The Stress-Free PhD 2018-02-14T07:56:58+00:00

The Stress-Free PhD 6-Week Programme

The Stress-Free PhD Programme will teach you how to build routines to greatly increase your productivity, re-ignite your inspiration and lower your stress levels. For six weeks you will receive daily emails, essays and assignments from me — all short and doable

Writing a PhD is not for the faint of heart. It takes dedication, perseverance, and patience. The process tends to be a lot less linear and predictable compared to what official deadlines and programmes like to dictate. Maybe you feel you have little control at all. The Stress-Free PhD Programme is designed to help you overcome this sense of inertia, to help you focus and increase your productivity, and to increase your resilience in the process.

Lower Stress
The first aim of the course is to help reduce your stress levels. Academia is a high-stress environment, and learning how to manage your stress levels is essential for your wellbeing, as well as your academic output. Being stressed is often worn as a badge of honour in academia, but I challenge that notion. Your brain doesn’t perform well in chronic-stress conditions. We’ll discuss how high levels of stress and competition impact your productivity, and how to manage stress well. Self-care habits are essential, and the course will teach you how to build an effective self-care routine, specific for academia.

Be More Productive
The second aim of the course is to help increase your academic output. The course will teach you how to ‘work in waves’, and help you create a personalised work and writing routine. Academic productivity is all about harnessing the power of focus. It is about managing your mental energy. Not the number of hours worked, but the quality and intensity of focus during these hours make all the difference. There are some simple (sometimes counter-intuitive) steps to follow to get there. Distraction, procrastination, lack of direction, crippling perfectionism: they will no longer hold you back.

Write a Happier PhD
Writing a PhD tends to be conceptualised as an intellectual challenge, but the mental and emotional challenges involved should not be underestimated. It is the part no one normally talks about: there tends to be a lot of posturing involved in academic environments. Let me tell you: you are not alone if you are feeling overwhelmed or depressed about it all. These feelings are not some sort of personal failure on your part: they are the result of how PhDs (and academia in general) tends to be set up. The course will give you practical tools to alleviate the pressure. It will also help you reconnect with why you are writing a PhD in the first place. Working from curiosity and connecting with your intrinsic motivation makes all the difference.

The course combines theory, practical tools, and personal experience. I will tell you all about the mistakes I made myself when I was writing my PhD (embarrassing stories included!). I am open about how I messed up at times, so you can avoid doing the same. I also draw heavily on the stories people have shared with me about their own PhD experience with the same intention. I have intended the course to be as transparent as possible, as I know I would have benefited from that kind of openness when I was writing a PhD myself.

This six-week course includes:

  • Access to the Stress-Free PhD website and course materials
  • Access to the Stress-Free Meditation Playlist: 4 audio meditations (15 – 30 minutes in length) for your self-care routine
  • Daily emails to help you implement the course tools
  • Daily assignments to reflect on the course materials
  • Pep talk and encouragement are included!
The Stress-Free PhD Programme

Includes a one-hour coaching call via Skype to help you get the most out of the course.

Fee: €200,-

buy now
The Stress-Free PhD Programme Intensive

Includes seven one-hour coaching calls via Skype, and email support. I recommend this version if you are stuck or struggling.

Fee: €950,-

buy now
The Stress-Free PhD Programme Self-Study

The DIY version of the course, without coaching or feedback. The programme materials are exactly the same.

Fee: €150,-

buy now

(Do ask your university whether they would consider covering the costs of the course. Most universities have funds to cover training programmes for their PhD students, and it is in their interest you finish your PhD well and on time.)


Week 1

Stress in Academia

In the first week of the course we explore why academia is such a high-stress environment, and how this might affect your performance and wellbeing. We will cover how to deal with perfectionism and overcommitment in a competitive environment. You’ll learn to identify your personal stress cycle.

Week 2

Take Care of Your Brain Routine

We’ll discuss how to build a self-care routine as your best ally against PhD stress. This week is all about meditation and exercise, and other self-care habits. We will cover how to shift from focus during work hours, to getting out of your head at the end of the day.

Week 3

Productivity: Work in Waves

The third week of the course focuses on productivity. You will learn how to ‘work in waves’ and manage your mental energy. The tools of this week allowed me to finish my PhD in only a couple of hours a day. I will teach you how to do the same.

