Every person who walks into graduate school begins with a phenomenal amount of energy, but towards the end we have depleted an exorbitant amount of energy from our life stores! At the same time that our life's energy is draining, our work load and responsibilities increase seemingly at a parallel rate.
See Below for a graphical representation:Credit: LenaJeanne
At some point we have to face life's responsibilities and this typically happens during graduate school. We get overloaded with situations such as: workload, new family, marriage, parents, work gets complicated, relationships, children, student loans, debt.
The next healthy step is to adjust by managing the stress, and perhaps even eliminating some of it all together. See below for some quick and easy steps on how to manage your stress while completely graduate school.
1. Reduce non-essential time wasting activities
It is understandable that you would like to keep up social appearances; however, you are now embarking on a journey that requires more attention than undergraduate classes ever did. Instead of impromptu parties, take specific planned "time outs" from work, such as a lunch time movie matinee to break up the day. My suggestion is to use your time with your friends wisely, like going for a Saturday brunch before you head to lab, or head in/complete graduate school work early so then you can take the evening off. Sometimes these non-essential events that have to be forfeited include a random cousin's/friend's wedding even.
2. Fulfill 6-8 hours of sleep every night
This sounds easy enough, but it seems to be the hardest for young graduate students. This may also include a nap from 6-7 pm. However, it occurs 6-8 hours of sleep every day is preferential. Sleep resets the mind and the body. It is when our body repairs itself. If you have trouble falling asleep, try 1.5 mg-3 mg of melatonin 2 hours before bed time. Having a bed time routine is important as well. This can include: a hot shower, lowering lights 30 minutes before bed, having a drink of water, and even reading book.
3. Keep caffeinated and sugar drinks to a minimal
Limiting energy drinks will help your body maintain it's natural healthy sleep cycle and keep your body on it's typical eating schedule. This is ESSENTIAL. Your body will function so much better if you keep a balanced diet, and reduce the amount of toxins you put in your body.
4. Plan your week/month
You MUST plan for everything, from the experiments you do this week, to your lunch, to your dinner, to who you talk to throughout the week! Once you plan your week/month make sure you STICK TO IT! This is important as well. It helps keep your work flow going as well as allows you some resemblance of a social life!
5. Get down and dirty
Whether this is exercise, or some bedroom exercises. Studies show that physical activity is just as important as sleep! We need it to keep our brains clear. I prefer long jogs and weight lifting. I know others who play golf, basketball, and even volleyball. Also, you will want to put physical activity in your planner too, so don't forget to pencil it in at least 30 minutes 3-5 times a week.
6. Have fun
The number one stress reliever all over the world is laughing. It seems simple, but well, sometimes we forget to laugh as responsibilities pile up. Whether the laughter comes from watching a movie, or seeing your favorite artist perform, reading a book, going to King's Island, or whatever else you can think of just learn how to enjoy yourself. I've seen graduate students who get so focused on work, they actually lose focus on work. This may not make sense, but when all you do IS work, that's what you become a big human sack of work! In order to be productive you must have a well-rounded life, and that includes just simple play time, so get out those fishing poles/baseball bats/gloves/golf clubs and get to enjoying the outdoors you graduate student you!
Let me know how these little pointers workout for you! Feel free to leave a comment!