How I Survived Grad School: A List

Grad school was transformative and amazing but also, my word, so emotionally and mentally brutal. So I thought I would share a few of the things that helped me get through it in case you’re going through something transformative and brutal as well.

1. Bob’s Burgers : I work with a lot of patients who have experienced trauma and as a result I have no desire to watch anything dramatic when I get home. But even on my heaviest days, Bob’s Burgers made me laugh and that made all the difference. See also, Parks and Rec, The Simpsons, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

2. Henry Doorly Zoo : Y’all, Omaha has one of the best zoos in the United States. And that’s not just my opinion, it’s like, ranked and stuff. Watching animals and seeing children get so excited never failed to remind me that life can be full of joy and to be fully present during those joyful moments. Captain Thoughtful and I visited so often we finally became members and I fully expect an exhibit to be named after me soon. Side note: It is also a very hilly long walk so bonus you get a good glute workout! Good for the mind good for the buns.

3. Romance novels : Read Sarah MacLean, Tessa Dare, Julia Quinn, Lisa Kelypas, Victoria Alexander, and Kirsten Callahan y’all. These are talented writers who write interesting characters (particularly sassy clever female characters) who meet their matches and have happy endings. Sometimes you need a happy ending in a book and there is nothing wrong with that. Every book was a delight.

4. Empowering playlist: Beyonce featured heavily and whenever I was feeling low or overwhelmed I would just get my ass in Formation.

5. Captain Thoughtful: I know not everyone has a Captain Thoughtful but I hope you all have at least one person in your life who is as supportive, encouraging, validating, hilarious, and kind as Captain Thoughtful is. I often tell my patients how important a support system is and I think they kind of roll their eyes and minimize it but y’all SUPPORT SYSTEMS ARE IMPORTANT. Not to solve your problems or minimize them but to sit alongside you, pour you a glass of your preferred beverage, hold your hand while you ugly cry, and then watch a marathon of RuPaul’s Drag Race with you.

Feel free to share things that have helped you cope with the transformative and brutal times in your life in the comments y’all.

Also – why does spellcheck keep underlining transformative? That’s a word spellcheck. Trust me, I’m a therapist.

16 thoughts on “How I Survived Grad School: A List

  1. I watch a massive amount of standup comedy and British panel shows. Adam Hills has really optimistic standup, as well as Russell Howard and Dara O’briain (also Aziz Ansari and John Mulaney). Mock the Week, 8 out of 10 cats and Big Fat Quiz of the Year are all amazing British shows that make fun of the news etc and they’re perfect.

  2. My wife helped me survive grad school lol! But also a therapist, and an anti-depressant 😦 Realigning what matters helped – my self-worth was tied to my interactions with my advisor, my ability to generate MEANINGFUL data (since 90% of experiments fail), and what others thought about me. Once I abandoned these notions of self-worth, it felt better. As a postdoc, I still attribute SOME part of my identity to the data I generate. The fact is that I will be judged on the results I produce. Many times, things simply don’t work. But there is no sympathy for that. I am hoping to get out of academia soon… let’s see. Thanks for this post!

  3. DIY projects. They help me focus on something other than what’s bothering me and I have something to show for my efforts in the end. Most of the time they are good….

  4. Welcome back! Congrats on being done with Grad School. I hated every second of that time of my life. I totally get your thing with Bob’s Burgers. If one more person asks me if I’m watching Handmaiden’s Tale I’m going to lose it and become one of your patients. It seems so dark and disturbing. There are enough horrors in the real world so when I sit down to watch TV I like to laugh so I watch half hour sitcoms like Veep, The Mick & American Housewife. I’ve got a Captain Thoughtful who loves the zoo.

    1. I totally get it – the dramatic shows may be cleverly written and expertly acted but that doesn’t mean they are good for me to watch. I’m all about the laughter these days. I haven’t watched The Mick yet but I have heard good things, I’ll have to check it out!

  5. The Henry Doorly Zoo is the ONLY place worth visiting in NE. I lived there most of my life and it is what I recommend to everyone.

    I like zen hobbies. This is the any task that takes focus away from whatever is going on. Coloring, jigsaw puzzles, knitting/crochet, Sudoku, crosswords, etc. It’s really any minimal skill task that you enjoy doing but doesn’t require too much active thinking.

  6. Only in my first semester of grad school, but already I know what you mean by support system. When you’re so busy with work and school just having one or two people to go to and vent/process is super helpful. And laughter is always a plus, especially when what you’re studying is sometimes morbid.

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