You're facing final exams and term papers. Which of these statements will describe your next few weeks best?
Value yourself. "We are human beings first and foremost, before we are psychologists-in-training," APAGS Chair Kristi Sands Van Sickle, PsyD, wrote in her September 2006 column. "To function at our best, we require the same things our research and clinical experience tell us that our subjects and clients require." So carve time out of your schedule to get exercise and eat right. Our March 2005 "Survival of the fittest" story will tell you how.
Give yourself a break. Have realistic expectations for what you can juggle, advised former APA president Diane F. Halpern in a March 2005 story. You can't do it all, so choose the things that are most important. Set aside time to take a shower, but you can probably put off scrubbing the floor or changing your car's oil for a week or two.
Get organized. Make to-do lists every morning and then do the most important item first--leaving yourself no time to procrastinate, recommended University of Scranton psychology professor John Norcross, PhD, in our March 2005 cover story. For big projects, break the work into pieces by setting deadlines for each step.
Keep work and life balanced. However pressing your academic obligation may be, time with loved ones is still important--especially if you're a parent. Vanderbilt psychologist Richard McCarty, PhD, told gradPSYCH that, as a student, he learned to plan his time on campus down to the minute so that he still had time to spend with his four children, who were all born during his graduate school and postdoc years.
Turn to those who understand. As much your family and friends may try to help, sometimes they don't appreciate the pressures of graduate school, wrote APAGS Associate Executive Director Carol Williams-Nickelson, PsyD, in a recent column. Her suggestion? Band together with fellow students. Group dinners, babysitting exchanges and study groups can all consolidate resources and free up time for self-care.
Finally, if you're still feeling overwhelmed come crunch time, think about what you can do next semester to avoid overcommitment. And consider sharing your newfound self-care wisdom with others. For example, students at Arizona State formed a group to provide psychology doctoral students with monthly activities aimed at improving their nutrition and decreasing stress.
-D. Smith Bailey
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