The PhD process involves the whole person and not just any one part of his life or personality. A PhD scholar cannot possibly keep his personal life in place as the struggle does stray over its edge into the personal life of the scholar.
You know of someone, who has these bouts on anxiety and stress because their PhD is taking over their personal peace of mind? Well, you may not be able to do much about it in terms of helping with the work but that does not really mean that you cannot do anything about it. You know what I mean? Instead of harsh and unsupportive statements, you can put up some supportive words that can work as soothing balm for a scholar who could be on the verge of a panic attack. I can help you with some calming responses, that can surely rekindle a sense of support and calmness in an anxious scholar. There can be more additions in the list, but these can be of some help, to begin with:
1. Can I help you in any way? : You may technically not be able to do much for a PhD student, right away. But saying these words, you have primarily brought up a chance for the scholar to speak up about their problems and immediate needs. Sometimes, all one needs is a patient ear which is not judgemental. This can go more than a long way in soothing the anxiety level of a scholar.
2. This shall pass away too: A PhD is a struggle surely and we all know that, many a times the scholars forget that it is a struggle that would not last forever. It will eventually going to be an end and there is surely light at the end of the tunnel. A gentle reminder of this is a great way to bring up the spirits, yet again.
3. How did you handle a problem previously: Remind the scholar, the struggler that this isn’t the first and only problem they have dealt with. There have been issues and problems previously where they have shown their skill to overcome them with aplomb. Bring up the previous instances as examples of courage and persistence. This is all that is needed, mostly.
4. I trust you: There is a sense of dejection and worthlessness, which comes as a phase in the life of every PhD student. This is because more than often there study doesn’t seem sensible to many others. Remember and remind that not study is pointless and wasteful and even it be, PhD is a journey of rigorous learning and learning is never wasteful. Concentrate, always more on the learning part.
You may also have some ideas on what does a scholar want to hear when he is on the verge of a breakdown. Do share, it may be of some great help.