Warmest Greetings, Graduate Students!
We know that the demands of grad school can be overwhelming, and that personal wellness is one of the most overlooked aspects of training in graduate education. In response, we are thrilled to introduce you to a new E-tool created to better support your health and happiness. The Grad Wellness Link aims to connect you to the resources you need to maintain your personal wellness during grad school.
Top 7 Stressors of Grad School, and how to overcome them:
1) Academic Progress and Future Career Prospects
2) Financial Stress
3) Poor Sleep Quality
Sleep quality is one of the strongest predictors of well-being in graduate student populations, and was the #1 predictor of depressive symptoms in a recent UC Berkeley study. Poor sleep quality can result in fatigue, depression, and concentration problems. Poor sleep also causes increased cravings of sugar and unhealthy fats the following day (because of its effect on hormones that regulate hunger and metabolism). Don’t have much time to sleep? That is okay- the quality of sleep is more important for health than the number of hours slept per night. Learn simple ways to ‘Sleep Smarter’ tonight! To start:
- Make it a mandate to turn off all screens a full hour before bedtime. Download this free blue light blocker for your computer if you have to work late.
- Set the temperature in your room between 67⁰ and 69⁰ F. Have a caffeine curfew of no later than 4pm.
- Use a high quality magnesium supplement before bed. Mandate exercise in your day. This is MUST for productivity, sleep, and stress release.
Check out these hacks to build fitness into a grad student lifestyle (Refuse to use “I don’t have time” as an excuse. Exercise is a requirement for longevity in graduate school, not an option!)
4) Isolation & Loneliness
The nature of graduate work can be very isolating. You are spending long hours and late nights researching a specific micro-niche of science that nearly no one else understands. Even if you are in a lab, the independent nature of your work can make you feel alone in a crowded room. To alleviate the pain of isolation:
Look for fellow grad students to live with through off campus housing - other graduate students can relate to what you are going through.
If you have a family or kids, block out specific time to invest in your relationships. See the policies, resources and activities for graduate students with families.
Network with people in your scientific community. If you have written a literature review, you know the experts in your field. Reach out with a question to make contact. Also, attend as many conferences as you can and learn to put yourself out there while you are there.
Learn how to find friends and form meaningful relationships. It may take a little time, but there are ways to develop meaningful relationships with people in your area with a little intention. Having at least one person you can feel comfortable around is a necessity for surviving in graduate school. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable (other people are probably feeling the same way you do).
Connect to your graduate student community in one of the incredible organizations below!
5) Advisor Relationships
Ask your advisor to communicate their specific expectations of you and your work. Establish clear processes for communication, check ins, and evaluation of academic work. Consider having conversations about your career goals, work / life issues, personal health concerns, or academic stressors. As an advisee it is important to be honest when you are struggling with your project and communicate it early on. The more transparency with your advisor the better. For support in navigating advisor relationships, connect with Jim Wohl, the Ombudsman, or Cinnamon Adams, the graduate student advocate. Know there are always options to change advisors if you feel you need to - speak to the graduate school for more information.
6) Poor Physical Health
Taking care of your body is the foundation of well-being and stamina in graduate programs.
If there was one ‘magic pill’ for staying healthy in grad school, it’s exercise! Unfortunately, almost 85% of UConn Grad Students are not getting enough! Do you feel there is not enough time to exercise?
Physical signs of a good nutritional status are having a healthy weight for your height, good digestion and elimination, bright eyes, and good posture. Other signs of good nutrition are mental stamina and the ability to stay focused, stay attentive, and stay calm.
If you feel energetic and vibrant when you wake up, you’ve had a night of restful sleep. If you feel tired and unenthusiastic, you haven’t had restful sleep.
7) Fear of Failure of Fraud
Fear of Failure or Fraud - Just by being a UConn graduate student means you are already intelligent, high achieving, and deserving to be here. However, many first year graduate students feel unprepared for the rigor of schooling. They step into their first seminar where their peers are quoting terms and theorems that they never heard of. They wonder when people will find out they are not smart enough to be there! This is best termed the imposter syndrome! Many graduate students and faculty in academia share these same fears. Imposter Syndrome often leads graduate students to overwork and can possibly lead to burnout. Ways to overcome Imposter Syndrome and to combat imposter syndrome feelings, talk to fellow students about how you feel! Also, let your advisor know where you may be struggling, and ask for help in the areas you need. Accepting your limitations and asking for help is sometimes the best way to grow.