Managing application anxiety

Discuss applications to the clearing house (and to courses that are not in the clearing house system), screening assessments, interviews, reserve lists, places, etc. here
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Managing application anxiety

Post by » Sun Aug 29, 2010 12:21 am

I originally conceived this post in response to this thread, but thought a new topic would be a more constructive way forward. Please share your strategies for managing the application season stress / anxiety / sheer sense of panic here!

I do understand the need people have to share their thoughts and worries about all stages of the application process for training. It is a daunting process and so it can feel good to know you aren't the only one who is feeling that way. However, I just want to add a counter-view as well, as I think other people may also find that useful (and I'm not suggesting one is right and one is wrong).

Earlier on today I read this thread and thought: "hmm, I really can't get that worked up about all this even though I am planning to apply this year". 12 hours later and I my stomach is churning just at the thought of the application process. In some cases, maybe avoidance actually decreases anxiety because I think what I need to do is avoid thinking about this too much and just get on with other stuff! :D

If anyone else is interested in my reasoning, it goes a bit like this:
  • The more I get stressed thinking about everything needed for getting onto training, the more I start to think this is the be-all and end-all and I absolutely must get a place this year to be a happy and fulfilled soul.
  • The more I think that, the more pressure I feel under to spend every waking hour doing psychology related stuff and that I need to be perfect in every way and at every moment in my job.
  • This isn't possible, realistic or desirable and will only lead me to being unhappier, more stressed and less productive both at work and at home.
  • This is only likely to make me a less attractive candidate for training.

So, to be more constructive, I am going to be specific about what I am going to do practically about managing my own anxiety in the immediate future.
  1. Restricting psychology reading to set times of the day.
  2. Start back at going swimming and to the gym
  3. Having a brief look at the application form when it comes out (because realistically, I am going to want to look) but to then leave it alone for a while as I will be in a better place to write it later on.
  4. Avoid getting into too many training-related conversations at work - yes, the conversation will come up but (outside of supervision) my line shall be something along the lines of "Yes, I'm applying this year but I'm waiting a bit before I do my application form. By the way, ... (insert change of topic here at appropriate point in conversation)..." ;)
  5. Practice what I used to preach as a PWP and use some cognitive restructuring techniques to look at where my anxiety is coming from, and how to hack away at it
So come on everyone, what are your top tips for bringing those cortisol levels down? Whatever way works best for you for managing your own anxiety - I wish everyone concerned the best of luck with applications over the coming months!

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Post by ElizabethB » Sun Aug 29, 2010 8:52 am

If I applied (still need to be convinced whether I should apply or not given last years events!), I'll be implementing the following techniques....

During the whole process
:arrow: I'm going to try and redefine how I see the whole process- ie its only a job at the end of the day. I have two really good back up options so its not the end of the world if I don't obtain a place.
:arrow: I'm going to continue keeping myself busy so I'm not focused entirely on the DClinPsych process. During the final few weeks of my PhD, I'm implementing coping strategies to keep my mind of the whole process (ie frequent physically challenging gym sessions) which is helping me to relax. I'm also losing loads of weight and I feel less depressed and unhappy and more calm and positive
:arrow: Consider whether this is something I really want to do in light of the work/life balance. I've also remained in university education now for 10 years without stop. Can I handle another 3 years at university- and 3 more years of doctoral level study?! :shock: (equally the DClinPsych selectors may view my application negatively in light of continious education!)
:arrow: Work on my self confidence, self esteem and teach myself to remain positive. I tend to see things very negatively sometimes and fixate on one aspect of my past (ie undergrad mark!) so perhaps thinking positively will reduce my anxiety levels.
:arrow: If I can, I'm going to try and avoid checking any 'clinpsy progress and successes 2011' type posts. I found myself checking last years 2010 post countless times every day which was becoming an obsession!
:arrow: Given the level of competition, accept that not everyone will become a clinical psychologist
:arrow: Most of all, believe that I CAN DO THIS!!! (In light of PhD submission, I say this to myself everyday now!)

Writing application form
:arrow: Start early. Last year, I left the form rather late, so I'll be starting early to avoid panic status. I rushed my form last year which resulted in mistakes and most likely affected outcomes. I'll be interested to see whether the form has changed.
:arrow: Take loads of breaks during the application form write up. I'll probably have my viva pre Christmas so I probably won't have time to think about my application anyway, but I think breaking down the form and thinking about it every 2-3 days will help bring anxiety levels down.

Waiting for interview letters
:arrow: This year, I'm going to keep a very low profile (if I can!) from other applicants by keeping quiet that I applied. Although I was happy for those applicants in my office who had interviews, it was heartbreaking at the same time as everyone else apart from me appeared to have interviews. I'm going to keep my distance this time round.
:arrow: I'm going to try and keep myself busy and away from the internet so I can't keep checking whether people heard about letters.
:arrow: If I can, I'm going to see if I can work from home when we start hearing about letters. Knowing there was a letter waiting for me was just torture!!

Pre interview tests/interview prepartion
:arrow: Prepare well in advance including timed practice papers!! I'm so used to using the computer these days, I hardly ever use my hands for writing so my handwriting is terrible (and unreadable!).
:arrow: I have an idea from last year what their looking for which will help preparations etc.
:arrow: If I made it through to the Surrey test, I'm going to sit right at the front of the exam hall (if I can) so I can't see all the other applicants furiously writing! (I sat at the back last year!). Sitting at the front of the exam hall and keeping track of the time and using ear plugs etc may also help. I'm going to see if I can find a quiet spot away from everyone as well to avoid feeling anxious! (Sitting in a room in full view of over 200 applicants fighting for 30 places was really stressful!)
:arrow: Practice mock interviews with clinical psychologists/trainees
:arrow: Remember that I've already demonstrated success at interviews (PhD interview and RA interviews) so this is just another type of job interview.

