Stress-Reducing Tips for Graduate Students

  • Long-Term Goals
  • Healthy Habits
  • Saying No
  • Combine With Work

Graduate school is widely recognized as one of the most stressful times of a person's life, and managing graduate school stress is critical for students' success. Below are four ways students can become more effective in graduate school by lowering stress levels.

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1. Long-Term Goals

Graduate school usually involves studying a topic very closely, and this can lead to a kind of tunnel vision. With all the demands of graduate school, it can be easy for students to lose sight of why they are putting themselves through this process in the first place. This is why it is important to stay focused not just on short-term goals, such as what work needs to be completed for various classes and the thesis or dissertation, but on the reason for graduate school in the first place. Whether a student's ultimate goal is to work in or outside of academia, keeping a list of those longer-term goals somewhere that the student can refer to when motivation is flagging can help with stress management.

2. Healthy Habits

The workload in graduate school and the accompanying stress can create a vicious cycle of bad habits including not enough sleep, a lack of exercise and poor nutrition. Even though it might seem like skimping on sleep can be the best way to get more work done or that preparing nutritious food or exercising can be too time-consuming, over time, these bad habits will start to affect a student's health. This, in turn, will affect their ability to work at the necessary level. Students may also pick up bad habits in order to cope with stress such as drinking too much or smoking. It is important for students to be able to let off some steam sometimes, but sticking mostly to healthy habits will pay off in the long run by providing more energy and less stress.

3. Saying No

An important part of managing graduate school stress is learning to say no. Students may need to strip their life down to essentials at this point. This could mean not volunteering for extra duties at work, coordinating with a spouse on family obligations and even saying no to friends sometimes. Graduate students should also have a good understanding of what school-related activities are mandatory and which ones can be skipped with no significant effect on their standing in the department.

4. Combine With Work

One suggestion for working graduate students from Forbes is to find out whether projects pursued in graduate school can also be pursued in the workplace. The example given by Forbes describes a man who designed a company website as part of a graphic design program, but there may be other ways work and school can overlap. For example, a person may get both school and work credit for setting up or participating in professional conferences.

Graduate school is difficult and time-consuming, and it is important to have some strategies in place for when it all starts to feel overwhelming. There may be times when a student's resources are simply stretched too thin, and most schools offer students access to counseling when necessary. However, over the long term, these strategies should help students better manage their graduate school stress and succeed at reaching their goals.