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Grad School: The How-To Guide

By: Mery Arcilia, GMAC Graduate Student Aide 

As a second semester graduate student, I can’t believe I'm almost done with half of my degree. Time has gone by quickly and as I look back on the past months, I realize that I could have taken better care of myself. Let’s face it, grad school can be intense and stressful. You're juggling classes, work, activities, friends and career planning, which can get the best of you. I've also realized that I am no longer the peppy 19 year-old that I was in undergrad. There are consequences for not taking care of my body and mind that affect not only my personal life, but also my academics.

Luckily, this semester I have taken steps to ensure that I am balancing my life successfully. Oftentimes in grad school it can seem like time is simply a figment of your imagination, but the reality is that you need to prioritize your health. Here are some wellness tips that you might consider after making a commitment to yourself: 

  1. Get Moving. Have you noticed how many hours you actually spend sitting down during the day? I realized that I sit while I study, eat, work; when I'm in class, on the train, and at home. That’s A LOT of sitting. Now, I try to stand on the train and walk for a few minutes in between classes or work. The more obvious way to get moving is to exercise. I'll be the first to admit that it would be a miracle if I committed to a gym schedule. Instead, I looked for an activity that piqued my interest more and allowed me to try something new in NYC. I ended up purchasing a one month pass to a hot yoga studio, and I LOVED it. It was new, challenging and a great way to incorporate several of these tips. It provided a source of relaxation and I learned to meditate. Remember to make time for exercise, and don’t give yourself an excuse to bail. Working out increases endorphin levels, helps regulate sleep, and burns off extra stress (among countless other benefits)!
  2. Healthy eating. Healthy eating may be one of those seemingly obvious tips, but it really is vital. It's easy to forget how much food can influence your mood and productivity. Eating food that's good for you will have a tremendous impact on how you study and feel in general. In addition to food, remember to stay hydrated by drinking WATER. US News says: “this isn’t revolutionary advice, but it’s very relevant to college students. As they walk around campus, students lose more water than they realize, raising the risk of dehydration." Grab a reusable water bottle from the bookstore and bring it to class. You get to represent your school and stay hydrated!
  3. Meditation & Journaling. Throughout the day, I'm sure you wish you had someone to vent to, to help you think through an issue, or to just relax with. Learn to identify the signs of stress and anxiety so you can beat them the moment you begin to feel overwhelmed. One of the best ways I’ve found to manage my anxiety is to listen to the online relaxation audio provided by the Wellness Exchange.
    I also write a lot. As a grad student I write countless papers about how policy affects a certain issue. Even though I love my program and discussing these topics, sometimes it’s nice to write about a non-academic subject. I keep a log of what I did in a day so that I can meditate on what happened. Journaling allows me to look back and see how much I’ve grown in a short period of time and reminds me that the troubles of today will pass and I will be a stronger person for having overcome them.
  4. Counseling. On a similar note, I’ve slowly learned that sometimes you need to talk to someone who is completely outside of your circle and environment. They can serve as a sounding board to provide you with an understanding of the issue as an outsider looking in. As an NYU student, we have access to individual counseling sessions by appointment, drop-in sessions, and group sessions through the Wellness Exchange. They have been a tremendous help for not only myself but for many of my classmates. 
  5.  Social activities. Don’t forget to be involved and have fun! The experience of grad school will be enriched by getting to know the people sitting next to you in class. This semester, I got involved with my school’s student association, and next semester I'll be an even more active participant in the NYU Wagner community. Being involved with my school allows me to feel like I'm a part of something bigger than myself. It’s also fun to get together with peers outside of the library, whether for lunch or a drink after a long day. We all know grad school is a great time to network, but you can also make lasting friendships and relationships.