Week 4

Overcome Writer’s Block

Building a writing routine is the focus of week four. In this week we bring together all the tools of the previous weeks to create your personal integrated work, writing and self-care routine. It is by this week that you can expect a real shift in how your work is going.

Week 5

Corner Your Supervisor

Supervision! It is the source of many PhD nightmares. This week we focus on this major PhD stressor. The aim of this week’s material is to empower you in your relationship with your supervisor, and to prevent you from unwittingly becoming the victim of your PhD.

Week 6

Write a Happy PhD

The final week is about finding joy and satisfaction in your PhD life. It is about connecting with that vital part of yourself that is driven by curiosity and passion for your project. We will discuss how to use your strengths and desires to create a prolific and fulfilling academic life.


The course really helped me get unstuck and it was amazing how by removing the fear and self-destructive thoughts that were ruling me, I was able to write a paper (that I had been dreading for 2 years) in less than 2 weeks. The course really helped me quickly build a ‘can do’ attitude that made all the difference. The paper still needs a lot of work, but putting words on paper already felt like such a great achievement.
I am very happy I took the course. It provided the regiment, the material, the motivation and I felt supported and understood every morning when I read the daily lessons. I found the course effective. Great course Amber!
3rd year PhD Candidate, University of Oxford, England (self-study course)

Thank you so much for the course. It has been such a great experience and I really learned a lot. It changed the approach to my PhD and I am much more relaxed and positive. I would never have thought I would start to meditate, but you made me do it and it really works and makes me feel so much better. I also like your authentic approach as your course comes from your own experience. Thank you so much for this great experience. I am already missing getting an e-mail from you almost every day.
Part-time PhD Candidate, Justus-Liebig University, Giessen, Germany (self-study course)

The course has definitely helped me. I am more at peace, and I am kinder to myself, because I now realize that many of the fears and frustrations I was struggling with are inherent to the job. I allow myself to have shorter workdays, and I don’t feel as guilty about it. I am more productive in a workday that ends at 3 or 4 in the afternoon, than I was in the long days I used to work before.
4th year PhD Candidate, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands (course with coaching)

Questions and Answers

Who is the Stress-Free PhD Programme for?
The Stress-Free PhD Programme is for you if you’re writing a PhD and looking to improve your performance and PhD experience. It doesn’t matter what your topic or field is, and it doesn’t matter whether you are in your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th (or 5th or 6th or 7th) year. The course teaches general tools and skills, applicable at any stage of writing a PhD.

What’s the time commitment for the course?
It will take about twenty minutes to half an hour five days a week to get the most out of the course, a bit more if you include your new self-care routine.

When does the Stress-Free PhD Programme start?
It starts whenever you want it to.  Sign up for the course, and you get immediate access to the course website and materials. Click on the activation link for the course, and the first email accompanying the 6-week course will be on its way to your inbox.

Can I get coaching for the duration of the course?
The Stress-Free PhD Programme comes in three versions. The Stress-Free PhD Programme with coaching includes a one-hour one-on-one coaching call. If you’d like more guidance, consider the intensive course. It includes weekly coaching calls and email support when you need it. I will be with you every step of the way. If you are not interested in personal coaching or email support, you can sign up for the self-study version of the course.

Where / how do the coaching calls take place?
The coaching calls take place via Skype. If you are located in Amsterdam we could also meet in person.

What does the email support in the intensive version of the course entail?
If you take the intensive version of the course we will be in touch via email whenever you need some extra support. The emails do not replace coaching; they are additional support to make sure you don’t get stuck, and don’t have to wait for an entire week until the next coaching session if you have a question or feel you need some feedback. The emails are a quick way to address issues that come up along the way, which we address more in-depth during the coaching calls. (I highly recommend this version of the course if you are stuck and in a rut. It has worked very well for the clients I have worked with.)

Do I keep access to the materials after the six weeks of the course are over?
Yes. You keep access. There is no end date. You can revisit the material whenever you want.

I am really busy/ overwhelmed right now. Is this the right time for me to take the course?
If you can carve out 20 minutes or so a day: yes! I’d say it is better to devote some time to build better work routines now, rather than later.

If I change my mind about taking the course after I sign up, can I get a refund?
No, I’m sorry. I have a no refund policy. Please contact me before signing up for the programme if you have any questions: it’s important to me that The Stress-Free PhD Programme is the right investment for you.