It’s hard to believe that in less than one month I will be a graduate student. I’ve waited a year and a half to make this dream come true and now it’s finally here. Am I excited? Sure. But if I had to pick one word to describe how I’m feeling right now, I would say “terrified” is a better descriptor.
A few months ago I visited one of my undergraduate professors who wrote a letter of reference for admission into my graduate school program. While I was visiting she told me “if something both excites and terrifies you, you must do it”. Looking back on this conversation, I realize just how true these words of wisdom really are. When it comes to pursuing grad school, I know that I am not just pursuing a higher education; I am chasing my dream. Getting my master’s degree is the next big step that I have to take to become a mental health therapist. Recovery is another (although that has been an ongoing battle for the past few years…)
So, despite my fears and the incessant worried thoughts in the forefront of my mind, I know that I will push through the difficulty of this transition to make my dreams a reality. So without further ado, here are some of the ways that I’ve been getting grad school ready while struggling with anxiety and depression:
If there is one thing that I know to be an effective way to deal with anxiety, it’s planning. Plan your schedule out ahead of time; get to know when your classes are, when you’ll be working, and when you’ll be able to have some free time. Also, plan your budget and finances so you’ll know what to expect in terms of cost, income, and any revenue or debt that you might incur.
Purchase your school supplies
If you want to feel ready for grad school, what better way is there than to actually get ready for grad school? Last week I went out to my local department store and picked up some composition notebooks to get myself ready for classes. I already have a stockpile of other necessary stationary, but if you don’t already have some then it would be a good idea to also stock up on pens, paper, sticky-notes, and a good quality backpack!
Stock up on non-perishables
During my undergraduate degree, I often struggled to find time to go and buy groceries which meant that my cupboards were looking a little scarce towards the end of the semesters. In preparation for the inevitability of my hectic school schedule returning, I decided to go out and stock up on food products such as pasta, cereal, drinks, and other groceries to ensure that I’ve got enough supplies to last me for a while. If you’re going to be living in a dorm, you can probably skip this step, but if you’re going to be living off-campus and preparing your own meals then I highly recommend stocking up!
Make a list of reasons to keep going when the going gets tough
If you’ve ever experienced anxiety or depression, then chances are that you understand just how hard it can be to stay on track and keep going when you’re feeling your worst. As a preventative measure, I’ve written myself letters and enclosed them in envelopes labelled “for when you’re feeling sad” and “for when you feel like giving up” to remind my future self why she is going through the stress of grad school in the first place and to reinforce the goals that she is working towards. Sometimes it can be helpful to remind yourself that the struggle of the present moment won’t last forever and writing a letter to your future self can be a great way to do that.
Establish a support system
If you know that you’re going to have a hard time adjusting to the first few weeks or months of grad school, let someone who cares about you know that you are concerned. Talk to people about your struggles and let them know that you might need some extra support. There is nothing wrong with reaching out for help when you need it and sometimes having someone to call for a quick pep-talk is all you need to get yourself out of a rut. Some people you might consider talking to could be a parent, sibling, close friend, or therapist.
I know that major life transitions can be really stressful and they can often have a negative impact on your mental health, especially if you’re already struggling. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the way you are feeling will not last forever and there are things that you can do to make the transition to grad school easier. I hope these tips are useful for you and be sure to let me know if there are any other tips and tricks that you have for coping with transitional phases of life such as starting university or heading off to grad school.
Good luck in the new school year to all of my fellow students out there!