Graduate school, and college in general, can be an amazing time. It’s the chance to explore your interests and gain deep knowledge. However, it can be an extremely stressful time too. Graduate school in particular places high expectations on students. There’s a lot of pressure to do it all, especially if you are working, have a family, and have other responsibilities while going to school as well. Even if you’re able to focus solely on attending school full-time, the stress can still be quite overwhelming. According to the American College Health Association (ACHA), 66% of students reported that they experienced above-average stress. To add on, there is no consistency to prepare for when students enter school, as some of the stress can vary depending on their individual program, school, and advisor’s expectations.
Balancing all of this can lead you to putting yourself at the bottom of the priorities list, which is the opposite of what you should do. Ignoring stress can lead to short-term or long-term health problems, which can cause even more stress, which then leads to a cycle. Instead, it’s important to be aware of stress and what to do about it ahead of time, so you can put yourself at the top of the priorities list and get through grad school, or your higher education program in general, in one piece.
For tips on managing your stress, check out the resources below
- This resource is specifically for graduate students who face unique challenges from the general population. However, there is also the option of calling 988, the national mental health crisis line as well.
The resource above goes through some general first steps you can take to reduce your stress levels. They include:
- Make yourself a priority. This tip has to do with becoming self-aware of your own symptoms of stress and how to support yourself and reduce the harmful effects of the symptoms.
- Take control of your life. This tip has a bit to do with prioritizing, self-control, and being aware of what does and doesn’t fit into your schedule. It recommends making a list, which may sound basic, but is sometimes easier said than done. The website says to make the to-do list and priorities first, then build your schedule around it.
- Be smart about managing time. This tip is especially important for graduate school students because the deadlines, goals, and projects are long-term and vaguely defined. For some people, this can mean waiting until the last minute to do projects. The UC Davis website provides tips on time management as well as how to avoid procrastination when studying.
- Seek out social support. Other peers in your program are a great resource for empathy, companionship, studying, and general support. You can reach out to your peers independently or consider finding out if your school has a Graduate Student Association. Social support can also include your family. Taking a break for family time or asking them for support can be a great help.
- Breathe. Breathing is proven to help lower stress, and is a quick, on-the-spot way to quickly lower your heart rate and help you calm down. The UC Davis website even demonstrates how meditation has long-term benefits to cognition!
Other Resources for Managing Grad School Stress
This resource defines the different kinds of stress that you may be experiencing: acute stress, episodic stress, and chronic acute stress, as well as the causes and health effects of that stress. This resource also discusses how stress can lead to mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and substance abuse problems. Students who may benefit from this resource are those who want to know why they are feeling the way that they do and like to know the causes behind their negative symptoms.
This resource discusses anxiety disorder and depression in relation to stress. It has a compilation of a huge list of resources helpful for those experiencing anxiety and depression in college. These resources include how to handle crisis situations such as suicide prevention, how to cope with day to day struggles, and how to build resiliency for dealing with long-term difficulties.
This website has resources compiled with the statistic in mind that up to 75% of college students with mental health issues don’t seek help. This resource also contains a catalog linking to the social service site of every state so that those looking can seek out mental health services if they so choose. Additionally, this resource also lists national organizations that sponsor support groups for those who might be experiencing stress or mental health issues in college.
This website is a great resource because it recognizes that graduate students have unique experiences from other types of college students, and thus may have different needs when it comes to their stress levels and mental health. It also recognizes that many graduate students have a family or other obligations that can make graduate school more difficult. This resource contains a short self-screening to check in on how you are doing mentally, and educates readers on why graduate mental health matters. For example, this resources states:
- Graduate student’s risk of anxiety and depression is 6 times higher than others not in graduate school.
- 32% of graduate students are at risk of developing depression or another common psychiatric condition.
However, this resource is a great tool because it goes on to discuss accommodations for graduate school students, such as tutoring, mentoring, a reduced course load, and extended deadlines. All of these can be helpful in reducing stress in students.
Stress in Graduate School Can Be Managed
Even though graduate school is difficult, it can be managed if you are able to develop the skills needed to manage your stress. Hopefully these resources will help you find what you need to prioritize your mental wellness to take advantage of the amazing opportunity that is graduate school.