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Staying Healthy in Graduate School

Today, I have the pleasure of inviting Emily Newhook for a guest post. Emily is an outreach coordinator for the MHA degree program from The George Washington University, MHA@GW. Outside of work, she enjoys baking, writing short stories and horror movies. Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyNewhook and Google+

Juggling graduate academics and, well, anything else is a major challenge. But whether you’re studying health care or a totally unrelated subject, maintaining your overall wellbeing can go a long way helping you function at the top of your game. Here are some ways prioritize academics and health without cutting corners.

Stay Fit

Studies have shown that exercise actually improves brain function. With a few efficient maneuvers, you can insert chunks of physical activity into your busy schedule to boost your brain while you break a sweat.

  • Make gym clothes your outfit of choice. Wear them to class, and stop for a quick workout before resuming your sedentary studies. ItUll make the path to the gym the road-more-traveled Q since convenience and action go hand-in-hand.
  • Take the scenic route. You may think that short cut to class is a brilliant idea, but not if you pass up a chance to get more exercise while youUre at it. Pick the longer route to fit some extra cardio into your schedule.
  • Put some air in your tires. That bicycle in the corner functions better as a transportation device than a clothing receptacle. Pump a little life in the tubes, and use it to get to your next destination.
  • Study while you sweat. Those treadmill bookracks hold more than just magazines. Take your required reading and get ahead on assignments while you work off your stress.
  • Make exercise part of your curriculum. Discipline is already part of your mindset Q youUre in grad school, after all. Set a schedule you can follow P maybe just two-three days a week to start P and treat it like a class with a rigid attendance policy. If youUre able to maintain it through the entire semester, try adding a day.

Eat Well

A proper diet benefits overall health, including brain function, and also increases energy levels and self-esteem. Healthy eating does take some effort, but itUs possible with a little planning.

  • Choose inexpensive options. Buying quality food can make a dent in your wallet, but a few simple strategies can help you stay within your budget. Gather a group to share bulk purchases at warehouse clubs, purchase generic brands, stock up on seasonal produce and use coupons to save money.
  • Plan ahead. Make a weekly menu so youUll know what to buy, cook in bulk to optimize your efforts, be creative with leftovers by adding them to multiple dishes and avoid vending machines by keeping healthy snacks on hand.
  • Make calories count. A high-protein snack worth 100 calories is more filling than a cookie of equal caloric value. Check labels before you indulge, pay attention to portion sizes and focus on quality over quantity.

Avoiding Illness

The last thing you need on the eve of that exam is a tickle in the back of your throat. Remember a few simple habits to help keep sickness at bay.

  • Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep threatens your immune system. Sleep deprivation ranks right up there with stress for its impact on optimal health.
  • Wash your hands. Research shows that proper hand washing results in lower illness and absenteeism rates.
  • Take your vitamins. Although Vitamin C is often the go-to supplement people choose, studies are mixed on its actual benefits. Vitamin D, however, is proven to increase your ability to fight off respiratory infections.
  • Get vaccinated. Getting the flue vaccine is a good idea Q a matter for you and your doctor to discuss.
  • Eat well and exercise. This list wouldn’t be complete without a reminder about proper diet and exercise, which also help ward off illness.

Seek Out Support

An independent spirit is key to surviving grad school, but it can also hold you back if you’re always determined to go it alone. Some health problems, such as mental illness, eating disorders and physical injuries, can’t be solved through simple lifestyle choices. Feeling some stress is one thing, but feeling perpetually overwhelmed or hopeless is an entirely different ball game. Stay in touch with close friends and family, who can help you gauge what’s normal and healthy behavior for you. Every graduate student’s experience is different, and staying healthy in such a pressure-cooker environment takes practice. Committing to everyday healthy habits is key. Making consistent efforts to incorporate health, however small, can also help reinforce the connections between physical and psychological health P and emphasize why both are so crucial to academic success.

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This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Thanks, I've been struggling with this quite a bit. I'm in my 5th year of the PhD program, and I work full-time as well. I've made a little progress, but this is really helpful. Thanks.

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