Nov 2, 2021 | Atlanta, GA
As the end of the semester approaches, you might be feeling overwhelmed as you try to juggle coursework, research, and your personal life.
“Graduate students have unique wellness needs,” said Tiffiny Hughes-Troutman, the director of the Center for Assessment, Referral, and Education (CARE). “It can be easy for you to feel isolated in your lab or place of work. If you’re struggling, we want you to know that you’re not alone.”
From counseling and clinical opportunities to social activities, Georgia Tech offers a number of resources to assist if you’re feeling stressed. Read on for five of Hughes-Troutman’s tips for a mental health refresh.
1. Stay connected with your community. With all the pressure to succeed, the graduate student experience can be very isolating. But researchers have pointed out in the Annals of Behavior Medicine that people who lack social interaction are more likely to experience high levels of stress. Hughes-Troutman encourages you to visit the Engage@GT website to find virtual and in-person opportunities to connect with other students. Volunteer, check out different student organizations, take an online fitness class through the CRC, or enjoy virtual board games with friends through apps like Tabletopia and TableTop Simulator. Graduate students of color and international students can also find community through affinity circles and groups at www.counseling.gatech.edu.
2. Keep daily routines consistent. As the semester gets busier and busier, it can be easy to let your routines slip. But, benefits of a consistent schedule include decreased stress, better sleep, and increased levels of happiness. “Routine is important because when we regulate our actions, we take control of them and feel less overwhelmed,” Hughes-Troutman said. “Create a schedule that incorporates time for reflection, physical activity, connecting with others, sleep, nutrition, and daily work. And stick to it!”
3. Practice self-compassion. “Thoughts like ‘I have to do it all’ and ‘I need to know it all’ make it difficult to give yourself space and flexibility to grow,” Hughes-Troutman said. “Practicing self-compassion means being good to yourself, forgiving yourself, and giving yourself space to just be you.” To foster self-compassion and deal with imposter syndrome or perfectionism, Hughes-Troutman recommends taking advantage of mindfulness and heartfulness classes through Tech’s Meditation Club or Health Initiatives’ Mindful Monday guided meditations. She also advises carving out “thinking time” through daily journaling of your feelings to become aware of the thoughts that need to shift toward self-compassion.
4. Focus on prioritizing. “Graduate students are tasked with so much personally, professionally, and academically, that it can seem like everything is a necessity,” Hughes-Troutman said. “But, it’s important to prioritize to boost productivity.” If you’re feeling overwhelmed, she recommends breaking things down into micro steps by writing down priorities for the day, blocking calendar time to check email, and handling tasks that take two minutes or less immediately (the “two-minute rule”). This will help you identify what can be delayed or possibly delegated and what you prioritize. “Getting the thoughts out of your head and on paper clears your mind, clarifies your goals, and helps to motivate you,” Hughes-Troutman said. “That will give you a more objective approach to your priorities.”
5. Ask for help. “Everyone needs help from time to time, and many students benefit from the educational and clinical opportunities we offer on campus,” Hughes-Troutman said. “If you find yourself having persistently disturbing or negative thoughts, feeling hopeless, or simply not bouncing back to your usual self after trying out these suggestions, then seek professional help.” CARE is the primary point of access for mental health and wellness at Tech, and Hughes-Troutman encourages students to start there for information on resources offered through Health Initiatives, the Counseling Center, the CRC, Stamps Health Services, and other offices on campus. Each student who goes to CARE receives a CARE plan listing of on- and off-campus resources they can take advantage of. To make an appointment, call CARE at (404) 894-3498.