According to a recent Berkeley report on the mental health of graduate students, 45% of graduate students had emotional or stress-related issues in the previous year. The study also found that graduate STEM learners make up to 50% of self-reported attempted suicides in graduate school. Graduate students in STEM fields are frequently highly intelligent, driven, and ambitious learners. These people have given their all to academics, and they are now coming to the realization that it has nothing to offer them in return.
To overcome academic anxiety, use the following actions:
- Increase your sense of anticipation by always having something to look forward to. Make sure you arrange something fun twice a week, preferably on Wednesday and Saturday, no matter what is going on in the lab. Because this gives you a sense of anticipation throughout the week and helps you stave off academic stress.
- Do regular exercise: A Harvard study showed that a regular exercise routine has been shown to decrease symptoms of mild to moderate depression. If you have trouble finding the motivation on your own, find an exercise buddy who will help you step away from the computer and lab bench to do something active outside.
- Surround yourself with supportive people: The conversations with friends over lunch or at coffee breaks are filled with complaints and gossip. This negativity stays with you till the end of the day. Over time, all of your thoughts become so negative that you even get annoyed when someone attempts to positively rationalize your situation. The only way to prevent this is to remove yourself from negative people in graduate school. Instead, surround yourself with positive people. Yes, there are positive PhDs out there. You just need to know where to look.
- Stop comparing yourself with others: It’s easy to fall into the trap of measuring your success with the success of others. Learn to celebrate your successes and the successes of your colleagues, no matter how small. This will lead to more success and a more positive and productive mindset.
- Learn to be confident and stand up for yourself: In graduate school, no one will tell you that you’re working too hard. No one will ever tell you it’s ok to complete a dataset on Monday rather than working through the weekend. It is up to you to set boundaries and communicate those boundaries.