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Mental Health in Grad School: How to Survive

mental health

Getting accepted to grad school can be a massive weight off your shoulders. You’ll finally be done with thinking about how many graduate schools to apply to or which programs you want to try. At last, you can get to the important part — actually starting your studies!

It’s exciting, and rightfully so. But, starting grad school can bring its own stresses.

Graduate school is a massive commitment that requires you to make some sacrifices. Earning your graduate degree means investing your time and money into your education. If you already have an established career, you might have to leave that behind to pursue your studies full time. You may even have to say goodbye to your work-life balance.

Going to grad school means you’ll be beyond busy, which can mean you’ll have much less time to do things you enjoy. Sure, grad school can take you on a journey to success, but at the same time, it may also bring you levels of stress you won’t know what to do with.

Add all of those up together, and you may just find your mental health tanking. So how exactly can you survive?

Mental Health in Grad School

Understand that feeling like an impostor is normal.

Impostor syndrome is a very real thing. You may feel as though you don’t belong or like you aren’t good enough to be where you are. If you are dealing with these feelings, know that you are not alone.

There are a lot of things you can do to fight impostor syndrome. Common advice you might see is to stop thinking like an impostor — something that is easier said than done. You may also learn to separate your feelings and thoughts from facts.

Another thing you can do is to stop comparing yourself to others. Looking at someone’s achievements is great and all, but what you don’t see is all the stress and effort behind them.

Comparing yourself to others can exacerbate impostor syndrome and cause you to doubt yourself and your capabilities. It may cause you to limit yourself subconsciously despite your potential.

Put yourself first.

Your education is important, but so are you. Sometimes, you might need mental health days (or even weeks!), and there is no shame in taking them. Even if you have looming deadlines stressing you out, it may be wiser to take a step back and recharge. Consider taking regular or even frequent breaks while working — even if it’s just to play a quick game on your phone or look at cute animal pictures.

Celebrate even the small things. Appreciating minor achievements can help your mental health, especially if you’ve got a long way to go.

You are not alone.

Often, declining mental health can make you want to retreat into a deep hole and never come out. However, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are many tools available to you.

Talk to your peers or seek advice from your adviser. Spend some time with your family and friends. Seek therapy if you must.

It may also help you to keep some friends outside of grad school, so you have somewhere to go to get your mind off things.

Make time for yourself.

It can be difficult when there are so many things to do all at once, but this piece of advice is vital to helping you maintain your mental health.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s always a good idea to take a welcome break to do things you love. Find time for hobbies and socialization, even if it’s just a few hours a week. Another thing you can do is to involve things you enjoy in your life by finding ways for your interests to fit in with your daily routine.

Never work 24/7.

Even though you have tons of work to do, it’s never worth it to spend every minute of every day working. Making that deadline isn’t worth sacrificing your physical and mental health. Instead, find other ways to be more productive and manage your time more efficiently.

Wrapping Up

Grad school is stressful, and there’s no denying that fact. However, making yourself a priority is always essential to maintain your mental health. Breaks can help, no matter how short they may be and no matter what you do during them. Sometimes, even just stopping to hug a pet can recharge you enough to get back to work. It could also be a good idea to take a short walk or spend some time at a nearby park.

And hey, if you feel like working in bed in your pajamas for the day, go for it! Only you know what’s best for you, and when taking a mental day or week is the best thing you can do.