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Grad school, a wonderful time where you are running around, doing crazy amounts of things day after day, only to receive a piece of paper. Of course grad school is not just this. It is a learning experience and a chance to grow as a scholar. Yes, some things in grad school may not make sense as to why you need to do them. But in the end, you will be a much better researcher/scholar/whatever you become :).
One thing that I notice is how busy college tends to get. You will have exams, research projects, sports, clubs, homework assignments, outside work, the list goes on and on. It is busy. I remember undergrad used to be extremely busy. The biggest complaint I heard was how busy the semester was for everyone and how little fun they would have. Everyone justified it by saying what they were doing was a “resume builder.” Honestly, I hated this phrase and wish it would go away. No, we were all busy because we wanted to feel important and feared that we would miss out on things.
I am not trying to bash on being busy, though. I love the feeling of being busy, but when I am productive. Some people like to keep themselves busy for the sake of being busy, getting nothing done in the process. I don’t really like this. Now some people really are busy. The individuals getting ready to graduate or the ones trying to get volunteering experience to get into med school have great justifications. Some people just stay busy because they like the feeling. This is ok but sometimes it is really just fine to slow down. In fact, I highly encourage a slower lifestyle if you can.
Why Slow Down
The older I get, the more I realize that staying busy and cramming as much as I can into as little time as possible is not sustainable. I like to enjoy things and not rush through them. Sometimes, I overschedule myself and find myself doing multiple different things during the day, while worrying about the next thing I have to do. This causes a great deal of frustration, honestly. Slowing down can help pne enjoy the task or thing that is happening at that moment.
Slowing down can help to cause less confusion, feelings of anxiety, and can lead to far less stress. The most stressful times in anyone’s life is during a time when a ton of things are happening that seem to be out of control. Notice that the most stressed individuals are the ones that cram so much into such little time. Slowing down, taking things off your to-do list, and relaxing are sure-fire ways to live a stress free lifestyle.
How can I Slow Down?
“But Ben, how can I slow down in grad school? It’s always so busy!” Well, I have a few ways in which you can slow down, but you may not like hearing (reading) about them lol. So, let’s discuss some of the many ways in which you can slow down in grad school, in list form!!! Woohoo.
1) Say “no” more often
One of the best ways to slow down is to just stop saying “yes” to everything that people ask you. You are very valuable in the academic scene. Technically, you are seen as cheap labor, so many people may come to you and ask you to do extra work or write a paper. They may even entice you with your name on the publication. If you can’t do the work for them, you are allowed to say “no”. It is not the end of the world.
2) Reduce time on your phone.
Much of our time these days is spent on our phones. One way to slow down and get some more time to relax is by just turning off your phone. Social media, text messages, emails, and other apps can make us feel overwhelmed. Our phones can keep us busy for hours on end, taking time away from things that truly matter like getting other work done, or even just spending time with another individual. It’s time to be ok with turning off your phone.
3) Make to-do lists
One great way to slow down is to make a to-do list of everything that needs to get done that day. Then, start reducing the size of that list. We often make lists that are unattainable. I know all of my to-do lists have about 100 things on them, yet I can only manage to get 3 to 4 done a day. Make a list of essential things then subtract other things that are not as important. Do you really need to wash your car between zoom meetings today? Probably not lol. So take that off of your list.
4) Get Organized
Organization will help you stay on track. Organizing yourself is a great way to slow down as well. Focus on the most important things in order and you will probably finish in a reasonable amount of time and have more free time to do the things you enjoy, or just chillax.
5) Schedule in Walks
I love walking. It’s in my top 5 favorite activities to do. I am also part of a virtual walking challenge (link here), which helps push me to do even more walking. One of the best things to do to slow down, that I know from first hand experience, is go on walks. This helps because it takes time away from doing work and forces you to focus on exercise and what is going on around you. I walk about an hour to an hour and a half each day. During that time, I am not working, I am off my phone (unless I am listening to my audibles) and I am focusing on the present. Walking has definitely made me appreciate the “now” and I have found that my life is not quite so hectic because of it.
6) Quit working at the same time each day
If you want to slow down, schedule a time and quit working at that time. For me, that’s 5:30. I have actually created a habit and my body naturally stops working at that time. My brain shuts off, I get hungry, and I start to really shift my focus elsewhere. It is a really good thing because my body knows when to just stop for the day. If you don’t really do this, you may just continue to keep working for a very long time or stay way too busy. You have to schedule a time to just stop.
Life in grad school can get hectic and stressful at times. I get it, I really do. But sometimes slowing down is the best option. Stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems can and will occur in grad school. This is why overwhelming yourself with stuff might not be the best thing to do. I had to force myself to slow down due to mental health reasons. If you want out know more about my mental health, check out these blogs (here). I have to slow down to reduce stress and anxiety. Fortunately, I am in a good place now, but I do worry for some of the new grad students. Please make sure to take care of yourselves in grad school. It is a long and hard journey.
**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you