Sunday 13 December 2020

Tips For Balancing Online Grad Courses and Adult Life

Ginger shares her tips on finding balance, asking for help, and making time for your mental health as a graduate student who is also working full-time.

- Ginger Abbot

Are you taking online classes while working full-time? If so, you’re not alone — as a full-time writer and editor as well as a part-time graduate student, I’m currently on a similar journey. It may seem like you don’t have enough hours to complete your work and classes all as you practise self-care; believe me, I struggle sometimes too. Thankfully, you can achieve a balance that works for you. Based on my own experience, here are a few mental health tips for working grad students.

 1. Be a Little Selfish.
We often forget that it’s alright to take a break. If you feel guilty when you hit pause on homework for a few minutes, you need to re-evaluate your current state. It’s completely normal — and necessary — to make room for self-care as a way to stay sane amid your busy schedule. Try not to overwork yourself. You only suffer mentally and physically when you try to be a “hero” and power through your to-do list. It’s essential to set aside at least an hour or two each week so you can rest and rejuvenate. 

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help.
Try to ask for help when needed! I know it may not be your first instinct. It’s hard for many people to be vulnerable enough to seek support from others. That said, you have professionals at your disposal who quite literally exist to assist you. Speak to your professors and advisors to rearrange your class schedule. Ask your boss at work to be a little more flexible with shifts so that you have time for yourself between lectures. You can also talk to a therapist to find mental health tips for working grad students. There’s no shame involved when you take steps to regain control over your life. 

3. Have a (Flexible) Plan.
You can’t navigate grad school and full-time work without a plan. It’s fine to take a few months to find your footing. However, it’s important that you try to have some goals so that you don’t end up being enrolled in courses for longer than necessary. Take a look at your current schedule. How many credit hours do you take per week? When do you have to go to work? Use those numbers to estimate when you’re projected to graduate. Be sure to consult with your academic advisor to calculate those figures if necessary. You may find that you won’t be done for another two or three years. That’s where you’ll need to make sacrifices. Could you cut down to part-time hours to take a larger course load? You may need to live frugally, but you’ll finish quicker. In any case, you need to craft a plan that makes sense for your situation. This “map” may change over time, but you’ll still have a concise layout to help you manage your studies and work more realistically. As a result, you may avoid being a common denominator among grad students. 

4. Create a Support Network.
Have you ever seen that triangle that balances “good grades,” “social life” and “enough sleep?” If you’ve ever felt that it’s impossible to manage all three, don’t worry! And don’t fall into that trap. You can have your cake and eat it as long as you have a support system. We all need to learn that we can’t do everything by ourselves! That’s why it’s crucial to maintain a reliable circle that supports you as much as you support them. This network could be anyone from your roommates or housemates to a particular community group. You don’t need to have a ton of extra time to connect with others. It’s worth sparing a few hours every week to build relationships that effectively boost your personal and professional life. These bonds are crucial for your mental health, too.

5. Use These Suggestions to Make Balancing Work and Grad School Easier!

It’s impossible to understate how difficult balancing work and grad school can be. As a working student, you’ll have good and bad days. But when you take these steps to take care of yourself as you balance your workload, this journey will feel smoother. Soon, you’ll look back on it and be proud of yourself.

For more support on balancing online grad courses and adult life, you can check out additional Student Minds resources here. 

Ginger Abbot is a student life and education writer who is currently enrolled in graduate school part-time. She also serves as Editor-in-Chief for the online learning magazine Classrooms.

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