BrainWaves: The Neuroscience Graduate Program Newsletter

Self-Care for Graduate Students (and why its important)

AUTHOR: Patricia Al-Salom

Maintaining a little self-care is important for both your health and productivity. With all the research responsibilities, teaching assistantships, academic writing and other commitments that graduate students have to dedicate their time to, it is often forgotten to take a little bit of time for you. I’ve got some tips for you on how to maintain your mental well-being which is an essential component for thriving in graduate school.

1) Maintain a healthy diet 

It is difficult to eat balanced, scheduled meals as a graduate student. When you are running from meeting to meeting with little time in between, it may be tempting to skip lunch or just grab a candy bar. Be sure to make meal times a priority - it is important to get the nourishment you need (to help fuel those sodium-potassium ATPases!) I keep an apple and granola bar in my purse at all times. 

2) Get enough sleep 

I know several graduate students who go through weeks of functioning on only four hours of sleep a night. Try to have a fixed sleeping schedule - this can help with difficulties falling asleep and re-set your circadian rhythm. Also, avoid coffee 4-6 hours before going to sleep (I know this one is difficult!). I opt for chamomile tea after 8 pm. 

3) Engage in hobbies or activities that you love 

Make sure to enjoy an activity other than school work at least once every few days: reach out to a friend, play a sport you love or paint a picture. A great way to do this is to join us at our SOMA social events! 

4) De-Stress! 

Too much stress has been linked to a lack of productivity. The Yerkes-Dodson Law tells us too much stress/arousal actually decreases performance. Meditation and/or yoga are great ways to relieve stress by using deep breathing and acceptance techniques. I practice this every day and it has definitely helped me remain calm even during high-stress times. 

Remember, your mental health is a priority. Make it a scheduled commitment to dedicate some time to yourself at least once a week! 

If you are feeling overwhelmed and need help beyond my tips, make sure to reach out to your supervisor or the Student Wellness Centre (MUSC B101) on campus. They are always here to help!