People say that if you are not stressed in graduate school, you are doing it wrong. Graduate students are often required to juggle class schedules with research, teaching, and job commitments, in addition to any other responsibilities that they might have. If you are one of the many students struggling to cope with the pressure of being in graduate school, then following are three tips on how you can transform the stress into career success.
• Stop panicking and get planning: If you feel the stress building up, take a deep breath, and try to figure out what is at the root of your anxiety– maybe it is a paper you have to write, or a code that you have to debug. Then break the task into smaller and more manageable action steps and write them down; for example it could be ‘read paper X as part of literature review’, or ‘write 100 word outline for the paper’. This way the task at hand will no longer seem like a mammoth undertaking. As you check off each of these smaller items on your to do list, you will get a sense of control, and the stress will make way for a feeling of accomplishment.
• Trust in your own abilities: While in graduate school, you are guaranteed to have bad days. Don’t let the negative experiences define you and your abilities. A key to success in graduate school, as well as in your career, is to not internalize failures but to learn from them. If things go south, instead of wallowing in self-pity, try to figure out what you could have done differently and take notes so that you don’t repeat those mistakes in the future. Then remind yourself about how awesome you are and everything that you have accomplished so far. You will find yourself ready for the next big challenge!
• Make time for self-care: While in graduate school, it might feel like you have too much on your plate to take any time off for yourself, but research shows that effective self-care is a very important part of increasing your productivity. Schedule time each week to hit up the gym, or to go to a yoga class, hang out with your friends over the weekend, or read a book that is in no way related to your research; it is okay to indulge in these little pleasures. They might feel like a waste of precious time that you could have devoted to your research, but it is actually an investment that is likely to make you more productive.
If you learn how to manage stress while in graduate school, you will have mastered an invaluable skill that will serve you well in your career, regardless of what path you choose. An employee who does not get bogged down by challenges, but knows how to handle them, is an asset to any employer. Also, you can talk about your strategies for stress management the next time an interviewer asks about how you managed a difficult situation. So crush the stress and get even more awesome!