Stress is defined by the American Psychological Association as any uncomfortable emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological, and behavioural changes. We know that some stress can be motivational to help get through situations like deadlines; however, an extreme amount of stress can be psychologically and physically debilitating. Graduate students face a unique set of stressors, keep reading to find out more about key themes graduate students might face and strategies for managing them.
Key themes for grad students
- Relationships with advisors: Some advisors may have different expectations or styles of working than you are expecting.
- Major deadlines: You might find your stress level heightened around key dates like presentations, publications, or thesis submissions.
- Work-life balance: It can be hard to balance all the priorities you may have in school as well as your personal and family life.
- Isolation: Graduate student working environments can, at times, be prone to feeling isolated.
Strategies for dealing with common stressors
- Make sure that expectations are clear: This can include with your supervisor around deadlines, working styles, and level of involvement; but also with your partner or family at home. Open and honest communication is key to make sure that misunderstandings don’t occur.
- Set aside time for yourself: Working 24/7 can lead to burnout. So make sure to take some time for yourself each day to do something you enjoy, make a connection with someone you love or reflect and recharge.
- Create connections on campus and with colleagues: Join your graduate student society and network at events such as conferences to meet people in your field and going through a similar life experience.
Taking care of yourself
It is important to remember that you are not alone. If you are struggling, it is crucial to seek professional help, even if you believe that it is a temporary issue. Be aware of what is good for your physical and emotional health and take control. Find out the optimal workload and realistic pace to keep in order to complete your work in a timely manner and to help decrease burnout. Practice self-care daily to keep your stress in check, including:
- Keeping a regular sleeping pattern
- Eating healthy meals at regular intervals
- Trying to maintain consistent exercise levels
- Maintaining your social life and continuing to pursue your interests outside of your studies
- Spending some time each day to reflect, using methods such as meditation or gratitude journaling.
Identifying your signs of stress and having a plan for how to handle them, as well as practising self-care on a regular basis can have a positive impact on your academic success. To learn more about stress, key themes and problem-solving strategies for graduate students, and self-care, watch our Graduate Student Stress Management seminar on our YouTube channel.