Surviving Graduate School: Finding Time for Yourself

By: Heather Wiles

So, here I am, staring a pile of books, articles, research papers, and presentations that are quickly accumulating on my “to do” list and thinking to myself that there is no possible way I will get all of this done on time. There goes another two hours of sleep every night or maybe I’ll just only shower once every three days. Yea, that could work. My hair is pretty dry anyway….ugh what have I gotten myself into!? This is what I wanted…. isn’t it?

Of course it is! This is my dream; this is my future career. I’ve wanted nothing more than to be a Genetic Counselor since I was in high school! Let me tell you, being a graduate student isn’t easy, but honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way! These past 6 months has been the happiest and most exciting time of my life. I thrive on productivity and I’m motivated by a tight schedule. I feel like I was born for this type of program. With this being said, I think it’s important to point out that I am not a robot or machine. I can’t work 24/7 and not burn out. Want to know my secret? The key to not drowning in the tsunami wave that is work is to find time for myself.

During grad school you will learn a lot about yourself, your personal limits, and your own successful coping mechanisms. I think it’s good to reflect upon these before entering school so that you have a baseline for your own burn out point. Here are some things that work well for me.

Take joy in the little things: Self- care

You may not have a few hours every week to go to the spa and indulge, but you can take some time here and there to achieve similar effects at home. I never knew the simple joys of a hot shower on tense muscles until this year. Likewise, a warm bubble bath and some soothing music does wonders for my worries. Even things like painting my nails or giving myself a facial are extremely satisfying. Self-care isn’t just about looking good though. It consists of a health balance between the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual parts of who I am. It seems obvious, but even going to the gym and working out is a type of self-care. Likewise, taking the time to practice my spiritual beliefs helps soothe my anxieties. Unfortunately self-care tends to be the first thing to go when my schedule gets crazy. I’ve learned that for my peace of mind I have to make it a priority. All of these things help me feel better about myself and ultimately perform better in classes and clinic!

Keep Doing the Things You Love

Whether it’s running, painting, going to concerts, taking dance lessons, or going to plays, don’t give up the things you love just because you are in grad school. Sure, you may not be able to do them as often as you used to, but looking forward to a craft day or a concert that is in a few months can be phenomenal motivational tools.

Explore the City

No matter where life takes you, it’s always a good idea to open your eyes to all the city as to offer. Here in Atlanta, I’ve found that one of the best parts of the week is brunch! Along with other classmates, I take the time to explore all the little neighborhoods for the best brunch spots. I have yet to meet a pancake, omelet, or cup of coffee that I didn’t like. Each area of the city has its own vibe and energy that need to be felt and explored. Another passion of mine is music and there definitely isn’t a shortage of that in Atlanta. Whether it’s at Piedmont Park, the Fox Theater, or a random dive bar, you can always find amazing artists and a great atmosphere. Don’t like being cooped up inside? Go to one of the many parks in the city, go hiking at Stone Mountain, tubing on the river, or even go camping at one of the dozens of sites surrounding the city. There is a little of something for everyone!

It’s really all about finding what you love and taking a break from the hectic world to do it. This can be difficult to do as you try to find the delicate balance between schoolwork, sleep, and sanity. Just remember, this is a very exciting time in life! You’re embarking on a whole new pathway on the journey of life. If you haven’t ever thought about it before, take a moment to just think about all the things you do that help keep you happy, calm, and successful; you might just be surprised by what you learn!

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