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Dealing with stress

A Short Guide on Dealing with Stress

The majority of PhD students at iNANO will likely have a hard time at some point during their PhD studies. However, whether this develops into serious problems such as stress is very individual. We have written a short guide for PhD students at iNANO with some suggestions as to what to do if you experience stress-related problems during your studies and how to help prevent them. This guide has been authored by Daniel Gudnason (dg@inano.au.dk) and Niels Due Kjeldsen (ndk@inano.au.dk).

Issues between supervisor and PhD student

If you are experiencing communication issues between you and your supervisor, but are unable to solve matters between you, you have the opportunity to consult either our Head of programme Duncan Sutherland or our PhD partners Rikke J. Ljungmann and Helle Karvonen at GSST under full discretion.

Bear in mind that you need to step forward with your problems if they are to help further, e.g. act as mediators or provide other possible ways of solving the issues.

Issues may also arise because of cultural differences between supervisor and student. Both supervisors and students at iNANO come from very different cultural backgrounds. Working with communication and common understanding can resolve a lot of issues before they develop, and contribute to having a healthy and open student-supervisor relationship.

Counselling psychologist

As a PhD student at Faculty of Natural Sciences you are entitled to counselling on work-related problems with a psychologist through an external firm. You can either contact the external firm yourself and have up to three anonymous sessions with a psychologist, or you can contact GSST, and they can grant up to five sessions. If you have had three anonymous sessions, and you and the psychologist feel that you may need a few extra sessions, GSST can grant two more sessions. For more information on the matter see here.


As an employed PhD student you are subject to the rules and regulations that apply to all AU employees. The rules are described at staff.au.dk (http://medarbejdere.au.dk/en/administration/hr/holiday/). At iNANO, Trine Møller Hansen is responsible for registration of holiday and absence, and can help answer any questions you may have regarding this matter.

As any other employee you are entitled to take up 25 days of holiday even if you have not earned right to 25 days of paid holiday. Eg. if an employee has earned right to 10 days of paid holiday and wishes to have 15 days of holiday, then this is possible. He/she will be deducted only 5 days of salary.

At iNANO employed PhD students as any other fix-term employee must take paid holidays corresponding to the number of holidays which have been notified in the period leading up to when their contract expires.

If you do not take any holiday or vacation over a long period of time you might increase the risk of experiencing stress related problems and might impede your productivity. You should also note that you will not be covered by AU’s insurance if you work during your holiday and should be so unfortunate and injure yourself or a fellow co-worker.


We will be very grateful if any PhD students are willing to share their experiences regarding stress-related episodes. Whether or not the outcome was positive. We would like to use these stories anonymously as case studies to see if there are patterns of stress causing episodes amongst PhD students that can be improved upon. Also, with your approval, we would like to use them as examples, on our au website, of what other PhD students have been through and how they handled their situations as a support for people going through similar situations. If you specify that you don’t want your case to be published, we will not do so. In these instances, we can still use your case to evaluate if what you experienced is a general problem for Ph. D. students at iNANO and handle the problems accordingly.

If you have a case to share, please contact Daniel Gudnason at dg@inano.au.dk or Niels Due Kjeldsen at ndk@inano.au.dk.

Aligning expectations

In order to help prevent stress, it is often a good idea to talk about aligning expectations with your supervisor about your PhD project, both at the beginning of the PhD study and regularly along the way.

GSST has prepared a list of suggested topics for discussion. You are very welcome to have a look at them and see if you and your supervisor find them relevant to your PhD project. (Link: http://phd.scitech.au.dk/for-phd-students/initiating-the-phd-project/aligning-expectations/)

Twice a year, PHAUST and GSST in collaboration organize a workshop on the balance between dedication and the strain of work in connection with the PhD studies. The workshops are arranged at Science and Technology locations, and are held by a psychologist from Nat-Tech Uddannelse. GSST announces the dates in advance both at the GSST website and through their news e-mail to all PhD students at Faculty of Natural Sciences.

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