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Finding a balance in grad school

Work-Life balance – the most fantastical and elusive concept in grad school.

Two things we know for sure, 1) It is essential, 2) grad students are bad at it.

How does this happen! Well grad students tend to say yes to everything! Whether it’s overzealous excitement, fear of missing out on an opportunity, or feeling the need to prove ourselves, we give a large proportion of our time to work. For a long time I was a “work now, play once I have my PhD” kind of girl. Every time things would get busy with school, I would discard my self-care routine in deference to work. Sometimes this would last a couple weeks but sometimes it would be couple semesters. Suffice it to say 2 years later I was starting to look like grad school Barbie.

Grad School Barbie

Grad School Barbie

Remember the days when a bell would ring and we would be forced to go out and play? We have to enforce our own recesses during grad school. Living well and staying well is a challenge and takes conscious effort.

Ugh…but I already  have to put so much effort into my work

Luckily SGS again has got your back. Some brilliant and thoughtful individuals have created Habitat, a comprehensive compilation of resources that will help you with basically every problem you can imagine (I can only assume it was hard learned through their own graduate experiences). I was honestly blown away by the support offered through Habitat. I could go on for pages about each of the resources, but I will refrain, and hopefully peak your interest enough to check out what Habitat has to offer your grad school experience.


Habitat is organized into 6 AWESOME categories to support both life and work: Staying Well, Play, Coming from Away, Managing, Academe, and Career Development.

Staying Well

Ironically, despite being directly tied to our productivity, our health is the first thing we sacrifice when work becomes busy. No surprise then that this is at the top of Habitat’s list and it covers both mental and physical health. There are resources for learning more about mental health, tips for combating loneliness and stress, and ways to access counseling. It can help you find a doctor or figure out the process of using your health insurance. It also has tips for eating well, and sleeping well and how to deal with sitting in a chair for 6 years.

You can have all the PhD’s in the world, but if you if you don’t have your health, man, life is going to be bad – Kesha


My favourite part of this section is about making friends! Most people don’t realize how difficult it can be to make friends as an adult. We benefited from non-stop play dates in undergrad but in grad school the pool of friends can feel small! The thought of making friends can make us feel anxious and less likely to seek out new friends. In this section it gives you information on SGS social events, joining teams, and volunteering! As they say, locals in your area are waiting to meet you!

Coming from Away

I moved here from Calgary and I can say firsthand that in addition to figuring out my program, adjusting to a new city was a huge job! If you are singleton, moving here with your family, or an international student for whom English is not your first language, this section has resources to help you find your place here in Kingston.


Being in grad school usually means that you are an adult and with adulthood comes the need to balance more than just your studies. Things such as managing your money, dealing with housing, being an international student, or having a family can place extra demands on you. It also means you have less time to scour for resources.

Navigating Academe

Sometimes in grad school we feel like we should already be perfect at everything, but this is not the case. You might have questions about developing your writing, staying motivating, seeking out accommodations, managing your supervisory relationship, career development, and planning for after grad school. These are all here waiting for you!

Career Development

A career might be nice after all of this eh? On top of Expanding Horizons workshop that Amanda discussed there are other resources to help you tailor your experience here to set you up for your career!


If work-life balance weren’t a big issue in grad school then websites like Habitat wouldn’t exist. But it is a problem, and one thing we know is that graduate students need to be reminded of this often!

Are you in need?

when was your last one?

So consider this your first swift kick in the butt!

Let us know what you think about Habitat or tell us about how you make it work in grad school!

Posted in Families, Finances, General, International, Internship, Jobs and Careers, Kingston, New Students, Orientation, Staying Well, Student Perspective, Thesis, Transitioning, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
One comment on “Finding a balance in grad school
  1. Colette says:

    Welcome to the group Vanessa and thanks for showcasing “Habitat”. I am sure many a student can recognize exactly what you have spoken about.

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