Self-Care Tips For Grad Students

Ahhh, grad school. A time of rest and relaxation...

Research on graduate student stress actually suggests that graduate students experience a higher degree of distress than the general population and more stress now than they'll face at any other point in their career.

Grad students are juggle many roles and demands in their personal and professional lives, and this can lead to intense stress and pressure. Financial and family concerns, imposter syndrome, and challenging program dynamics are just a few of the common challenges grad students face.

It may feel like self-care is a luxury that you can't afford or you need to hang on until you've graduated to be happy, but feeling good during grad school can make you happier, healthier, and more productive.

You can use these self-care strategies to manage stress, prevent burnout, and feel good in grad school:


They may seem basic, and for many, are the first to push aside. BUT, these are the basic elements of good health and well-rounded living. Burn-out is common in graduate school and one of the major reasons for leaving a graduate program. You can prevent and recover from burnout by making sure you're taking good care of these basics.

Grad school is a time when you need to have your own back. Talk to yourself with encouragement and kindness. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. And whenever you're feeling behind, inadequate, or overwhelmed, remind yourself of your strengths, what you appreciate in your life, and your ability to figure things out.

This of it like this: one body, one you, one calendar. That means that school has to share space in your calendar with the other aspects of your life. If you're not sure what it is that makes you you, reflect on the major areas of life and what they mean to you: house and home; relationships and community; earning and spending; time and schedule; mind and spirit;  school,work and service; and self-expression and growth. How well are these areas thriving? What do you need to make space for to feel more like your fullest self?

During grad school, it can feel like you're supposed to know everything and keep it all together easily. And it can seem like everyone else around you is doing it. For many students, this can make the idea of asking for help scary. Whether you have a question about your work, need to delegate work or school tasks, or need support in taking care of something in your life outside of school, asking for support can help you regain bring order to chaos and prevent yourself from burning out.

Find your people! Surround yourself with people who get what you're doing and why you're here and offer you support through the process. Find like-minded students, identify mentors, and find your spot off-campus. And when you get together, try to reserve at least some time to talk about something other than work.

Want to take it a step further? Use this Feeling Good in Grad School Self-Assessment to guide you through the process:

Ready to learn more?

Talk to a counselor:

Find out about getting started at CAPS. And learn more about our Grad Student Support Groups and Feeling Good in Grad School workshop.


Find out more about self-care during graduate school: 

5 Tested Tips to Battle Burnout on Grad Hacker

Preventing Dissertation Burnout on Grad Hacker

....or take a moment to laugh with the Top 200 Comics on Ph.D. Comics


Kiss stress goodbye and get things done: 

CAPS presentations for grad students:

6 Steps to Kissing Stress Goodbye (Even in Grad School) presentation

Just Getting Things Done (And Getting Outta Here): Stress-Management and Productivity for Grad Students presentation, part 1

The Light at the End of the Tunnel: Defense, Graduation, and Beyond: Stress-Management and Productivity for Grad Students presentation, part 2

Feeling Good in Grad School presentation


CAPS videos and presentations for stress and anxiety:

How to Stop Worrying: 5 Simple Tips

Finding Balance (Even in School)

Boost Confidence & Beat Social Anxiety

Eat My Dust, Test Anxiety: 7 Steps to Tackle Test Anxiety, Channel Your Inner Elvis, and OWN That Exam presentation

Stress Less: Take a Pause and Breathe presentation


Online tools and Resources:

Enroll in TAO Self-Help. (It's free!)

TAO has self-help modules on calming your worry and letting go of stress in challenging situations. Enrollment in TAO is free for UA students!


And try one of these free stress-relieving apps for Android and iPhone:

Stressbusters Wellness, U of A Edition: audio tracks, relaxation, meditation, events.

Headspace: Meditation and Mindfulness Made Simple

Stop, Breath & Think: 5 minutes to peace


Go back for more self-help resources from CAPS