Earning an advanced degree is a prestigious accomplishment for an educator. Its benefits of enhanced knowledge, increased pay, and invaluable connections are not realized without hard work and sacrifice. Grad school requires discipline and dedication. The investment that graduate studies require can easily lead to stress and anxiety. Although the experience is rightfully challenging, there are some ways that you can effectively combat graduate school stress.
Mentally Preparing to Start Grad School
It is important to mentally prepare to prevent school anxiety, particularly if you are teaching full time. Take time to prioritize your responsibilities and lighten your load where you can. If you sponsor school activities, for example, you may want to consider if letting such activities go is feasible for you. Graduate school will require a significant amount of your time. Determine what your non-negotiable responsibilities are and be willing to bow out gracefully from other responsibilities when you can.
Also, in graduate school you will have to perform a substantial amount of reading and writing, and you may be out of practice with collegiate coursework. Because the workload can cause graduate school stress, it would behoove you to brush up on these skills before starting your program. Taking time to read some academic literature and review or put to practice academic writing skills will help you prevent school anxiety later.
Tips for Combatting Stress During Graduate School
Set a Schedule
Setting a schedule and sticking to a routine will be crucial to your success. Block out time each week for working on assignments and reading. Break long term papers and projects down into smaller pieces, and work on them over time. Trust me, taking this advice will save you quite a few headaches.
Implement Strategies for Work-School Balance
Being a professional and graduate student can feel like a seesaw. When you are on top of your tasks for one role, you often feel that the other is suffering. Plan your courses with your work responsibilities in mind. Summers are a great time for educators to take courses, for instance. If you are a special educator like me, taking a lighter course load when IEP season is upon you will certainly relieve stress and anxiety. Furthermore, plan ahead for bigger undertakings such as major projects and grade submission deadlines.
Take Advantage of Breaks
When you have that rare downtime between deadlines, take advantage of that time and rest. Take time to recharge and relax during scheduled breaks between courses. It can be tempting to use this time to get ahead, but you will need mental breaks to prevent stress.
Reach Out for Support
Sometimes you need support from an outside source to combat the stress and anxiety that comes with graduate school. First off, remember that it is not just OK but wise to seek help when you become overwhelmed. Your classmates can be a great resource and understand your plight firsthand. Also, communicating with your professors for help with assignments can be helpful. Your school will have advisors and counselors who can help as well.