Attempts to Survive Grad School

Now that I’m two months into PA school, I’ve compiled a list of things that have been somewhat helpful. They range from keeping your brain to your body sane, increasing movement and abandoning expectations. I hope it’s helpful / if you’re in a similar program, feel free to leave things that have been helpful for you in the comments section! PS. plz note the title of this post begins with the word “attempts.” I definitely don’t have it all figured out, and I’m continuing to learn as I go.

  • bike to class
  • get a grounding mat. Grounding mats are all about reconnecting with the earth as a means to promote energy. I started sleeping with one and no joke I genuinely started sleeping better and through the night. I’ll also sometimes bring it to class to rest my hands on.
  • use elastic bands while sitting and studying. booty work during the brain work.
  • walk in between classes, even if just for 10 minutes
  • meal prep!!!! This is seriously so pivotal. Having a yummy lunch or dinner to look forward to every day does so much.
  • schedule breaks throughout the day – 1 hour grocery shopping, home and study, 1 hour cooking, home and study, 1 hour walking, study
  • organize supplements for the week in pill container
  • bring a tennis ball / lacrosse ball to roll out tight muscles during class
  • get up and stand in the back of class
  • try to do even just 10 minutes of yoga on your lunch break to stretch out muscles
  • do hip openers in your chair – look up chair yoga poses
  • get a desk ellyptical for under your desk at home
  • go to a chiropractor! get adjusted during your new adjustment period getting used to your routine
  • bring an acupressure mat to class
  • get a good planner – the happiness planner
  • meditate for 10 minutes every morning
  • keep your space clean, minimal, and have a few low maintenance plants
  • get essential oils that stimulate focus and memory: rosemary, clary sage, basil, lavender
  • have a list of words to keep you motivated
  • make a friend text you every few days to check in on you
  • schedule a massage after a psychotically hectic week
  • keep a cocokind matcha stick in the refrigerator and apply it under your eyes when you feel super stressed or crazy. Feels so relaxing I’m convinced it instantly plummets cortisol levels.
  • try to free yourself of the idea that you have to keep to a rigid schedule: you may find that some days you prioritize some things more than other things. somedays I make it a point to awake up a half hour before class to take a walk. other days I just really fu**ing need to sleep. And others I need to get up study. Sometimes I try to study in the afternoons and other times I’m so fidgety that I just need to get up and go run or lift weights to release stale energy. Things don’t fit into compartmentalized time slots as neatly as we would like. And that’s okay. Take it day by day and try to adjust in the moment rather than being disappointed when you plan something so precisely and it just doesn’t work out. Prioritize two things you need to do that day and try to do those.
  • make quizlets for your classes and do them during lag time: on the bus, waiting for a friend – just five minutes here and there really makes a difference
  • rather than finding a chunk of time to meditate – take two or three minutes throughout the day to just focus on breathing: 5,7,8 breathing or meditation here and there really helps me reset throughout the day and prevents large waves of stress at the end of the day
  • listen to lecture recordings on long walks: we have tegrity for my program but you could also just buy a recording device and listen back
  • don’t save all your human duties for one day: laundry Friday, 1/2 meal prep Saturday, 1/2 Sunday
  • bring your notes / notecards on a treadmill and walk while you read them
  • home workouts I like: alexia clark, christine salus (on youtube), kayla itsines, physique 57 – these all require minimum equipment / time
  • keep words next to your desk that make you remember WHY you’re going through such a grueling schedule – courage, gladiator, transparency are mine
  • keep a crystal on your desk. I’m not entirely sure if there’s any science behind crystals at all. But just envisioning your negative energy because melted away or slurped up from the crystal is therapeutic imagery.
  • keep plants in your room – ones that are super low maintenance that don’t require much watering 
  • buy yourself flowers. treat yourself fancy.
  • make it a point to do one thing non-school related thing on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, even if just for two hours
  • park your butt really far away from the bathroom when you go to the library to increase walking time
  • remember the things that make you HUMAN – for me that’s a yoga class or going for a walk or staging photos for instagram or my blog or dancing. These are the thing that make me feel unique and impactful – try not to let them be entirely eliminated despite not having as much time for them anymore. Envision as your non-negotiables, as you’ll likely deteriorate quite quick if you put a halt on them.
  • surround your self with really absurdly inspiring people – feed off of their energy to keep you going on particularly challenging days
  • DRINK TEA – especially at night or if you get home and are just so tried and feel compelled to eat a bunch of junk. Drink one cup of tea and take a few deep breaths before doing anything else. 
  • start celebrating the small wins – the small wins start to feel very big. write them down, text them to your mom. for example, catching the bus you wanted to. finding a way to run up and down some stairs during your lunch break. those are amazing! and that’s the stuff that keeps you going throughout the day
  • don’t be afraid to cry. break down, release energy. it’s cathartic. and sometimes you need that outburst to allow you to move on and keep trudging through.
  • have a therapist on speed dial – don’t way for tragedy to make moves to have someone who can help you. have them in your back pocket so that when something does strike, you have the resources to try to handle it. start trying therapists out when you feel well, so that you know you like them when you start feeling unwell.
  • you don’t have to do it alone and you can’t do it alone – lean on your classmates, your parents, your friends, your significant others and tell them when you’re about to freak the fuqqqqqq out. ask them to make some sweet potatoes for you. ask them to throw in your laundry. ask them to work out a knot in your upper back. ANYTHING.
  • write a letter to yourself why you are putting yourself through this absolute misery to remember the big picture and read it on days when you just want to give up
  • keep a broader perspective – read the news, subscribe to national geographic magazine, participate in a charity event, volunteer – the world is bigger than what you are studying and there are way larger issues going on in the world
  • don’t judge yourself for the mean thoughts that may arise: fraud syndrome, i can’t do this, why did they let me in, do i deserve to be here? in those moments picture stroking yourself like a puppy. it’s okay. you’ve done the hard work so far. you deserve to be there. the rest is just maintenance.

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8 Responses

  1. THANK YOU FOR THIS. I’m in Nursing school right now and this is so helpful. My biggest thing is focusing on the long term goal. It gets me through!

  2. I love this list. I am working on studying for the GMAT right now and applying for an MBA and I will be working full time while doing an online program. I know I will need words of encouragement to remind myself why I am doing it. Already right now it’s frustrating studying for the GMAT and I’m hoping to do better on it than I did 5 years ago. It will be worth it though and I am trying to do smaller study breaks like 30 min in the morning and an hour after work and practice tests on the weekend. It’s good practice for when I will have studying and homework to do.

  3. This suggestions were so good to read. It made me feel human! I’m in an accelerated dual masters program and your Instagram stories give me life when I’m trying to catch the train, spill coffee on me, or just need some encouragement. T H A N K Y O U ! ! !

  4. Thank you so much for this encouraging post! I’m currently in grad school and still working part time, which can be so stressful. I just put my matcha stick in the fridge and ordered an acupressure mat to hopefully relieve some tension! Thanks again for the tips. Good luck in your program!

  5. Wow, I can’t even imagine how difficult your grad program must be! I can definitely still apply these tips to my own life, though. The grounding mat sounds really interesting, I’ve heard of it but never tried it. Would love to a sleep experiment. Also the matcha stick! That sounds perfect for late nights of homework. Thank you!!

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