Stronger Together: How to Prioritize Your Wellness during Grad School
7 tips for setting yourself up for MBA success
By Marielle Berman MBA 22 and Becca Litman MBA 22
The pandemic has added stressors and complexities for many people. As graduate students, we can tell you that this time has been especially hard, adding to an already stressful time in our lives.
Inside Higher Education recently reported that “one-third of graduate students report symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or depression. But... only 58 percent said they had a model, framework or plan to promote the mental health and well-being of graduate students.”
Inspired to do something to change this statistic, we want to share a few tips with prospective MBA students to help show how you can prioritize your mental health and wellness while getting your degree:
Commit to Your Community
A big part of the reason we decided to attend UC Davis was because of the collaborative and supportive environment at the Graduate School of Management (GSM).
We are more productive and produce better work when we can connect with others and there is an open and kind environment. The GSM’s tight-knit community also fosters improved innovation. We are both a part of the Collaborative Leadership Program, which emphasizes building trust and helping others to succeed. We are stronger together.
We were fortunate to start the program before the pandemic began, which allowed us to build relationships with those in our cohort and carry that into the remote environment. The cohort and community are big benefits of the UC Davis MBA program’s structure.
During the period of remote learning, our cohort made a concerted effort to keep connections strong. We have a dedicated Slack workspace, which helps a lot. We also have many active clubs, such as Women in Leadership, which have organized virtual events and socials.
Although we found a way to make it work, we’re very happy to be back in the classroom learning in person again. The challenging time made us value our GSM community all the more.
Putting Personal Wellness First
In addition to having a good support network, we’ve found that making time to destress has been key to our wellness. We try to make time to meditate throughout the week. It can be hard to make time for this with a busy schedule, but even 10 minutes a day goes a long way.
Integrating Mental Wellness in your Workplace
We find that health is affected by all elements of your life, not just grad school.
Since we are both in the Sacramento Part-Time MBA program, we have taken steps to advance and integrate wellness into our work lives. I (Marielle) served as a wellness ambassador at my workplace and led a project in the Technology Management course on the current state of employee mental health and burnout. Our team completed a holistic secular trend analysis and created recommendations by applying 20-plus frameworks in project management, strategy, change management and process improvement.
From the project, our team developed recommendations at the national, industry and company level such as compensation and performance evaluation adjustments, plus recommendations for individual employees such as “quiet hours” for focus and flexible work schedules. We want to show others that prioritizing their health is important, achievable and worth the effort.
Balancing Work and School
One of the perks of earning your UC Davis MBA is that GSM provides a collaborative and flexible environment to balance the rigor of work and school.
As Part-Time MBA students, we’ve come to appreciate the program’s flexibility, course selection and scheduling. These have made all the difference in helping us balance our course work with our other commitments. Many classes also have office hours, review sessions, teaching assistants and tutors if you need any additional help.
Rely on Your Team
Teamwork is an essential part of business school, and the GSM’s culture emphasizes the importance of drawing on each team member’s strengths. We’ve found the team dynamic of the Part-Time MBA program to be incredibly valuable for easing our stress.
For team projects, it’s helpful to discuss group project timelines and expectations in advance. Building a strong team dynamic and creating open lines of communication are valuable for sharing the workload. Learning to rely on our teammates has been essential to bolstering our mental health.
Take Advantage of UC Davis Resources
As part of the much larger UC Davis community, the GSM also has many resources available to help students manage stress and wellness. We have resources and services to help with everything from exploring the eight dimensions of wellness, to crisis resources and tips for healthy sleeping and eating habits. Many of these tips and services are geared especially for the graduate student experience. You can also schedule an appointment with a psychologist who specializes in graduate student concerns and issues.
Advocate for Yourself
Our final tip to prospective students is to be sure you advocate for yourself. An important part of wellness is setting boundaries. For example, it’s important to communicate to your workplace what you need to be successful in pursuing your MBA. This could include the need for time off or a flexible schedule while you complete the program.
Optimizing your work balance and managing your portfolio of projects, especially during your first few quarters of the MBA program, will be essential. The GSM staff is very helpful in assisting with this.
Before applying to the MBA program, it can help to consider what will work best for you, and how you can set yourself up for success.