Newhouse Insider: Maintaining Mental Health in Grad School

Alanna Powers

The past year has not been easy for anyone. Perhaps we are starting to adjust to a “new normal,” but it’s still a time that can feel very isolating, painful and overwhelming. Although Syracuse University has done a great job of allowing students to learn at their pandemic comfort level with hybrid and online classes, graduate school is still a stressful endeavor under any circumstance, let alone during a pandemic. Because of this, it is important that students make their mental health a top priority. Below are a few ways to make sure you are keeping your mental health in check:

Make Time for “Me” Time

Often, other conversations with my fellow classmates include this statement: “It’s like I’m always thinking about school and nothing else!”. We are all guilty of this, myself included. We chose to come to Newhouse because we are passionate about our communications studies, and this type of investment is hard to turn off. However, if we are constantly thinking about and working on our studies, we risk a burn out. Make sure to take some time for yourself and your other hobbies. In the end, time away from your studies will help you focus more in the long run.

Turn off the Screens

Chances are at least part of your class schedule has a Zoom component. Beyond class on Zoom, most of our homework is done through a screen. Even a lot our free time is spent scrolling social media or texting on our phones. All of this screen time can lead to headaches and exhaustion. When you can, make sure you walk away from the screens and become part of the real world. Try buying some of your textbooks as a paper copy, so you get a chance to peel your eyes away every now and again.

Take Care of your Body

In times of stress, it’s easy to neglect what our body needs from us. Make sure you are eating three meals a day and getting a good night’s sleep. Try to find an exercise that works for you. I have had a lot of luck with yoga — not only is it good for my body, but it also mellows my mind and calms my thoughts. There are plenty of other exercises that may work for you, such as walk or running, dancing or maybe even rock climbing.

Keep in Touch with Loved Ones

Taking the time and energy to talk with friends and family during lockdown times can be difficult, but it is necessary. Checking in with loved ones is a great way to better your mood and scratch that social itch so many of us have at this point. Hearing about someone else’s life and being able to talk about your own can be a huge stress relief.

Utilize Campus Resources

This past year has been emotionally difficult. Thankfully, Syracuse University’s Barnes Center at the Arch offers counseling to any student who needs it. The Barnes Center also offers resources such as meditation, a mind spa, Sanvello (an app that helps with stress management), and resources to learn how to cope during the pandemic.

Graduate school during a pandemic is not an easy feat. Keep in mind that mental health always comes before school and remember to be kind to yourself, and practice self-love.