Graduate school can be very stressful. Trying to juggle deadlines, part-time work, lectures and a personal life is no easy feat, and can make graduate school life seem overwhelming and even unmanageable at times. In fact, this can be so much so that graduate students can suffer from unhealthy levels of depression and anxiety as a result of the pressures of graduate school. A study conducted at University of California, Berkley graduate students even showed that 67% of students felt “hopeless” during their time as a graduate student and 54% of respondents claimed they had felt so depressed at grad school that they found it difficult to function.
However, grad school absolutely doesn’t have to be a depressing experience. There are many positive reasons why you should go to graduate school that make the stress worth it. Graduate school can open the doors for advancement in your career, an increased salary and provide the opportunity for you to become an expert in your field. It’s true that graduate school can be very time consuming and at times stressful, but there are many ways you can prevent depression and anxiety while you’re in graduate school. If you’re currently in graduate school and are suffering from symptoms of depression or anxiety, here are some tips that can help you beat the blues:
One of the worse ways to fight depression or anxiety is to simply ignore it. Accepting that you are suffering from anxiety or depression (or both) is the first step to recovering and regaining a healthy state of mind. Although you may feel embarrassed or even disappointed in yourself that you are suffering from one or both of these illnesses, it is important to know that most people suffer from one of these at some of their lives and that it is perfectly normal. In fact, research has even estimated that as many as 121 million people suffer from depression globally at any given time. Accepting it will allow you to recognize that you have a problem and that changes need to be made in order for you to feel better again.
If anxiety and depression are having a negative impact on your life, it’s essential that you seek help. Usually campuses and graduate programs offer some kind of counseling and services to students that are affected by mental illnesses, so you should be able to receive treatment at either no or very little additional cost to you. Talking about your feelings may sound daunting, but seeing a counselor or therapist could help you address your problem and help you find constructive ways to overcome it.
Feeling isolated and even lonely will allow your mind to wonder and ruminate, and you may find yourself feeling even more anxious or depressed. No matter how busy your graduate school schedule is, aim to socialize with friends and family at least a couple of times a week. Just touching base with a loved one or friend over coffee can do wonders and help you feel less alone in your struggle. If you’re a long way from home make an effort to make new connections on campus and within your graduate school program. Making new friends is always a challenge, but one that may prove to be worthwhile if it helps you feel happier and less isolated.
The endorphins that exercise release really can make you feel happier, and help you fight the symptoms of anxiety and depression. There’s likely a gym on campus that’s free to use for students or you could just try walking or biking to class each day instead of driving or using public transport. To really see improvements in your energy levels and mood management, aim to do some kind of exercise each day. Moreover, you could even ask a friend to join you in your fitness pursuits for some added support and motivation.
Exercise is great, but eating healthily is just as important. When you’re feeling sad or anxious, you’ll likely want to feed your pain with copious amounts of junk and comfort foods. Although these will feel amazing when consumed, they’ll do little to elevate your mood in the long run. A healthy diet, one that is balanced and contains lots of fruits and vegetables, can help you have more energy, which can help alleviate the common depression symptom of feeling exhausted. It can be tough to maintain a healthy diet when you have a busy graduate school schedule to attend to, but make the effort and you should soon be able to enjoy noticeable improvements in your energy levels.
Don’t Buy into the Doom and Gloom
A common concern of graduate students is that when they graduate they’ll be unable to succeed in life due to the harsh economic climate. It’s true that the modern graduate student does face more challenges than many previous generations, but this shouldn’t have to cause you excessive anxiety or depression. Try not to buy into the doom and gloom you see on the news and read about in the paper, as statistically those with graduate degrees or higher earn the most, and a graduate degree may give you that much sought after competitive edge when you seek work after graduation. Life is what you make it, so try not to let the current economic climate get you down.
Depression and anxiety can run rife in graduate school, but this doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to it. If you start to show symptoms of anxiety and depression, seek help immediately and use our above suggestions to help you get onto the road of recovery.