Good luck everyone!! :twisted: :D :D

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Post by Morningstar » Sun Aug 29, 2010 10:38 am

All great ideas so far :D

I think my coping techniques will be similar, the most important of which will be keeping busy with other things - salsa, climbing, socialising. As it gets into autumn I tend to get back into baking more too, which is not only distracting but also has the added bonus of being a tasty treat at the end if things go well, or comfort food if things go less well!

I will have a brief look at the application form when it comes out, mostly to see how/if it has changed. I will then also be leaving it for a little bit, mostly in the hopes that I will get a job soon and so have something else to reflect on!

Last year I found I wasn't too bad whilst waiting for letters. Preparing for interviews was also not too bad, though this year I'll have the advantage of knowing what the process is like and being able to reflect on my performance last year.

I think at the moment my focus is on getting a job rather than the course, so that might help in an odd kind of way.

Good luck to everyone applying this year :D

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Post by russ » Sun Aug 29, 2010 11:25 am

How lovely to see such a positive thread with this stuff! Well done, guys.
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Post by astra » Tue Aug 31, 2010 12:08 pm

Ditto. Nice emphasis for a thread Matt.
From the point of view of mindfulness, as long as you're breathing there's more right with you than wrong with you. Jon Kabat-Zinn

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Post by Ruthie » Tue Aug 31, 2010 5:57 pm

Nice thread Matt! I vote to make this into a wiki of ideas for coping with application anxiety.

I'll make it a sticky for now so its at the top of the forum!

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Post by eponymous85 » Wed Sep 01, 2010 11:37 am

Seconded! Managing application anxiety is definitely a recurring theme here. Ruthie, your poor little duck seems to have turned in to a red x :(
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Post by baa » Thu Sep 02, 2010 3:09 pm

Is this one up yet?

- DON'T believe everything you hear, the rumours about clinical psychology courses (like the if you apply for very different courses - they'll reject you for not being completely faithful to their way of being rumour) are massively unhelpful, usually untrue, but a fabulous way to wind yourself and others up.
At least I'm not as mad as that one!

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Post by heatherb » Thu Sep 02, 2010 3:38 pm

I'm just focussing on doing my best and equally, hoping for the best.

Anxiety wise, physical exercise really helps me calm down and chill out, so I'm going to keep on swimming (physically and mentally!)

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Post by ElizabethB » Fri Sep 03, 2010 9:32 am

I agree with Baa's comment, I'm finding that surrounding myself with positive supportive and encouraging people and not listening to rumours etc etc is helping me control my anxiety levels.

During this mad rush to submission, I'm keeping my distance from people in my life who are very negative, very competitive, very critical and people who instantly evoke feelings of high levels of anxiety and worry. I'm also staying clear of people in my life at the moment who make me feel really stupid and inadequate(Insert self self-fulfilling prophecy?!?) I think this also applies to people in my life who have beliefs such as 'you will never make it as a clinical psychologist', it's fiercly competitive, I wouldn't bother if I was you', and I'll probably be keeping my distance from them during this whole process!

Surrounding myself with encouraging supportive people is really helping me relax and is so far preventing me from over anxious states!

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Post by ell » Fri Sep 03, 2010 9:37 am

Ironic one to post here but...

I found a couple of years ago when I was getting over-anxious that avoiding the CP forums made a big difference. I banned myself from looking at 'the other site' during the letters stage. I suppose it links in with the not believing rumours bit.

Of course some people find the forums very supportive during these difficult times, and I'm not denying that. I just think it's important to be self-aware of how reading certain types of threads makes you feel, and avoiding them if they are doing 'more harm than good'.

Good luck all!


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Post by psy40174 » Mon Sep 06, 2010 7:50 pm

my personal favourite - "It's not a matter of if, its just a matter of WHEN"

they are worse things that can happen than not getting onto a clinical training course!!

Note to self - re-read this post the day after you have submitted your application.......
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Post by Bee » Tue Sep 14, 2010 10:00 pm

I've watched this site for a few years now but never posted before. But having got on the course this year i thought i would share some things that i found helpful...

I'm not the most academic person, i got a mid 2:1 (64%) have never done a masters, phd etc. I have had a few research posts and assistant posts but never did any extra work outside of these posts and have made sure that i have always had a good work life balance. I applied 3 times, the first year i got a reserve interview, 2nd year i got one interview and a reserve place and then last year got one interview (at the same uni) and got offered a place.

My words of wisdom would be....

- you don't have to be the most hard working, academic assistant psych. The most important thing i have ever been told is to remember that at the end of the day it's only a job. I have worked in offices where assistants were in competition to work the most hours possible to prove they were the best assistant.I was always the one going home at 5pm. But i think having the right work life balance means i have time to recharge my batteries and am more able to focus on work when i am there.
-Surround yourself with like minded people. Around application time i made sure i surrounded myself with trainees i knew who had already got on the course or other assistants who didn't whip me into a panic!
-Don't listen to any rumours. All the courses are looking for different things. The main thing in your application is to show who you are, what you've done and what you've learnt from it.
-Make sure you apply to the right uni for you. I always applied for courses close to home because for me that was the most important thing.
-And lastly, and most importantly. Don't overdo the time you spend on your application/interview prep. Make sure you find time to do the things that are important to you and keep you sane (in my case the odd glass of wine!)

Good luck!!!!x

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Post by dp » Thu Oct 07, 2010 8:38 am

Great post Bee!! Very calming and reassuring!!

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Post by Soph84 » Thu Oct 07, 2010 5:15 pm

I just looked at the interview dates and my heartrate just went through the roof. So, here's a tip from me:

Don't look at interview dates until you know you've got one!! :-)

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