No matter how much you prepare by listening to more advanced graduate students complain or your college professors reminisce, graduate school tends to overwhelm everyone at some point.
The days are long and tiresome, but never seem quite long enough for every task to be completed.
The sleep is awful, and sometimes you feel guilty for choosing sleep over 400 pages of readings.
The food is expensive, but sometimes it’s the only chance you have to treat yo self
The never-ending committee meetings, the exhausting group discussions, the endless cycle of writing, editing, rewriting, restarting… it’s a dangerous combination that provides a stressful situation for even the most brilliant scholars. Now add all of that tension on top of your daily workout, the load of laundry that’s been in the dryer for three days, the new project at work, your husband or wife catching the flu, your dog randomly forgets he’s potty trained, and you’ve missed three calls from your mother. Life is hectic. You’re overwhelmed. You’re burnt out. Now what?
- Take a Break
I know – easier said than done. But putting down the books for an hour to watch a couple of episodes of The Office can completely lift your spirits. Your mind can only handle so many pages of information, so many different theories, and so many arguments for one idea. A hot bath won’t fix everything, but it can lower your stress long enough to clear your busy mind. Let your overwhelmed and overworked brain breathe for an hour. Let your exhausted eyes rest for just a while. Let your poor body relax for only a few minutes.
- Revisit Your Goals
Without an end in sight, the brain drain of graduate school can become dangerous. While mental health is a priority and your physical health is important, you cannot neglect your emotional health during such an challenging time. Reflect on why you started your advanced degree to begin with and consider the investments you have made. Consider that striving for a 4.0 while working 30 hours a week and finishing your independent study might not be attainable. Look back on why you are in the program you have chosen and remind yourself of the goals this program will help you achieve.
- Say “No”
You physically cannot take every opportunity and add it to your weakening plate. Signing up for every position will wear you down. Attending every social event will create the very stress they are intended to erase. Insisting on taking charge on every group project will burn you out. Focus on the opportunities that mean the most to you, your studies and your career. Everything else can wait. Say no
to the committee chairs and say no
As a graduate student, you are a member of the special group of individuals who are growing, learning, challenging, improving, developing, and questioning the world that everyone else operates in. They look to you to provide solutions to the issues that our society is unable to solve. They look to you to make a difference for the next generation. They look to you to lead us forward.
Grad student: please take care of yourself.
Georgia "Gandy" Osburn
Gandy is a first-year Master of Public Service and Administration student in the Bush School of Government and Public Service