Postgraduate courses can be time consuming and overwhelming. While we all want to do the best we can, it’s important to do so without compromising your wellbeing. As a postgrad student myself I have found that there are two ways to ensure wellbeing as a postgrad student, and beyond:
1. Minimising risks to wellbeing due to the pressures and time constraints of a postgrad course;
2. Actively enhancing personal wellbeing.
Of course, these two aspects are interlinked and work best as part of a holistic approach to wellbeing.
Minimising risks to wellbeing due to pressures and time constraints of a postgrad course
This is mainly related to using time appropriately and efficiently. This will help you make time for yourself and actions outlined in the second way.
1. Prioritise tasks and work on the most important ones
Prioritising tasks can help ensure you get the most out of your postgrad studies by using your limited time efficiently. Decide which tasks are the most important and complete these first. Look at the weighting of credits per module and the weighting of each assignment within a module to help decide which are most important. By placing an order to tasks and creating a plan, it can also help you to feel more in control of your studies and create time for other aspects of your life. It’s worth considering that items that are listed as least priority may be best left undone to allow for these other areas of life.
2. Take a break
There is no point working continually to try and achieve perfection. After a certain point you will not be working efficiently. It’s sometimes best to leave a task and go back to it with a fresh head. Again, it’s all about efficient time use. Also, taking breaks to meet friends, relax, exercising, or do something else you enjoy, can help you keep a more holistic, healthy perspective of your life, rather than being consumed by the vacuum of your postgrad studies!
Ways to actively enhance your wellbeing
There are many ways to actively enhance your wellbeing – here are some of my favourites.
1. Get back to nature
Time spent in nature can reduce stress levels, a definite necessity for a postgrad student! It has also been linked to increased cognitive levels and improved physical health. So, whether it’s a run or cycle in a park or just meeting friends in a green area, get out there and get some fresh air!
As well as the physical health benefits of exercise, getting active can reduce stress, improve your quality of sleep and your mood. These benefits are important at any point in your life but especially during a postgrad program when you can spend hours every day sitting and looking at a computer screen, which can leave you feeling drained, stiff and having difficulty sleeping. Eating well and ensuring you get enough sleep are also important aspects of overall health and wellbeing.
3. Stop and meditate
Meditation is another means of stress reduction and can help you focus. I know that for me, as a postgrad student, juggling different assignments, work, family and other commitments, I began to feel overwhelmed and that my head was so full of lots of different things, I couldn’t concentrate on just one. There are lots of free meditation apps and even a couple of minutes a day can help.
4. Communicate with staff and other students
There is some wisdom in the old saying ‘a problem shared, is a problem halved’. Often, if you speak to other students, you will find that they too are feeling ‘in over their heads’ and this can make you feel more secure in yourself. Not that you are enjoying other peoples hardship, but just knowing that others feel the same as you can help. And they may even be able to offer advice. If you are truly feeling overwhelmed, your university may offer other supports, such as counseling, often for free. And don’t forget about your lecturers or supervisors. In my experience, they are happy to help students, whether this is giving feedback on how to improve your coursework, allowing for extensions, or offering advice on where it would be most effective to concentrate efforts. If you are struggling, it’s always best to let someone know.
So, while getting top of the class, or even just passing an exam, may seem like the most important thing, we need to remind ourselves to take a holistic approach to life and look after ourselves. We can only do our best in the time we are given. So, step back and breathe.