I make war with what comes in contact with a person’s health or happiness, believing that God made everything good…”
~Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
Grad school is a unique, generally rigorous, and ideally outstanding life experience which will push you to your intellectual, emotional, and physical limits. At the end of year one in the Southwestern College MA Art Therapy/Counseling program, I’ve figured out ten thrival skills that I wish I’d known when I started at Southwestern College in Santa Fe, NM (what Condé Nast Traveler calls one of the Best Small Cities in America) last Fall.
- Print papers in advance. I’ve been ten minutes late to class because of printer cartridge issues and I’m not a student who pulls a Ferris Bueller (I’ve never missed a class in the last year) and don’t have a habit of being late for school. Seriously, I’d have to be dying to miss class… yet I still feel irritation that I was foolish enough to print papers last minute, often on the day of class, my first term of grad school. Also, its a great idea to keep one or more spare printer cartridges and paper on hand. I do try to conserve resources and save trees, and generally only print my final document (some SWC professors accept email submissions, which is really rad), yet better safe than sorry when it comes to having needed supplies on hand.
- Burn out leads to… burnt out—so laughter and play really are the best medicine. Definitely all work and no play makes Jane/John a dull grad student. Remember to play and have fun. An awesome thing about SWC is that it’s located in a grad school destination location… meaning über cool Santa Fe, New Mexico… where you will find hiking, biking, skiing, rock climbing, horseback riding, spas, gyms, yoga, meditation, cooking schools, art galleries, theatre, movie theaters, Indie book stores, the Santa Fe Opera, fabulous restaurants, and so much more. I’ve been to the theatre, to hear world-renowned authors and others speak at the Lensic, logged some serious time on the Chavez Center treadmills (and in their fabulous hot dry sauna and hot tub), as well as ambled around the Plaza, met classmates for a drink at the La Fonda Hotel, and taken time to explore Ojo Caliente, particularly the historic Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa. The Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa—circa 1868, one of the oldest in the country—is the only hot springs in the world with four kinds of natural mineral springs—lithia, iron, arsenic, and soda (each has its own unique healing properties).
- Explore and utilize all campus and program resources. I was super surprised when I realized that I’d bought books that were available as eBooks through the library, or to realize that I could economize and eat better by bringing smoothie and Teeccino mocha ingredients for between class snacks (as the SWC campus has an awesome student lounge, complete with blender, Keurig machine, refrigerator, microwave, and more), or find the quiet space I need on or off campus (in the library, student lounge, or open art studio, on the beautiful grounds, or elsewhere) to study, meditate, do homework in advance, or catch up on my course reading.
- Practice deep self-care. From eating super well (whether you’re seeking a paleo-friendly, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, an omnivore with a passion for a bit of everything, or something else, Santa Fe will feed you well), to taking vitamins, exercising (reading books on the treadmill is a great way to get your reading done), yoga, or maintaining a personal practice, such as meditation, walking or otherwise, you can find your transcendent community (Santa Fe is a wellspring of inner work, including a uniquely varied offering of spiritual groups) and maintain or create the inner resources you will need to stay centered and balanced in graduate school at SWC.
- A computer is not a storage device. Back your documents up in more than one place. An awesome thing about being a SWC grad student is that you have access to Microsoft Office Live, including the entire Microsoft Office Suite of software (Word, Outlook, Excel and more) and, perhaps mostly importantly, you can back up all of your document in the cloud. I recommend that you make it a habit to back up your grad school files (papers, presentations, eBooks, and more) on your laptop, on an external hard drive, and on the cloud.
- Pack your lunch, grad student! One of the first things that I did in my first term was buy a really great insulated lunchbox with a freezer pack, one that can hold a mini smoothie shaker cup, and has a pocket in the side for utensils, tea bags, sweetener, and napkins. I’ve used my lunch bag (I love the Fit-Fresh brand, my bag is the purple flowers Greenwich insulated lunch kit) several times a week for nearly a year. Classes are generally three hours long, and some may be longer (weekend sections that are taught in a workshop-like format). You’ll need serious sustenance to make it through grad school, ideally plenty of fresh, nutrient dense whole foods. Sometimes I keep a bag of mocha ingredients in my car, when my schedule means I’ll be in class for several long days in a row (because a hot, creamy mug of something sweet—I’m a huge fan of vegan, stevia-sweetened mochas—makes me feel nurtured and energized).
- Know the players. One of the benefits of attending an intensive, intimate graduate school means that you’ll have access to the highest educational and administrative levels. When Dr. Nolan, President of SWC, says that his door is always open… he means it. Dr. Nolan keeps chocolate in his office (enticing, yes?) and is one of many high-level resources to help you navigate the waters of grad school. Have questions about your program planner? Need financial aid guidance? Dru Phoenix and others are often available immediately, or soon thereafter. Have a question about a course assignment, project, or paper? Your professors can be reached in person or via email with relative ease. The experts at SWC are incredibly accessible, unlike in many other graduate psychology programs. So take advantage of the access and get to know the players at SWC.
- Say yes, whenever possible. A holistic art therapy and counseling graduate program is certainly going to cultivate your consciousness and facilitate your opening, yet grad school can seem overly busy and even have the opposite effect. The pace of grad school may mean that you have a tendency to contract a bit, as I did… until I reminded myself that saying, “Yes,” to meeting a classmate/friend for tea at The Teahouse, or going out to a play, or hitting up a lecture at The Lensic, or picking up a classmate/friend from the Rio Metro depot, would be more enjoyable. Saying yes means you’ll be making memories and squeezing in events, activities, and connections, that will form the great grad school memories that you’ll later cherish–surely you’ll read life-changing books and have educational experiences, projects, lectures, and so on, that are mind-blowingly good—as it’s the moments that you say, “Yes,” to that you’ll remember all your life.
- Pack ‘em up, raw hide (or something like that). By that I mean keep non-perishable snacks and water on hand, in your book bag and in your ride. Whether it’s bags of smoked almonds, protein bars, kale chips, trail mix, and bottled water, be sure to have healthful snacks accessible… including in your vehicle. I still hadn’t sorted out my housing when I started grad school, so I was living in a local motel when my first term began, and I clearly remember how hungry I was that first month. I was using my brain intensively, and the gray matter was demanding a serious amount of glucose… which manifested in intense hunger. Plus, with a constantly changing schedule (ten week terms mean schedule changes every quarter), you’ll want to plan your food… especially high quality protein and regular snacks. Although I don’t like eating in the car, it’s a hazard of modern life… particularly when your modern life includes an intensive grad school program.
- Get your beauty sleep, princess/prince. One of my favorite ways to self-nurture is to get enough sleep. I know that I’m sharper, retain more information, and write better and faster when rested, and I’m not the only one who associates better cognitive performance of new tasks with adequate sleep. So be sure to reward yourself with sleep when you can. Certainly I may have late nights, during certain parts of the term, yet I manage to play catch-up with sleep… by setting aside time to slumber, and catch some zzzzzs, sometimes for 12 hours straight, so that I don’t get too sleep deprived. If you’re giving up things for grad school, sleep shouldn’t be one of those things you regularly go without.
Remember that self care and healthful lifestyle choices support grad school success!