how to survive your first week in graduate school

  1. BREATHE.
    Remember that even though you’ve experienced 4 years of college, graduate school is a new experience.  Amidst learning a new schedule, meeting new people, figuring out professors’ expectations, and completing loads of assignments, I have to take a moment to myself each day to pause and just breathe.  Some days just stopping to catch my breath, counting the number of slow inhales and exhales, relaxes me.  Graduate school is stressful, but there’s something about consciously breathing in and out that reminds me that I’m alive!  I’m going to make it!  It’s a great way to pause and refocus before moving on to the next task in a list of many.
  2. SLEEP.
    Gone are the days of staying up until 1 or 2am and sleeping until 10 or 11am.  Gone.  Now, 12am is a late bedtime for me, and sleeping until 8:30 or 9 is a luxury.  Honestly, I’m more okay with that than I thought I would be.  Completing tasks in the morning and early afternoon gives me a sense of accomplishment.  Waiting the night before an assignment was due never gave me that.
    Sleeping on a regular schedule actually reduces stress.  Yes, I know that people have told me this for years, but I’m finally realizing it.  Perhaps I’m a slow learner at times, but now that I’ve got this routine down, I feel indescribably better.  Sleep is now something that I look forward to, as opposed to a burden.  Getting a good night’s rest is crucial in graduate school.  The days will be long and miserable after a poor night’s sleep.coffee
  3. EAT.
    …don’t just eat–eat well.  Okay, okay, so I’m still trying to cut out those sodas at dinner and the fast food junk when I’m in a jam.  BUT eating well boosts energy and overall attitude.  Snacks that are high in protein have become a staple for me.  I keep almonds in my desk drawer at work; I’ll throw some low-sodium jerky in my purse for a snack; greek yogurt with fruit and granola is quickly becoming a favorite; and peanut butter will always be my protein comfort food.  I can definitely tell a difference in my attitude and energy level on days when I forget my snacks.  Nobody wants a tired, grumpy graduate student, so handy snacks are a must.
    Oh, and breakfast is ALWAYS a good idea.  My Keurig is great, but the caffeine from the coffee is not going to last.  Muffins, breakfast bars, fruit–a must.  I never thought I’d become a believer in breakfast, but I’ve been converted.
  4. READ.
    Do the assignments.  Do them ahead of time.  Plan every hour of every day and squeeze in reading time whenever possible.  I print out articles and carry them around in my purse.  I carry my books to the office and read between appointments.  I read over breakfast, lunch, and usually dinner.  I read constantly, it feels like.  Sometimes the professors cover the material and sometimes they talk about something entirely different.  Either way, completing the reading gives me a better idea of what to expect in class and enables me to answer questions and discuss things with the class.

cantsintocans

That’s the best advice I have, and just to be honest, I typed it out mostly for my own benefit.  My lifestyle changed drastically in the past three weeks, and it’s a good change.  This post will serve as a reminder to keep it up when I feel like giving in.

My first couple of weeks of class have been stressful, it’s true, but they have been overwhelmingly good.  Even though the work is never-ending, I am thankful to finally be able to focus on school psychology.  I’d rather read 5 articles and upwards of 10 chapters a week about school psychology than have a smaller load of gen. ed. classes.

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