Published: Oct. 1, 2018 By
Two people talking over laptop computer

Balancing graduate studies with relationships, employment and other responsibilities can become overwhelming the further we move into a new academic year. Sometimes it’s easy to feel weighed down by our own expectations to do it all. Prioritizing your health, taking breaks and finding support are the first steps toward having a successful and healthy year.

Good stress vs. bad stress

Even when we’re prepared, stress can still creep in. This isn’t always a bad thing. Some stress is actually “good” stress, because it keeps us motivated. When stress becomes overwhelming and affects other areas of our lives, such as health and relationships, it becomes “bad” stress.

Knowing how to recognize this “bad” stress is important. Some may experience it as irritability and moodiness; others may have trouble sleeping or feel nauseated, while some experience anxiety or panic attacks. However it comes out, it’s normal.

Finding what works for you

Finding ways to manage stress will make it easier to move on and maintain your motivation. Try different techniques to relieve the pressure and see what works best for you.

Positive psychology research indicates physical activity, getting fresh air and sunshine, meditating and deep breathing can all reduce stress and improve one’s outlook. For meditation, try using the mobile apps Breathe2Relax or Stop, Breathe, and Think. You can also drop-in on Feel Good Fridays, a free weekly guided meditation session at the CU Art Museum every Friday from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m.

Talk it out

It's important to address your expectations, both for reducing stress and having a better graduate experience at CU. Grad students can experience external and internal pressure to perform at a high level academically, or may be concerned with what the future will hold after graduation. 

Know that you aren’t alone—Counseling & Psychiatric Services (CAPS) offers a number of process groups specifically for graduate students to talk through common stressors. You can also reach out to your support system of friends and family to talk things out.

Prioritizing health

Keeping up with your health allows you to continue achieving your goals and manage stress. Prioritize getting enough sleep (7–9 hours per night), eating balanced meals regularly, making time for regular exercise and engaging in hobbies beyond your program of study.


Learn more stress-management techniques with SilverCloud Health, a free online portal available for graduate students. SilverCloud Health has programs covering three topics—stress, anxiety and depression—with tools and information you can use at your own pace.

If the stress of expectations ever becomes too much or the balance of goals and wellness just isn’t there, CAPS can help—located in C4C N352 or at various locations on campus through their Let’s Talk program. All fee-paying students are entitled to free, unlimited groups and workshops through CAPS, as well, on topics from procrastination and productivity to meditation and stress management.