Tips to help graduate students manage mid-semester fatigue and stress

As October marks the midpoint of the fall semester, many graduate students have begun to feel mid-semester fatigue set in. During this time of year, it is not uncommon for motivation and performance to slip, especially with the added stress of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.      

In the latest Grad15, Emma Celoza, Senior Health Educator with Sun Devil Fitness and Wellness, offered graduate students pointers on recharging their academic batteries as they head into the second half of the semester.

The life of graduate students can be stressful and recent studies indicate that graduate stress levels are on the climb.

In 2018, 59% of surveyed graduate students indicated that they experienced above average or ‘tremendous’ stress over the past 12 months. In 2019, that percentage climbed to 64%. And though we don’t have data for 2020, the COVID pandemic is expected to further accentuate existing stressors.

The good news

It’s not all bad news. The percentage of graduate students indicating they are overwhelmed by these stresses has dropped, indicating that graduate students are becoming better equipped to handle stressors.

You can avoid becoming burnt out or overwhelmed by assessing your own wellness and proactively seeking means to reduce stress.

“We can’t pour from an empty cup,” Celoza reminds us. It’s important to take the time for self-care.

“Self-care is any act we do deliberately in order to care for our mental, emotional, physical and social well-being,” Celoza says. 

Forms of self-care

By practicing the following forms of self-care, you can actively manage and prevent stress from becoming a barrier to academic success:

  • Physical self-care

Getting regular check-ups, eating a healthy and a varied diet of home-prepared meals, getting regular exercise, and sleeping 7-9 hours per night are all important ways to combat physical stress on the body and ward off illness.

  • Mental and emotional self-care

Recognizing and regulating your emotions, allowing time for breaks, prioritizing your energy, maintaining a work/life balance and setting boundaries for yourself are all vital to maintaining a healthy mental state -- thus bolstering your resilience to stressors.

  • Academic self-care

Imposterism and self-doubt can be two of the strongest means of academic self-sabotage. Maintaining a growth mindset, accepting mistakes as part of the learning process, finding value in learning new things, and setting (and celebrating the accomplishment of) both short- and long-term academic or career goals can help banish these obstacles to your academic success.

  • Social self-care

Relationships matter -- especially amidst the general isolation graduate study can bring and the extreme isolation many of us are encountering amidst the COVID pandemic. Taking the time to nurture loving and supportive relationships, making time for social activities (even if they are virtual or socially-distanced) and staying in touch with friends, family, and your communities can provide important grounding moments and provide the energy you need to thrive emotionally and academically.

To establish a baseline for your own wellness, Celoza suggests graduate students complete theonline wellness inventory developed by Sun Devil Fitness and Wellness.

 ASU maintains an array of resources available to graduate students in maintaining their wellness, includingASU Counseling Services,ASU Health Services, theCenter for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience and theASU Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention program, as well as programming specifically available throughSun Devil Wellness.

By practicing self-care, proactively addressing stressors, and seeking health and wellness resources, graduate students can help mitigate the myriad stressors of graduate school and the uncertainties and challenges of the COVID pandemic.