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Graduate school is exhausting.

Juggling coursework, research, TA positions and other academic and personal responsibilities take a toll on our mental and physical health. 


It's essential we take time each year to disconnect from our studies and recharge. This might mean heading home for the holidays, taking a weekend road trip, or a semester-long mental health break. Taking time off to care for ourselves enables us to return to our studies rejuvenated and in the right mindset to work towards graduation.


Though we know it's necessary to take a break (or two or ten) throughout the year to connect with friends and family or just spend time pursuing a passion, finding the means to do so can be a difficult task. Many departments don't have formal vacation policies for students, but even if yours does, navigating this conversation with your mentor can be difficult. Traveling also typically requires extra money, which can be hard to come by as a graduate student. 


Despite these barriers, how can you ensure you take the time off you need to recharge your mind, body and soul?


Through the following four modules, you will learn how to navigate taking time off to support your wellbeing. You'll get curious about your hesitations surrounding holiday and family visits. You'll remove the guilt associated with taking a personal vacation, as well as find time to pursue passion products. Lastly. you'll learn to identify when you need a mental health break, as well as get conversation starters for addressing your needs with your mentor. 



Sleeping Kitten

Sleeping Kitten

Image by Anthony Tran

Image by Anthony Tran

Soccer Game

Soccer Game

Beauty Spa

Beauty Spa



Image by Josh Hild

Image by Josh Hild

Family at a Beach

Family at a Beach

Beach Vacation

Beach Vacation

Join Stronger Together Lead Brittany Uhlorn in a live yoga class (her passion!) on Sunday, September 20, at 9 a.m. PT/12 p.m. ET/5 p.m. GMT on the PDB YouTube!


Holidays and Family Visits

September 6 - 12, 2020

Whether you are 30 minutes from your home of origin or an ocean away, we all deserve to take time throughout the year to see our families and loved ones.


The holidays are an obvious time to want to spend with family, but who says you can’t visit them any day of the year?


Five, ten, fifty years from now, will you most fondly remember the family gathering you missed because your advisor made you feel pressured to stay at your university, or are will you cherish the time you left school to visit your mom just because you knew it would brighten her day?


In Discord, talk about your hesitations regarding taking time away from your studies and research to visit your loved ones. 

Those of us conducting research often don’t observe the same holidays as our academic institutions, like Labor Day or the entirety of our winter breaks.


But just because you COULD be doing research on those days doesn’t mean you necessarily NEED to.


How can you give yourself a much-needed break without feeling guilty for not working on your research? What’s holding you back from taking the entire day off? If your mentor isn’t in the office, why are you expected to be? 


By getting curious about your hesitations, you might be able to more easily navigate them and give yourself the permission you need to take time off to see your family, regardless of whether or not it's a holiday.


Personal Vacations

September 13 - 19, 2020

Many of us have dreams to see the world and experience new cultures, and some just simply need take a break from the grad school grind.


But with the pressure to devote all of our time and energy to our studies and research, it can be difficult to give ourselves permission to take time off for a personal vacation.


Read and reflect on this article about traveling during graduate school, and check out this personal account written by someone who regrets not taking time off during grad school.


Get curious about what external pressures are holding you back from taking a vacation.


Does your school not have a defined vacation policy for students? Are you afraid you won’t graduate on time? Will your advisor hold a grudge over you? Is no one else in your program taking a vacation? 

Traveling, especially for a vacation, often requires money, but as grad students, we might be living check-to-check or up to our ears in debt.


Because of these financial burdens, you may be unable to take a travel-based vacation, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money - if any at all - to take some time to recharge.


In Discord, share some ideas for how you can vacation on a budget.


Perhaps you turn your home into a five-star resort for the weekend by not making the bed, giving yourself a spa treatment with products you already have, and lighting some candles while you relax. 

Telling your advisor you want to (need to) take a vacation can be scary, and is often times why many of us don’t take them during grad school - especially after we’ve spent the past few months at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.


But don’t let them hold you back!


How can you approach the conversation to ensure your mentor understands why you’d like to take some time off?


Start off by letting them know what you’ve accomplished, and whether or not you might be feeling a little burnt-out. Maybe tell your advisor that this vacation will allow you to come back to your work with a new energy and greater headspace to tackle your project.


Share some of your own ideas in Discord


Personal Time and Mental Health Breaks

September 27 - October 3, 2020


Extracurriculars and Passion Projects

September 20 - 26, 2020

Join Stronger Together Lead Brittany Uhlorn in a live yoga class (her passion!) on Sunday, September 20, at 9 a.m. PT/12 p.m. ET/5 p.m. GMT on the PDB YouTube!

Graduate students are multidimensional.


In addition to our fields of study, we have different passions and interests like art, reading, sports or outreach. These interests allow us to be well-rounded individuals, but when all we are encouraged to do is lab work, writing papers, and winning prestigious fellowships, it becomes difficult to pursue our other passions.


Remind yourself is that graduate school is temporary, and because of that, it is pertinent to foster a good work-life balance.


This week, challenge yourself to revive an old hobby, no matter how unrelated to your academic goals, that you may have lost touch with.


If you are looking for other students who share similar interests, hop on Discord to meet other gamers, avid readers, and plant/pet enthusiasts.


Additionally, read this article by Dr. Katie Wedemeyer-Strombel from the PhD Balance team on how she struck a good work-life integration. 

Students who enjoy volunteering often ask is whether it is feasible to find time for outreach during graduate school when a vast majority of time is spent on their studies, teaching or research.


An equally important question is how to get your advisor on board.


Though you don’t need their validation or approval to pursue an opportunity that fulfills you, the best way to get your mentor’s support is to have an honest conversation.


In Discord, discuss how you can approach this conversation. Perhaps begin by articulating how this outreach opportunity benefits you personally and professionally

A mental health break can look differently for each unique person, like spending a day in bed to taking a semester (or more) entirely away from your studies.


No matter the length or format of your break, try to incorporate daily acts of mindfulness into your routine. That way when you do return, you will be more resilient and have better tools to support your mental health today and for years to come.


Revisit our 5-Day Meditation Challenge led by Lynn Curry and two yoga classes (see below) led by Dr. Brittany Uhlorn to get started

 In a recent Nature study, 36% of 6,300 grad students reported that they’ve sought after help to deal with depression and/or anxiety stemming from their PhD.


If you are struggling with your mental health, you are not alone. 

Read this article written by a former grad student, Dr. Kathryn R. Wedemeyer-Strombel, as she discusses her mental health journey during grad school and the trials and triumphs, she had along the way. She reminds us that it’s ok to take a break to take care of ourselves.

Listen to this quick podcast to learn how taking a break can make you come back stronger.


September 30, 2020

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