Stress management skills are an essential part of a graduate student’s toolbox. Between classes, work, family and trying to maintain a social life, things can get overwhelming and lead to stress. An important first step in stress management is to identify the source(s) of your stress. Keep a stress journal and each time you feel stressed write down what you were doing, what happened and when it happened. Once you identify the source(s) of your stress you will be able to create a plan to deal with it effectively and not let it rule your life.
When identifying the sources of stress in your life, it’s important to recognize that while sometimes it is possible, you cannot always change a stressful situation or remove the source of stress from your life. It’s extremely important to understand that if the source of your stress is another person…you cannot “fix” that other person. We cannot change other people or control what they say or do. The one thing we can control is how we react and how we handle the situation.
Once you recognize the things that cause you stress it’s time to create your stress management plan. To do this, make a list of things that help you deal with or prevent stress in a healthy way. Here are some ideas:
• Be honest with yourself about how much you can take on at one time and either don’t exceed that or ask for help so you can
• Keeps lists of what you need to accomplish as well as a calendar so that you do not miss important deadlines
• Create a schedule for your coursework and plan for sufficient time for each of your graduate courses and stick to it so that you don’t get behind
• Give yourself breaks from school and/or work to spend time with your friends, family or by yourself
• Seek the advice and perspective of your professors and advisor
• Take the time to do things that you enjoy
• Find things that help you relax (listen to music, exercise, take a walk, etc.)
• Choose to have a positive attitude but also talk to someone about your stress…don’t bottle it up
• Before you go to bed at night jot down anything that’s on your mind so you don’t stay awake thinking about all of the things you need to remember to accomplish the next day
While we cannot get rid of stress we can strive to not let it overwhelm us. Create your list of things that will help you personally prevent and deal with stress in a healthy way. Don’t let stress get in the way of your success in graduate school. Instead, take control and manage the stress that is a normal part of being a graduate student.