What causes stress?

As I wrote earlier, stress is caused by the interplay of the environment and the individual. According to research, the demands of the environment are often not alone enough to cause prolonged stress. The demands turn into stressors if the individual does not perceive having the resources to handle them.

Demands a doctoral student might face are supervisor issues, deadlines, unclear expectations, toxic work culture (publish or perish mentality & 24/7 work), workload (teaching, supervising, researching + one million other things), and hindrance stressors (bureaucracy, red tape).

Resources that could help the doctoral student cope are social support, supervisor support, esteem, autonomy, control over work hours, and a meaningful dissertation topic.

If the demands and resources are not in sync, it might lead to stress and ultimately, if prolonged, to burnout.

But, as I stated earlier, without interpretation, there is no stress. That explains why some people don’t get rattled by the academic culture or by poor supervision.

This doesn’t mean that the problems don’t exist. It means that we have to acknowledge that the perception of stress is individual. We should do all we can to make sure the environment supports mental health and that support is available for everyone who needs it.

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