There is no doubt that graduate school can be very stressful. Especially during the cold months of winter because of the winter blues or the seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that affects the mood of many. Numerous studies have reported on sources of overwhelming stress and anxiety experienced by graduate students are, but are not limited to be- “poor mentor-mentee relationships (Peluso et al., 2011; Evans et al., 2018; Hish et al., 2019; Liu et al., 2019; Charles et al., 2021), financial stress (Hish et al., 2019; Jones-White et al., 2020; Charles et al., 2021), and lack of work-life balance (Evans et al., 2018; Liu et al., 2019)” highlighted in a recently published article by Gin et al. 2021. As a graduate student, I have learned painstakingly to handle and manage stress and I want to share some tips or ways of relieving stress that works for me.
Make an extra effort to spend some time with friends, coworkers, or acquaintances every day (yes, even on a workday!). Getting lunch together, taking a walk together, watching a show together- simple activities like this helped me feel less isolated and refrained from thinking about stressful situations. Advice from one of my mentors is –“do something you like and do it religiously every day”. And for me, it was reading novels and some forms of exercise to get my heartbeat racing. It is so important to take some time apart from research, study, and work to invest time in something that makes you happy, engaged and stimulated.
Keep your stressors at a minimum. I must admit that I used to have a bad habit of checking and responding to emails after working hours. There is a nice article about the interference of Smartphone usage after hours by Derks et al., 2014. This can be solely avoided by exercising self-control to stop checking work emails (or slack messages!) after 9 pm. Get away from social media. Read several pages of a book (if you are a bookworm like me!) and a cup of tea (decaffeinated of course!) to help you wind down after a stressful day. It may be of interest to the readers to learn how to “Manage After Work Communication” written by Boswell et al., 2016.
It is daunting to speak about stress to your supervisor sometimes, in that case, find a healthcare professional or a counseling center (opt for a telehealth option that is fully covered by student insurance!) to talk about what you are going through. Last but not least, if you are towards the end of grad school, wrapping up your thesis or dissertation, writing a journal article, and/or proposal take advantage of the writing groups and workshops provided by the university. It was a great resource for me to get the support I needed during the very stressful times of finishing up graduate school.
Peluso, D. L., Carleton, R. N., & Asmundson, G. J. (2011). Depression symptoms in Canadian psychology graduate students: Do research productivity, funding, and the academic advisory relationship play a role? Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue Canadienne des Sciences du Comportement, 43(2), 119.
Evans, T. M., Bira, L., Gastelum, J. B., Weiss, L. T., & Vanderford, N. L. (2018). Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education. Nature Biotechnology, 36(3), 282.
Hish, A. J., Nagy, G. A., Fang, C. M., Kelley, L., Nicchitta, C. V., Dzirasa, K., & Rosenthal, M. Z. (2019). Applying the stress process model to stress–burnout and stress–depression relationships in biomedical doctoral students: A cross-sectional pilot study. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 18(4), ar51.
Liu, C., Wang, L., Qi, R., Wang, W., Jia, S., Shang, D., & Yan, S. (2019). Prevalence and associated factors of depression and anxiety among doctoral students: The mediating effect of mentoring relationships on the association between research self-efficacy and depression/anxiety. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 12, 195.
Charles, S. T., Karnaze, M. M., & Leslie, F. M. (2021). Positive factors related to graduate student mental health. Journal of American College Health, 1–9.
Jones-White, D. R., Soria, K. M., Tower, E. K., & Horner, O. G. (2020). Factors associated with anxiety and depression among US doctoral students: Evidence from the gradSERU survey. Journal of American College Health, 1–12.
Gin, L.E., Wiesenthal, N.J., Ferreira, I. and Cooper, K.M. (2021). PhDepression: Examining How Graduate Research and Teaching Affect Depression in Life Sciences Ph.D. Students, CBE—Life Sciences Education, 20 (3).
Derks, D. Duin, D.v., Tims, M., Bakker, A.B. (2014). Smartphone use and work-home interference: The moderating role of social norms and employee work engagement, 88 (1), 155-177.
Wendy R. Boswell, W.R., Olson-Buchanan, J.B., Butts, M.M., Becker, W.J. (2016). Managing “after hours” electronic work communication, Organizational Dynamics, 45 (4), 2016, 291-297.