Grad school is a balancing act—and a stressful one at that. School, work, research, reading, writing, friends, and family are all vying for your attention, and prioritizing your health will really help you in the long run. Here are a few tips for maintaining your health in grad school and staying on top of your game.
Find a Routine.
First and foremost, everything should be worked into your daily routine. You probably already have a set routine for your studies and work, but it’s equally important that you develop a routine for your overall mental and physical well-being. Having a wellness routine will help make sure you get enough sleep, eat well, and get some exercise on top of all the other responsibilities demanding your attention. Working these things into your daily routine will make them almost habitual. Although, with the way many grad students’ schedules work out, you may find times when you let your routine fall to the wayside to make room for other more important priorities. Don’t let that stress you out—having a little flexibility with your routine won’t derail all of your efforts to stay healthy.
Studies have linked exercising not just to higher energy levels and better health, but also to changes in the brain that improve memory and thinking skills. Your university, college, or school probably has recreation facility on campus, so take advantage of it! It’s most likely free for students and offers great amenities like exercise machines, personal training, and group exercise classes that will fit into your schedule and help you stay on top of your health. Whether it’s simply taking a walk or going to the gym, exercise is good for your body--and your graduate studies.
Eating well should be at the top of the list. You may think this is nearly impossible on a tight grad-student-stipend-supported budget. By doing things like shopping at local farmers markets, buying in bulk, and spending a little time in the kitchen, you can eat nutritious, filling meals while cutting costs. Cooking at home is incredibly cost efficient and you have better control over what kind of food you’re eating, and learning some new skills in the kitchen can be a relaxing distraction from your academic responsibilities. Plus, leftovers are a wonderful thing when you have a busy week coming up with no time to cook. Fruits and vegetables are also incredibly important to a nutritious diet, but they can be one of the more expensive items on your list. To eat fresh on a budget, buy what’s in season. Not only will it be at its cheapest price, but it’ll also be the highest quality.
Get Enough Sleep.
There are 24 hours in a day and everyone needs 8 more to sleep. Building sleep into your routine will help you make sure that you get an adequate amount. Most people would sacrifice sleep over anything else in their day to make room for another task they deem important, but sleep deprivation can do some real harm in the form of decreased cognition, which will affect your memory, alertness, and decision-making skills—in turn influencing the quality of your work. Lack of sleep also makes you more susceptible to catching any viruses that may be circulating around campus—and you don’t want to be in the lab while you’re nauseated. Also, falling asleep mid sentence isn’t the best way to get that thesis done.
Finding a routine and sticking to it is key to keeping your research up and those numbers on the scale down. As you build these things into your daily routine, they’ll soon become second nature, and you’ll start to reap the rewards that come from that restful sleep, good food, and brain-improving exercise.