3 tips for managing thesis writing stress

9 August 2019

Writing your thesis can be a stressful experience. Here, Dr Sonia Greenidge from UCL's Student Psychological and Counselling Services gives you her top tips to manage this stress.


The process of writing your thesis is a long one and the stress that can build up over this period of time can lead to writer's block and worryingly long periods of unproductiveness. Here are my top three tips to help you lower your stress levels allowing you to progress with your thesis.

Break it down

Rather than thinking that you have to dedicate lengthy periods each day to writing up, a helpful method to manage the stress of thesis writing is to break the day into small bite-sized pieces. Even if you dedicate a whole day to your write up, this should still be broken down into bite-sized periods.

Make sure that alongside your work times you also schedule in some break times. For example, work for 45 minutes and then break for 15 minutes, continue this until breaking for lunch for an hour then continue the 45-minute work and 15-minute break routine.

Be specific

Assign a specific task to do for each study period. Having a clear idea of what you are doing can alleviate the ‘so much to do, how am I going to do it?!’ stress. For example, plan to specifically ‘finish discussion paragraph on self-reflection’ not generally ‘write some more of the discussion’.

Assigning specific things to do in your break times can also help manage the stress that comes from feeling you have so much to do and so little time to do it all. Have a break for checking emails, a break for making calls, a break for making lunch etc. This way you still get all your 'life admin' done alongside getting that all important thesis written up!

Free writing

Experiencing writer’s block and feeling that you are not progressing as you would like to can be a huge trigger for stress. With free writing, you write whatever comes to mind on a topic without stopping to censor or make corrections.

Do this for a while until you feel yourself in the flow and then…keep going! You will probably have a lot of useful material from your free writing time that you can go back and tidy up later.

Dr Sonia Greenidge, UCL Student Psychological and Counselling Services (SPCS)