A Helpful Guide to Maintaining Your Mental Health in Grad School

When it comes to business school, there’s one thing all MBA students agree with: It’s tough! To successfully complete the marathon we call a master’s degree, you must stay on top of your assignments, turn work in on time, and be committed to your program. But if your physical and mental health isn’t a priority, you may get stressed, tired, and overwhelmed. Your sustainability depends upon it.

The key to going from master’s degree prospect to graduate is monitoring and balancing your physical and mental health. Whether you’re almost finished with your MBA degree, just starting your journey, or still comparing programs through online research, we have compiled some practices that will keep you physically healthy and mentally fit. Add these practices and reminders into your MBA stack and ensure your education and experience remain fruitful. 

Ways to Stay Physically and Mentally Healthy While Pursuing an MBA

Get Plenty of Rest

sleep to maintain mental health

How much sleep are you getting each night? Experts agree that adults should sleep at least seven to nine hours every night to remain healthy and productive. Are you struggling with consistent sleep? Your work will reflect the struggle.

There are times in your coursework when you are bombarded with homework. You may anticipate sleepless nights to get it done. Make sure to practice good time management and spread it out over the week. Limit yourself to an hour of homework at the end of the workday. Tackle more of the assignments the next day and plan to finish some work over the weekend. MBA and master’s degree homework and assignments are more complex than what you accomplished in your undergrad. Getting enough sleep is that much more critical when it comes to writing quality master’s-level papers.

Watch What You Eat

There was a time when you could eat garbage and still perform well. Those days are over. Building your education stack means performing well throughout your MBA career. Successful graduate students eat foods that give them natural energy. If you get stressed while writing papers or studying for big exams, nurture yourself with healthy proteins, fruits, and vegetables. A steady diet of empty calories and caffeine will only get you so far. Fast and fried foods will give you a quick energy boost followed by a crash. Your body won’t feel its best. 

Poor food choices also affect your mental performance. Improper nutrition can make you feel bad and give you cloudy thinking or distracted thoughts. Even if you struggle to find the extra time to eat healthy, look for quick and easy recipes to make instead of eating a half bag of Doritos for a meal.

No One is an Island

A misconception about an MBA program is that you must “go it” alone. Yes, you read textbooks, write papers, and earn grades as an individual student. However, you are alongside your cohort or classmates as they perform the same tasks. Family, friends, and co-workers surround your daily life. Before your first day of class, contact family members and friends and ask them to support you over the next few years. Bottling up your anxiety and stress by not sharing it with people who can be there for you will build up over time.

Engaging with friends and being part of a supportive community can help combat feelings of isolation and loneliness, which are common contributors to stress. Spending time with others, whether in person or online, allows for social interaction, laughter, and shared experiences, all of which can boost mood and alleviate stress. Having healthy outlets for our stress helps MBA students stay focused and on track.

Monitor and Evaluate Your Mental Health Regularly 

Are you starting to feel anxious, overwhelmed, or depressed about your MBA? You’re never alone in your struggles. Getting into grad school is a significant life adjustment. Many MBA students are active working professionals with responsibilities. Some graduate students care for a family while trudging through a program’s coursework. Before depression and anxiety get to you, prioritize some positive self-care. Treat yourself to a warm cup of your favorite tea before doing homework. Take a relaxing bath after a long day. Go for a walk with your kids to catch up on their days. 

Do you need someone to talk to? Seek out professional help before things get too heavy to bear. It’s a normal part of life to have intense or complex feelings while working hard. Make sure to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. B-school students needing mental health resources can always go to their student advisers. Those business school representatives are in place to connect MBA students to help and support.

Work It Out by Working Out

Getting up and moving is an excellent way to battle stress and anxiety. The natural endorphins we get from working out can help relieve many of life’s pressures. They have also been proven to put us in a better mood. You may hate the idea of working out. You don’t have to go to the gym to get moving. Go for a simple hike on nearby trails. Take a beginner’s yoga class during the week. Go online for basic workout regimens you can cycle through at home. Plan a leisure activity to get you and your family out of the house. You will notice a difference to your mental health.

Rest Up Over Breaks and Holidays

Every school year includes a natural break, holidays, spring break, and pauses between terms. MBA students often get a few days or weeks off before beginning a new course. Please take advantage of every break you get, no matter how long. Make sure to use that time for intentional rest and refreshment instead of being tempted to use the time to get ahead in class. Slow down, and remember that your education is a marathon instead of a sprint. During your degree, you will spend a lot of time in the classroom or your home office. Pepper your program with outdoor breaks throughout the entire time.

Stay on Track by Planning Ahead 

Procrastination can be one of your biggest enemies. This temptation is an easy pit to fall into and a stress-inducing trap that is hard to escape. During every class meeting, write down or print out vital due dates. Plan for your final exams and long papers. When life gets in the way, and you do get behind, make that time up immediately to keep from getting backlogged. Once you end up getting overwhelmed, your grades may suffer.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Setting goals and meeting them while pursuing your MBA is always good. But be careful not to put too much pressure on yourself. Stacking up unrealistic expectations could set you up to fail. It’s always best to turn your work in on time. But life happens. When things begin to spiral out of control, don’t freak out. Contact your instructors to let them know what’s happening. Review your courses’ late policies and try to limit yourself to being only one day late. Even if you receive a penalty, stay honest and diligent about completing assignments.

Stacking the “Bes” for Mental Health While Pursuing an MBA

Practicing self-care while nurturing your mind, body, and spirit makes balancing the demands of graduate school and life more manageable. In addition to the pointers listed above, be sure to practice these “Bes:”

Be Positive 

Ancient wisdom reminds us that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Maintain an optimistic outlook on life and your MBA with positive affirmations and meditation. A positive attitude improves overall health, reduces anxiety, and fosters resilience. Staying encouraged will help you manage the challenges and issues of business school life. No matter how much you stress over assignments, trust you will complete them when you should.

Be Present

Make sure to engage in the experiences inside and outside the classroom fully. When spending time with family and friends, completing coursework, or reading a book, focus on what’s in front of you. Practicing mindfulness offers the same benefits as being positive. It helps you focus on what you are learning, appreciate this time in your life, and will result in cherished memories.

Be Intentional

Prioritizing self-care is not selfish. Ensuring you are at your best mentally, physically, and emotionally is essential. How else can you manage life’s demands? Find things you enjoy doing—and do them.

Be Grateful

Take inventory of the friends and family members who love and support you. Consider ways you can return the kindness that people show you. Write letters, make phone calls, or even text the people you are grateful for. Expressing gratitude improves your mental health, sleep, energy, and relationships.

Be Consistent 

Try doing one thing every day to care for yourself. Yes, life gets hectic, and practicing self-care is sometimes the last thing on our minds. When you schedule an appointed time to work out or study, it helps establish a routine. Develop a habit of self-care and prioritize your needs.

As an MBA student, you must rest, recharge, and reflect. Taking time for yourself and making self-care a priority and a habit is a huge benefit to your mental health. Mental, physical, and emotional health benefits will go far beyond your business school journey. These practices will set the tone for how you manage your career, an organization, and your home life. You can do it!