15 Ways to Maintain Mental Health in Graduate School

stressed businesswoman with covered ears“Stress” may seem synonymous with “Grad Student”, but it is important to step back and ensure the health of your most vital organ–your brain.

Below is a repost of great article about maintaining your mental health throughout graduate school, with the 15 tips to take care of our mental health outlined specifically here.


Here is a by-no-means exhaustive list of 15 tips for how we can take care of our mental health and of those in the grad student community.

1.    Have open discussions with peers (both within and outside of school) about the perils of graduate school.

2.    Be honest with yourself and others. Are you doing what you want? Do you actually tell people how your degree is going when they ask you?

3.    Concentrate on your degree and take control of your destiny. Comparing yourself to others doesn’t help unless you learn from these people and take action towards your degree.

4.    Learn to say no.

5.    Take some quiet time to yourself. Do something you love or engage in meditation and mindfulness exercises.

6.    Seek help early from your colleagues, supervisor, counselor and/or doctor.

7.    Pay attention to your life outside of school. This includes financial, social, household, and personal hygiene maintenance.

8.    Eat well. GradHacker has written posts about how to eat well as a grad student on a budget. Scoping the internet for interesting food blogs or cool ideas can help make this a less stressful task.

9.    Exercise will help out with your mental health and also give you a break from your studies. Make sure you schedule it into your calendar like you would anything else.

10. Find ways to make your tasks more efficient. Make the effort to find systems that will make your life easier. David Allen’s Getting Things Done, using code to streamline processing, incorporating checklists into my data collections, and using an app called lift to keep track of daily non-school tasks work very well for me.

11. Eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary. Coulda, shoulda, woulda, didn’t. Dwelling on what you should have done in the past is of no use to your future. It also increases our sense of shame over perceived failures.

12. Educate yourself about common issues grad students face. Imposter syndrome, perfectionism, procrastination are a few things that you can educate yourself about early in your degree so you can spot the issues in yourself and others as you progress.

13. Educate your family and friends about common issues grad students face. If the people who are important to you know about the issues you may face, they can look out for you as well.

14. Confront your fears early. Hate giving presentations? Don’t let this fear fester. The earlier you deal with such fears the less time this fear has to build up and get worse.

15. Make sleep a priority.  

Article written by Kaitlin Gallagher. Kaitlin Gallagher is a PhD Candidate specializing in Biomechanics at the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo in Canada, and a permanent author for GradHacker. You can follow her on twitter at @KtlnG.

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