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Guest Post from Sam: Grad school tips for balancing a healthy lifestyle

Posted Jul 02 2013 9:00am

Good morning, ‘yall! Today is another fun-filled day in Italy for me, so I’m leaving you with this lovely guest post from one of my BFFs Sam, over at Anatomy of My World . Sam’s here to talk to you guys today about balancing the demands of grad school with having a normal (and healthy) life! Take it away, Sam!

Hey everyone! As an avid reader of Chelsea Eats Treats, I am so excited about this opportunity to guest post for Chelsea.

My name is Samantha from over at Anatomy of My World . My blog is similar to most others; I talk about my weekends, my workouts, etc. But the main reason I started blogging was to talk through the stresses that come with being a part of a demanding graduate school program.


 I am currently in between my first and second year of Physical Therapy school, thoroughly enjoying my only (and last ever) summer break. You may remember from this post that my friends really enjoy the fact that they have a PT student as a best friend, haha. I love everything about the program that I am in; my classmates are amazing, the faculty is great, and I have learned more over the past year than I learned in my entire undergrad career. But it’s hard. Not only hard work – that would be an understatement – but it’s mentally, emotionally, and physically taxing. I’m here to talk about some tips I would give to anyone thinking about going in to a demanding program like this: how to maintain your relationships, your fitness level, and most importantly, your sanity.

Figure out how you study best. Since studying/reading/research is what you will be doing with the majority of your days, figure out how you study the most effectively. Some things to consider:

  • Do you accomplish more early in the morning? Or are you a night owl?
  • Group studying? Or individual alone time?
  • Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and try new things
  • Be open minded
  • Use classmates as a resource; people see things differently and they can help you understand concepts further
  • Preferences may differ depending on the class, the amount of time you have, or the amount of work you have to do

Workouts. This was a huge issue for me during the first year of the program. I struggled with keeping up with work outs and that left me feeling down on myself and overall unhappy. It was so hard to squeeze in even a twenty minute workout without freaking out about something I needed to do; because there is literally always something that I could be doing. So my tips would be:

  • Sign up for a race – I ended up signing up for a Half Marathon with a bunch of classmates. It forced me to get up and do the run I had planned because I knew I would struggle come race day if I didn’t.
  • Remember how good exercising makes you feel – mentally and physically
  • Study while you work out – bring note cards to the gym and jump on the elliptical/bike/treadmill
  • Find classmates who love to work out and plan study breaks with them to go for a jog
  • Get to class early and squeeze a work out in before the day starts – sacrificing sleep is dangerous when you’re stressed out but sometimes a good workout is all you need to feel better

 Social Life. My take on this one will probably be different than if you talk to some other people in a program because I live at home – 45 minutes away from school and all of my classmates. Being able to go out and let loose a bit though is vital to your sanity. Since I don’t always know when my classmates are going out, I’ll plan things with friends from home, the boyfriend, or family when I know I have a small break in the amount of work I need to do.

  • Keep a calendar with when all tests are and when all projects are due; use that to plan fun events in advance. For example, if you have two exams in one week, plan a fun weekend immediately after that week is over.
  • Let your friends know when you are available – I can’t stress this one enough. Sometimes people don’t really understand how demanding a graduate program can be and just assume its like undergrad – false. Let them know you haven’t forgotten about them and plan some fun!

Significant Others. This kind of goes along with social life but these people need a little more attention sometimes than your other friends. For me this is tough because even though my boyfriend lives twenty minutes away, we still have to plan get-togethers due to our hectic, opposite schedules. Weekends where I have little work to do are mostly spent with him 24/7.

  • If you live together: limit the amount of time you do school work at home. Even if that means you stay later at school or head to a coffee shop for an hour after dinner. Separate the school part of your life with the intimate part of your life. When you are with your significant other, be with them.
  • If you are in my situation: plan fun things when you know you have the time, take advantage of any opportunity you get to see them and make the most of that time together.
  • Long distance: Plan weekends to visit each other, plan time to Skype or talk on the phone to them.
  • And this goes for everyone: Let them know when you have crazy busy weeks coming up; That way they will understand when you snap at everything they say, make up reasons to argue, and cry a little because you burnt pasta. Okay, maybe exaggerating a bit, but seriously – these stress levels are no joke and can do a number on your emotional stability.

“Me” Time. This is probably the biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone. You must, I repeat, must, find time for yourself. You will be under a lot of stress, probably more than you ever thought you could handle. Find things that help you relieve that stress and plan time to do it. Yes, plan it. Literally write it in your calendar: “Saturday Me Time – 1 hour.” Whether it is going for long walks, painting, watching movies, whatever; just do it. Unplug from reality, put the books down for an hour, and just do whatever it is that makes you happy. Hey, it could be just sleeping for an extra hour or two; we all know how wonderful that is every now and then.

I’m sure I have some more tips in this brain of mine so feel free to stop by my blog and ask me some questions if you have any! Or just stop in to say hi. As I am on summer break, my posts about school won’t start up until August but I’ll be popping in every now and then to recap fun events.

Thanks again to Chelsea for letting me guest post while you are relaxing on the Amalfi Coast – jealous is an understatement. :)

Thanks, Sam! Hopefully you guys were able to gain some good tips from her if you are thinking of going to grad school and are worried about balancing everything else is your life :)

Question of the day: If you’ve been to grad school, how did you juggle everything?

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