Finding Balance in Graduate School

Finding Balance in Graduate School

It may be the biggest cliché in the world, but when life gets hectic it’s important to take some time to yourself. It feels irresponsible to do something relaxing when you’re busy, but we’ve all had that mush-for-brains feeling, and let’s be honest, that’s not productive either.

It’s nice to leave my projects, homework and presentations in Newhouse, just for a little while – and when I come back everything is right where I left it. Twelve credits of classes may not sound like a lot, but our most important work happens outside the classroom, and that’s where every day turns into a chaotic balancing act.

I’ve started going to yoga, at a studio about ten minutes from campus for a change of scenery. It was something I enjoyed at my undergraduate institution and my favorite way to spend time with my dad when I’m home on breaks, so I wanted to bring that source of joy with me through what is sure to be a stressful year. My favorite part of practicing yoga is the emphasis on being present; often when we exercise we use external forces to motivate us to run faster, lift heavier, do one more. Yoga is about just you, on your mat, and nothing else matters for that hour. So much of school is spent thinking about what’s coming up and what we still have to do so it’s difficult — but highly rewarding — to learn how to clear your head.

Yoga is literally and figuratively about balance. If you forget about your breathing or forget to tighten your core muscles, you will get shaky. If a posture feels difficult, it’s mostly mental, just like any other obstacle you might run into. Every part of your body is of equal importance when working on a difficult pose, just like you need to very carefully balance every facet of your life when life at Newhouse keeps you this busy.

You’re always going to be pulled in different directions, but how it affects you is what matters the most. In a tight-knit academic program like ours, it’s tempting to compare yourself to everyone else. Maybe they don’t seem as stressed as you, or maybe they have twice as much to do as you, so you feel like you’re forgetting something. Yoga is a gentle reminder that you can only change your own behavior, and comparing yourself to everyone else will not encourage progress. You don’t know how long they’ve been practicing or what it took to get them to where they are today.

Find your joy, whatever it may be, and let it encourage balance in your life. Or, get way out of your comfort zone and do something new. If you try something difficult — like graduate school — and fall down, that makes you human. We all do it. It’s how you react and respond that defines you.

-Laurie Silverstein is a graduate student studying advertising

Laurie Silverstein

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