So You Want to Be a Shrink?

Navigating careers in psychology.

A Balancing Act

Relaxation is as important as hard work in graduate study.

In the hectic life of graduate students, our priorities require us to focus on those areas which are par and parcel of graduate study. Between classes, work, teaching and research, your personal life can get jammed down to the bottom of the priority list. It can be difficult to set aside time to take care of the "normal" aspects of life, especially personal time. Yet it is this very normal matter that most of us need in order to be most effective in our graduate study.Over the past few months, my friends and I have had the occasion to review our own hectic schedules. We noticed that each of us would reach some point where we just had to stop trying to do as much as we were. That point was sometimes a loved one asking for us to slow down whereas others just hit a wall of exhaustion that forced us to take a break. Others were knocked out by an illness which put them squarely in bed against their deepest desire to keep going at a breakneck pace. Still others found themselves questioning their entire decision to pursue the doctorate degree. For all of us, there is this moment of stark reality which helps us reexamine this full and complicated way of life.

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It seems that we had forgotten about the simple (or complex) diversions that helped us to decompress from all of our concerns. The conversations turned to those things that alleviated the stress of our graduate work. That moment of forgetfulness could be found in the gym, a yoga class or on a run around the Central Park Reservoir. That refuge could be found in the garden where the soil could clear away the stress or kitchen where culinary creativity sweeps away the frustrations of the day. Some relief may be found in the dead of night on the dance floor of local clubs or in the bright sunshine of a Sunday brunch with wonderful companions and great food. That place may be the local bar where we can roar with laughter over the completely ridiculous day that we had yet know is over. It may be a long hot bath with jazz playing in the background. Or it may simply be a walk around the city with our family or friends.

Wherever that place is found, it is imperative for us to remember to go their regularly. As important as our graduate studies are to us, that work can suffer due to our driven natures. The people around us don't get the best of us. By clearing our minds, we are able to look at our particular work, teaching and research with a refreshed perspective and more critical eye. It may be that in those moments of liberation that some of our greatest inspiration may emerge.

Key Sun is a psychologist, social worker, and associate professor of law and justice at Central Washington University. He is the author of Correctional Counseling.more...

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