Coping in Grad School

Most days of the week, and perhaps most hours of the day, grad school students have a somewhat enviable lifestyle. We have a few “meetings” (read: classes) per day and then, the other 22 hours are ours to do as we please. Here, you make your own schedule. Feel like staying up until 2 am reading? Your prerogative. Feel like a break at 11 am to go to the grocery store? Alright. Need a walk around the block to listen to a podcast/pilates break/read trash news? You can do that, too. 

Another benefit to grad school is the palpable sense that your brain is growing. I know I’m not adding more cells up there, but some days I swear I can see the first car pass on the newly paved, 4-lane highway between modern Latin American, 15th century women’s literature, and some overly-academic sounding critic we read sometime last semester. The car passes and the light turns on and suddenly it makes more sense

Unfortunately, this creative tension only comes when first, there was a topic that didn’t make any sense. Articles throw names, dates, and obscure cities at you faster than the locals throw tomatoes during La Tomatina. You can read for an hour-or two or three- and where normally, one might be overcome by feelings of productivity after such a task, you have only checked off two or three readings from one of your classes…and there are roughly 4,327 more pages to read.


So, how do you deal? First, call the Mother unit and the Significant Other and whine and be encouraged and FEEL RESOLVED and then, write a nice blog about it.

No, seriously. My high school physics teacher [a man who drove me nuts at the time, but probably the only one who ever prepared me to learn things when it felt uncomfortably tough to do so] told us this piece of advice:

If you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got.

My interpretation: if the status quo isn’t working, change something. So this weekend, I got organized because I’ve found that hyper-organization (of school work–my desk is still messy and there are at least two stray pairs of my shoes floating around the house-we’re not going for perfection here, people!) works. So, I planned out the whole semester, day-by-day (by day, by day). That’s step 1. 

Step two is to try yoga (which means stepping foot inside the gym for the first time…ever!) and have a tablespoon of some “seasonal health supplement” from my granola crunchy store. (It may be the placebo effect, but I’m a believer. I run faster, jump higher, and breathe with less schnot after that stuff). 

Step three: Creative input = creative output. I’ve found it’s absolutely impossible to take in information without opening the steam valves every once in a while. Yes, I consider it creative output to read People online and Dear Prudence, but even things like doodling/cleaning/blogging/random time wasting web surfing can help me feel less under pressure. (Cheesy Spanish Pop helps, too!) 

So far, these aren’t completely tried-and-true formulas, just some ideas I have for managing a crazier-than-usual Spring semester. I promise I’ll report back in May (hopefully from somewhere warmer/sunnier/Mediterranean-er than Carrboro) and let you know how long these resolutions/strategies were put into effect and if they worked!

How do you cope?

My Schedule: All 4 months. It’s a beautiful thing!
The Sched.


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