Managing Graduate School Stress

managing grad school stress

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  • The decision to attend grad school can be both exhilarating and anxiety inducing.

    There are many benefits to grad school, as it presents the opportunity to further your career and for you to gain crucial experience toward your chosen career path.

    The decision to go to grad school should not be taken lightly, however.

    Graduate school challenges a student not only academically, but mentally, physically, and emotionally as well. So, how do you minimize the stress of grad school?

    A student in grad school may have to effectively handle long assignments, studying for exams, a job, family, and a social life. Some students may be called upon to juggle everything at once. It is easy to see how the amount of concentration that grad school demands from you would be difficult to deal with.

    However, if you can find the discipline and time management skills to find a balance amidst all the chaos, it will be the difference between mental defeat and a strong sense of accomplishment. Below are some ways in which to correctly manage your time and minimize stress for a well-balanced grad school experience.

    Maintaining Motivation

    One question you frequently ask yourself in grad school is “why am I even doing this?” Without an answer to this question, it’s easy to lose the motivation to continue. It’s important not to lose sight of what you are there for. Whether it be to further your career or to provide for your family, there was a deep-seated reason why you chose grad school. Knowing the answer to this question and reaffirming the reason(s) why you took the grad school plunge will continue to motivate you until graduation.

    Keep in mind that the answer to this question can change as you progress through your graduate school career. Sometimes you can find yourself stagnant and just have to ask yourself “what’s next?” Other times, when you are deeply frustrated you may ask “who/what can help me?” It’s easy to be so focused on schooling, you forget or don’t believe that a break could be just what you need. In fact, a break from all the strain can make you come back refreshed and more productive.

    Keeping a Social Life

    Although grad school will consume a large chunk of your free time, you can always make time for friends and family. Friends and family are great for moral support and can motivate you to hang in there when things gets tough.

    A simple phone call or coffee with a companion periodically won’t get in the way of your studies and will allow you a much-needed mental break. Sometimes you can even socialize and talk grad school with a fellow student to get a better grasp on things such as course material. An occasional break from schooling to talk and gain perspective from peers will end up helping you in the long run.

    Self-Care Maintenance

    Mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion can and will occur during grad school. And as much you may not want to, exercise is going to help you out. You’ll shortly find that with exercise, you have more physical energy and feel better mentally as well — which will boost your emotional state. It is also imperative you maintain healthy sleep habits.

    Sleep deprivation can lead to various diseases and disorders, and will certainly exacerbate your stress levels. Making sure you get a good night’s rest every night will make you better prepared for almost anything grad school can throw at you.

    Balance is the key to grad school; not loading yourself up with studies or social activities. If you spend all of your time studying, you will undoubtedly get burned out. But, if you think grad school will be a breeze and do nothing but socialize, you will most certainly fail.

    There is a line you must walk in order to successfully navigate grad school. So next time grad school is stressing you out, take a break to focus on the things mentioned above to get you back on track.

    Off-to-College reference:

    graduate school planning guide

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