For most of my life I assumed I would go to graduate school right after undergrad. While I didn’t go back immediately, six years later, I am in the thick of graduate school right now.

The specific program I am in is not semester based, it is term based; we have nine-week terms with a short break in the summer and a short holiday break. For most students in undergrad or graduate school, the fall signifies a new semester of school, homework, and juggling competing priorities.

I could write a blog post about the ‘logistical’ things that you should do when you start a new semester: organize your workspace, print out your syllabi, make sure you have enough pens and highlighters, etc.

While all of those things are necessary and important, I think there are a few other things you need to do when starting a new semester (or for me, term) in school.

1. Create a Self-Care Plan

School can be busy. I don’t care if you are in graduate school or if you are in undergrad, you have lots going on. And let’s not even talk about if you are working or have a family in addition to school.

For me, I am working full time, volunteering and am in grad school part time. The start of school increased my schedule and commitments and decreased my ‘free time’ (and my time to watch television ?). I have learned that now more than ever, I have to have a self-care plan.

The GenTwenty team has already written about the importance of self-care, but I am advocating for students to create and implement a self-care plan.

How I take care of myself while working and going to school full time:Click To Tweet

It doesn’t matter what it looks like for you, and it will be different for everyone, but it is really important that you take care of yourself during this time.

For me, I have made working out a priority (because it really helps me have energy and sleep), I take vitamins, I try to meditate and practice mindfulness, and I have gone back to therapy. These things are important for me to remain a human and keep my junk together.

2. Make Sleep a Priority

I feel like it is easy to stop focusing on ourselves when we get busy, and sleep is one of the things we may get rid of when we are busy and overwhelmed. Please don’t let that happen.

I talk about sleep a lot because it is incredibly important. If you are not giving yourself time to recharge, you will burn out, hit a wall and not be as successful in what you are doing. I don’t want that for me or you, and I am sure you don’t want it for you.

Recommended: 3 Tips for Better Sleep to Help You Reach Your Goals

So decide how much sleep you need (if you want my recommendation, it is seven hours), and try really hard not to get any less than that.

Why Sleep Should ALWAYS Be a PriorityClick To Tweet

3. Create/Maintain a Place for Academics

When I was in undergrad, I lived in an apartment with a few other ladies and made my desk area my sanctuary for school. Now, I have a separate bedroom specifically for my office. You may not want to or be able to have a different room for school, but have a dedicated place for school.

This is good for a few reasons.

  • One: it will help you stay organized and have things in one place.
  • Two: going into that space will help your brain focus on doing school work.

Our brains can be programmed and we can program our brains that when we go into that area, it is time to buckle down. It doesn’t necessarily what that space looks like, but it is helpful to have a dedicated space for this work.

4. Remind Your Friends That You Are in School

This may apply to students in undergrad (depending on your major or workload), but this definitely applies to people in grad school.

Remind your friends that you are in school and are going to be juggling extra responsibilities and will likely see them less and will go out less. If you have been working for a while and go back to school, it can be a shift in a variety of things including how much social time you have.

This isn’t a good or bad thing, it just is. So let your friends (and anyone else you need to know) that you will be a little busy for a while.

Your time is precious. Protect it fiercely.Click To Tweet

 5. Finally, and Potentially the Most Important, Give Yourself a Break and Be Easy on Yourself

It can be really hard to juggle lots of things. There are so many times when I feel like I am not good enough, not spending enough time on whatever time, and am exhausted. During those times, it is easy for me to beat myself up and let negative self-talk take over. Please don’t do that!

When you are feeling busy, stretched too thin, tired, whatever, please give yourself a break. Allow yourself to take a break when you can. Remind yourself why you are doing these things. Talk to a trusted friend. Take care of yourself and give yourself a break *do you hear the KitKat song playing in the background*?

I am really happy that I have chosen to be in school while also working full time. For me, it has increased my responsibilities, but I am really happy that I have done it. But because of the additional commitments, it is critical that I take time for myself.

Whether you are in undergrad or in grad school, I hope that you can learn some from me and use some of the tips above.

If you are in school, I would love to hear what you are doing and how are you taking care of yourself. Comment below or write us on Twitter: @gen_twenty & @sharpjes!

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