Work-life balance

The fall semester always seems like the busiest time of year. Conference and grant deadlines, coursework and teaching responsibilities, and holiday and personal obligations all seem to pile on in quick succession. In light of this, I’d like to pause to talk about my favorite ways to de-stress.

Exercise. I’ve never considered myself a particularly athletic person, but there are several practices I’ve begun and sustained in order to keep anxiety at bay. I started practicing yoga 10 years ago, and continue to use it to create meditative, calming spaces. I augmented this by dabbling in different sports (including climbing, social kickball leagues, barre studios, etc) until I found some that really stuck. Nowadays, I like to mix endurance and sprint exercise: long-distance cycling (during which I can also phone home and catch up with my family and friends) and high-intensity cross-training. Whatever your speed, I encourage finding something endorphin-releasing and enjoyable. Moving your body forces you to stay in the moment, which taps into mindfulness and stress relief!

Arts and crafts. When I am feeling wiped out from thinking too much, I like to engage in creative and free-form hobbies. I really enjoyed taking pottery classes last year, though now I am happy to simply watch videos of more capable sculptors throwing clay (harder than it looks!). Less demanding, I’ve picked up candle-making as a nice way to make gifts for my loved ones. Many years ago, as a childcare volunteer at a women’s shelter, I found how meditative coloring can be — and now it’s clearly not just for kids any more.

Cooking. Before graduate school, I used to spend entire evenings in the kitchen, trying out new and elaborate recipes. While I don’t have the luxury of time any more, I still like to use my weekly bulk-cooking night to make something nourishing. It’s a productive break from thinking about manuscripts — and you get to eat homemade food afterwards!

Spending time with loved ones. This is last, but certainly not least. I make sure to stay connected with my communities as much as I can, even when things get busy. I’ve started multitasking during household chores in order to really maximize time; for example, my best friend from home knows to expect a phone call when I’m doing laundry. My officemate and I also make time throughout the week to take walks, have tea, and vent about whatever’s on our minds. At home, my significant other and I have a cozy chat each night, even if it’s only for five minutes, so that we can update and support each other. My people remind me that I am not alone in this hectic, uphill journey of graduate school.