juggling everything all at once I chose to concentrate on one thing at a time. This way, I could get the ball rolling and slowly my list dwindled into something that seemed manageable.
Third, I reached out for help. I felt like because it was a distance degree I was working on that I could be able to complete everything by myself. One of my classes that was true for. The other, I needed to reach out to the professor and ask for clarification. Since this is my first semester, I was not sure how this would go, but my professor was willing to set up a virtual meeting to be able to talk through a couple of issues I was having.
The bottom line is that there are going to be times during the semester that things are not bright and cheery. You have a couple of options: you can dwell in the difficulty of the moment or you can come up with a plan and work towards a solution. People are willing to help you create a plan should you need it. You can do it.
---R. Tyler Horner
R. Tyler Horner is a Masters student in the College of Education and Human Development