Tuesday, October 9th, 2018...6:46 pm

Balance and Self-Care in Graduate School

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Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/group-of-people-sitting-on-white-mat-on-grass-field-745045/

By Samara Moore, Gradlife Ambassador

When you feel the pressure of school demands, what are the first things that you give up? Sleep? Meals? Gym time? Breaks? Hobbies? Social engagements? Religious meetings or practices? Time to sit with your thoughts and reflect?

For the past couple of years, I have made self-care a priority. I figured out a care routine that worked for me and committed to it. I was confident that I would be able to continue my self-care practices in this new phase of my life as a grad student.

Now that I am almost one month into my masters program, I realize that maintaining balance in grad school is more challenging than I thought it would be. I am embarrassed to admit that I have skipped meals to read. I have cut sleep to meet a deadline. I have substituted cooking nutritious meals, for quick and convenient fast food. I have also focused so intensely on my studies, that I have neglected quiet time to be still, meaningfully reflect, and pray.

If you are struggling with balance, like I am, there is encouraging news! Every day brings with it a new opportunity to make adjustments in our lives. Recognizing that we are having difficulty with self-care is the first step forward.

As I work on a routine to better achieve balance in this stage of my life, I would like to share some tips that I am learning along the way. My hope is that they will be helpful to you, as you develop your own self-care routine.

Listen to your body

  • Pay attention to how you are feeling in your body. If your body is telling you that you are tired and need to rest -listen. Be cautious about pushing yourself to work through exhaustion.

Nurture your body

  • There is truth to the saying, “we are what we eat.” I find that I am more energized and alert when I eat nutrient rich food. Eating healthy has been difficult for me lately, but I am hoping that planning ahead and packing healthy snacks will help me to better nurture my body in this season.
  • I would like to acknowledge that there are real challenges to accessing healthy food. Eating healthy can be expensive. I have included links to accessible food sources on campus below. Also, there are still spots available for our upcoming Grad Escape, Cooking on a Student Budget.

Move your body

  • Staying active is central to our health and well-being! Check out Hart House fitness programs and MoveU, an initiative on campus that helps student maintain an active lifestyle.

Be in community

  • There are a number of clubs and ways to stay connected to other students on campus. Come out to one our Grad Escapes or Grad Connections events. I recently attended these events and appreciate the opportunity that they gave me to connect with other grad students. I also encourage you to spend some time at the Grad Room, a drop-in space for grad students and the host site of our Grad Talks.

Connect with nature/ spend time outside

  • The University of Toronto is a beautiful campus! Sometimes when I need a break or want to clear my head, I go for a stroll through philosophers walk or sit out on the lawn in front of Convocation Hall. There are many beautiful places to explore on campus and throughout the city.

If faith and spirituality are important to you, nurture your spiritual life

Make time for what you love

  • Being a student is only one facet of who we are. Make some time to explore something that you are passionate about! For me, that may look like going on a photography walk or attending a guitar group at my church. For you, it may look like signing up for intramural sports, getting involved with Hart House Theatre, joining an advocacy or social justice group on campus, or something entirely different. Whatever it is that you are passionate about, try to make time for it.

Be kind to yourself

  • One of the things that was emphasized early on in my social work program, is the importance of self-compassion. Our graduate school journey will have it’s ups and downs. As human beings, we will inevitably make mistakes. Despite errors and disappointments, always remember to be kind to yourself. Show yourself grace. Research shows that self-compassionate people are actually better able to practice self-care (Terry & Leary, 2011).

I wish you well on your journey to achieve better balance!

Until next time,



Work Cited

Terry, M. L., & Leary, M. R. (2011). Self-compassion, self-regulation, and health. Self and Identity, 10(3), 352-362. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15298868.2011.

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