How much is too much?

Yesterday was again a little bit more anxious day, partly because we had again very hot and humid weather but partly because I was stupid and decided to count the credits I should earn in 12 months to be able to complete my studies taking all those courses that I have to (obligatory) and which interest me (mostly secondary subjects).

Well, the overall result was round and beautiful 100. Yes, 100. To give a comparison, the full Master’s is 120 credits and it’s usually recommended to be accomplished in two years, but depending on the amount of minors and other factors (such as work, family etc) it may take more.

I took a deep breath and told myself that well, I do have 12 months, not just autumn term +  spring term [well, they are not called that anymore, as the system in Finland has changed, but I consider spring term to be Jan-May and autumn term Sept-Dec] and I have an option to apply for more study leave if I feel this plan to be impossible to carry through.

But it was too late, as I realized that I really must be crazy to even think about getting it all done in a year. And still somewhere in my head a tiny little voice kept saying “you can do it, you can do it” altering with “you are not able to make it, you are not able to make it”.

Well, I have survived with an enormous workload before, doing gazillion things at the same time, and even doing things well, if not great. But look at me now, never before I have suffered from panic attacks and feeling my heart rate raising just of the thought that “I can’t do it, this is too much”. And unfortunately I’m not exaggerating.

In the afternoon I went to study in the National Library of Finland (a beautiful place btw, worth visiting if you are around!) and it was so hot inside. After I was told that I can’t take my water bottle (understandable, of course) with me, I felt like…oh great, I can’t get any fresh air or water, it’s hot and humid, too dark or bright, I’m going to faint – all in all, what a stupid idea to come here. At first we located ourselves upstairs, where it was probably +30-40C and after an hour we gave up and decided to try the reading room which was, thank God, cooler. After a couple of hours’ study (I was surprisingly able to read some stuff) I met with a friend and got home ok, so no harm done and eventually I had a very nice day, but I could feel that after a pretty “normal” day on Monday this comprehension of how much I really have work ahead of me was able to shake me physically. Again. Luckily, I have been able to control my feelings and those “waves of anxiety” just by breathing, by washing my hands in cold water and by thinking rationally, but it’s still annoying.

Anyway, I think I should make a plan how to to proceed with this reality. I know and I admit that 100 is a lot, I mean it’s a LOT. On the other hand I feel that it’s not impossible, it just requires a lot of work, planning and concentration. But what I do not know is if it’s possible for me to do it right now, do I get to rest enough during my vacation (still or only 2,5 weeks left) so that I start feeling better and my body and brain gradually realize that things are getting easier because I can concentrate “just” on my studies starting from September [I’m going back to work for 3 weeks after my vacation]. Or am I again being stupid, repeating the same mistakes I’ve done before and trying to bite off more that I can chew?

The thing is, that I do not have any previous experience (well, maybe for a year) how it is to “just” study. I’ve pretty much always worked, at worst I was studying and having three jobs or positions of trust at the same time. So this soon beginning 12 months is a totally new territory for me, in many ways.

I’ve already been able to mark some lectures in my diary for Sept-Dec, including the exam days and course papers that are included, but I have no idea how the public health (PH) entity will go. I know there’s one course that is taught, other modules should be book exams, but I don’t know how one is supposed to perform them: is it 3 books at the time, or 6, and do they have the exam days only e.g. twice a term or every month. Also, I do not know how my thesis writing will go – I have already some plans and ideas (the structure etc) but maybe I’ve mistaken, maybe I have to re-think everything, maybe the writing is not that easy and I can’t follow the schedule I will do for myself, maybe I don’t find all the materials or get to interview people the way I’m hoping, maybe I will have a nervous breakdown and/or I realize that I’m not that smart I’d like to think I am.

Sounds promising, doesn’t it? :D

One option is that I’m not considering the work as credits (I usually don’t, I don’t understand why I even started to count them at the first place yesterday) but as entities. Papers, exams, lectures and tasks. I probably have to make a priority list, some things are more important than others, and I should also try to lower the bar: the grading scale is from 1 to 5 for a reason. My goal is and has usually been at 5, and already 4 has felt as a disappointment. Which is ridiculous (and twisted), of course. I also know why I feel this way, but I don’t go there now.

If I target at having the 100 credits after 12 months, I probably have to learn that getting a 2 or 3 is not terrible, not even embarrassing. I know that I can maybe live quite ok with getting a 3, a 2 will be difficult. But it’s still a number and it means that I have passed, so that should do. Even for me.

So, what now?

Goal 1: I go on with the paper I’m writing at the moment as I’ve planned [despite all this panicking and anxiety, I’ve continued the project today: checked a couple of articles and five books and I’ve got good stuff to write about – or I think it’s good…]

Goal 2: Take a week off from everything: no internet, no phone, no social activities, just relaxing in the middle of nowhere

Goal 3: to try to find out the schedule&systems for PH studies [I’ve already sent an e-mail to the contact person] and decide if it’s more sensible to start now in Sept and keep the option open to finish it in the end of 2012 or even spring 2013 than try to do everything by Oct 2012

Goal 4: contact my English professor to find out what needs to be done for my Advanced Academic Writing in English course; I’ve done already the taught parts, now I should write a summary of an article and get a native tutor to have discussions with (?), but before I will start my thesis seminar I don’t have anything thesis related stuff ready so this will have to wait (probably)

Goal 5: Draft and refine the structure for my thesis, list the probable source material/s, methods, theoretic background, purpose of the paper and any other useful stuff that I have to report to my institution by Aug 19.

Goal 6: …Let’s get back to this later, as soon as I’ve accomplished levels G1-G5. :)




3 responses to “How much is too much?

  1. I recently read an article ( here :, and one of the best advice the author had to offer was taping an “You are hereby released from writing the perfect novel.” note on his computer. The reason I’m writing this, is because I’ve played with the desire to have perfect scores, and it ended up biting me back. Hard. I don’t know if there’s a medical name for it, but I’ll call it perfectionism depression. In short, I was so daunted by any task, because I had to do it perfectly, that I never started on it. I never started studying for my exams, and I very nearly failed to graduate (this was from high school) after maintaining a nearly perfect record for over 2 years.
    100 credits seems like a lot, but I think you can do it and stay sane and healthy, as long as you allow yourself some slack and focus on getting “5” on the subjects most important/most interesting to you. Of course this is just my two cents…
    Anyway, whichever way you do it, I wish you the best of luck, and strength!!

  2. Thanks, what an interesting article! And actually a lot of what the author wrote is something I could intuitively sign.

    And I know what you are talking about, for me it’s been mostly about winning. I have always hated all kinds of games, whether they are board games or something else, if I’ve already from the beginning known that I suck. So it’s been very hard for me to participate in any fun if it has involved some kind of competition if I haven’t been on the winning team of if I don’t know for sure that I’m good at something. But I’ve learned a bit out of that, and I’ve put myself into situations where I’ve been the last or worst in sth. And surprisingly it hasn’t been that bad. :)

    The prioritizing was exactly what I was thinking about – I have some grades that will probably be more important than others, and all in all I’d like to think the year to be more of a learning process. When you think about it, the grades as such are not the goal and point in studying, but learning is. Especially learning how to implement the new knowledge and skills and turn them into action.

    Thanks once more for your two cents! :)

  3. Pingback: Long time no see « Reality bytes and bites·

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