Stress is an unavoidable part of life. Yet, you would not want to live completely without it, because then there would be no challenges to help you grow. There are many situations which can cause you stress in graduate school, such as taking/teaching classes, examinations, frustrations with your research, finances, and your personal life. Besides the online resources and books in the next section, here are some proven strategies that you can use instantly to help you manage the stressful situations in your life:
1. Keep a journal & write about your stressful situations
When you write down what is bothering you, it will be easier to figure out solutions to your problems. Writing about your worries will help you pinpoint what exactly you need to do and come up with an action plan.
2. Connect with your support network
Fortunatel, most of the problems that you encounter in graduate school have been solved by someone before you (except for some research-related problems, possibly), so it usually helpful to reach out to professors, other graduate students and possibly counseling deans.
3. Resolve conflicts by talking to people directly
If a personal conflict is the source of your stress, it is best to talk to that person directly. In some cases, it might be helpful to discuss your issues with friends and coworkers beforehand, or whoever you think might be the most helpful. Remember that conflicts are best resolved in person. Email is generally not appropriate for discussing sensitive information, and frequently it can lead to even more misunderstandings.
4. Take regular breaks during work
If you are in the experimental sciences, your experiments might dictate your work and break schedule. On the other hand, if you spend most of your days reading and writing (particularly during the writing of your thesis), it is very tempting to work for several hours straight without taking breaks. It turns out, however, that taking regular breaks during work will help you in several ways. Many students find that alternating 45 minutes of work with 15 minutes of break is a good way to keep their mind fresh and focused throughout the day
5.Exercise and pursue your hobbies
Exercise was one of the top two strategies cited by former students to help them beat stress. One student recalled going swimming after a particularly tough day in the laboratoty (she made a mistake that ruined a week's worth of work), and feeling absolutely refreshed as she came out of the pool. Another student played the trumpet in a jazz band on weekends, which was his way of relaxing as well as connecting with friends.
6. If the stress becomes overwhelming, seek help from a medical professional
Relaxation, exercise and socializing with friends are great ways to overcome stress, but in some situations you might need more help. If your stress becomes too difficult to handle, seek help as soon as possible. Your primary care physician might be able to recommend an appropriate support group or another professional who works closely with graduate students.
Looking for ways to feel more fulfilled and less stressed during graduate school?
If you want to connect with other graduate students, try these discussion boards and stress-relieving resources:
Wishing you the best,
Dora Farkas, PhD, Founder, PhDNet