UW Graduate School

January 8, 2015

Building Resilience: Moving Forward During the Winter

Welcome back to campus! We hope that you enjoyed your well-deserved holiday break.

As you move forward into the winter quarter, we acknowledge that there could be a marked shift in your experience as a graduate student. The days are both shorter and longer as you spend hours working inside. Personal and work deadlines also appear to grow exponentially. The stress of it all can feel overwhelming. In light of this, we at Core Programs encourage you to build your resiliency so you can better navigate what will feel like an especially challenging quarter.

Here are a few strategies to build your resiliency:

Be mindful. Pay close attention to your mind and body. What kinds of thoughts are going through your head? Do your muscles feel tense? Is your breathing shallow? Are you hungry? Not hungry? Pausing to reflect on how your mind and body are working allows you to be present and take stock of what you truly need at the moment.

Be compassionate. Academia can make you feel like you’re never doing enough. When you couple this with how difficult it can be to stay motivated during the winter, you can become your own worst critic. The truth is, it is neither realistic nor possible to do it all, do your best work, and maintain your health. Be kind and gentle with yourself. It might not feel like it, but you are enough.

Be active. You’re thinking, “Isn’t that the problem?! It’s difficult to stay active during winter.” We’re not suggesting that you train for a marathon (although this may resonate with some of you). If you’ve been reading and writing for several hours, go outside for a ten-minute walk. Do light stretching in the living room. Watch your favorite tv show or read a non-academic book. Intentionally schedule time for family and community. Do activities that not only give you a break from school but also feel rewarding.

Be consistent. Having a daily routine is a helpful coping strategy for managing the stress of the winter. Set your alarm to get up everyday at the same time. Make or grab coffee afterwards. Listen to a podcast on the way to campus. Eat meals at regular times. Give yourself time to wind down before going to bed at night. Do whatever feels right and do it daily.

Renew and refresh. Finally, as during any busy quarter, focus on why you are here as a student. Remember your personal, intellectual, and professional motivations for working towards your degree and beyond. Keep yourself fresh and committed by placing reminders around your home or work station that surprise and ground you.