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All graduate students feel it, and few talk about it: the pressure of graduate school can cause anxiety. It's perfectly logical to feel anxious about almost everything when you're in graduate school. Taking a full load of classes, working intensely on your master's thesis or PhD dissertation, preparing for comprehensive exams and oral defenses, dealing with competitive classmates and advisers with high expectations... Graduate school is a hotbed of stress.
And if you're trying to have a relationship or happen to have kids or work even part-time, the stress can get overwhelming and turn into anxiety.
Dealing With Graduate School Stress
Find someone outside your graduate program to talk to. While professors, advisers and classmates are all aware of what you're going through, they're also inside that stressful environment. Talk to a family member, your significant other, a friend, or a counselor about your stress levels. Someone outside your graduate program can offer a fresh point of view.
Keep competition with fellow students in perspective. If you're in a liberal arts program, you may be required to critique other students' work. If you're in the sciences or healthcare, you may be competing for a limited number of fellowships or grants. While competition in graduate school can be healthy and encourage you to work harder, it can also damage your self-esteem. Keep criticism in perspective and ignore overly competitive classmates.
If your adviser isn't supportive, find a different adviser. As you go through your graduate program, you may find that you don't click with your current adviser. If it's clear that you're not getting the support you need, find another guide.
Graduate School Doesn't Last Forever
The stress and anxiety of graduate school might drive you crazy if you let it. Always remember that graduate school doesn't last forever—in a few years you'll be working and life will actually settle down.
Keep these few years in perspective and talk about your stress levels. In 10 years you'll look back on graduate school as a wonderful time in your life!
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