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Taking care of one's mental health

5 posts in this topic


I read that graduate studies can be very solitary and difficult emotionally by nature. Also, its very competitive nature can be hard to manage. I know for myself that I am an over-achiever and that I can be prone to depression due to that. I just wanted to know, what are your tips to take care of your mental health and well-being throughout your studies?

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Relax.  Don't buy in to the culture of not only claiming a 70 hour work week, but masochistically wearing it as a badge of honor.  Settle into habits of work and mind that allow you to accomplish what you want to get done.  Measure your work by its quality, not the amount of time you can claim you spent on it.  Set realistic goals.  Take on manageable levels of department of service while learning when to say "no".    Stay connected to people around you.  Attend talks that have nothing to do with your dissertation.  Cultivate hobbies that have nothing to do with your dissertation.  Read books that have nothing to do with your dissertation.  Remember that a PhD is just one part of the life that you're living and that other things are also part of your life.  Don't let your PhD become your entire life.  Recognize that the system is designed in such a way as to make you feel perpetually behind and that the people who don't feel behind or under pressure are probably posturing.  Remember that you're not an impostor, you were accepted to your program because they believe in your potential.  Exercise.  Drink plenty of water.  Eat nutritious food.  Sleep when it's time.

Most of all, if your program offers you good health insurance or a counseling center - avail yourself of therapy when you need it - or perhaps before you need it.


Edited by jrockford27

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I had an unhappy and anxiety-filled MA, followed by about a year or two of depression. Now that I'm a few years away from that situation and diving back into a PhD, these are my plans for mental health: Friends both in and out of my field, and definitely non-grad school friends. Talk to at least one non-grad friend once a week. Take one full day a week off. Don't be ashamed to just read the intro and conclusion and then move on. Find a kind of exercise I enjoy and make time for it. Use a planner to chart my weeks to help me make sure I'm hitting the most important things. Find a show (live music, author reading, play, etc) to see once every two weeks. And Clonopin-- sweet, sweet Clonopin.  :*

Edited by rheya19

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It all depends on the environment of your program sometimes. Some programs are competitive and do not do collaborations, while others encourage it and want you to work together. Haha I had quite the grad experience that I will take with me into phd. I had a vice for every semester. One semester, I drank a lot. One semester, I was sleeping around (more than I usually do haha). One semester, I did both. And the last semester, I was a hermit and shut myself off socially.

Tips on taking care of your mental health: first, don't do what I did and have nearly destructive coping habits. Luckily, I didn't drink myself to the point of alcohol poisoning and I managed to maintain my healthy relationships with my long-term partner and other closer cuddle buddies, but I could see that potentially getting destructive if you have an addictive personality. Know how you cope and determine if those can potentially be destructive. If they can, try to find other ways to cope that are constructive like exercise or doing something creative like drawing, painting, coloring, writing (not work related), or seeing shows or something.

Second, find yourself a grad bestie. Cannot stress this one enough. Someone who is going through the same things you are, the one you can vent to about anything, ask for help, ask for favors, basically another you in grad school. It is way easier to go at this as a partnership rather than an every-man-for-themselves sort of deal.

I also echo what was previously said. Please eat and sleep. Write it down in your schedule if you have to. Take full 24 hours to do nothing related to your work. If you are feeling the early stages of burnout, take a break. You will encounter a feeling of "I should be writing" and maybe feel guilty for relaxing. If there is no deadline to it and you don't HAVE to do it for class or anything, then don't do it. Learn to say "no" to things.

Hope that helps!

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