November 3rd, 2022

By Halle Gibson

As a graduate student in a STEM field, coursework and research can often feel overwhelming and take precedence in my life in terms of time commitment, effort, and mental capacity.  As an undergraduate student in engineering, I did not realize the importance of or how to set boundaries for a healthy work-life balance; however, throughout my many years of education, I have been able to improve this skill and achieve this balance. While I enjoy my work which provides opportunities to explore my curiosity and learn something new each day, I now know that it is essential for me to take time to recharge and relax from my STEM research.

With regard to both mental and physical health, I have found that for me to feel recharged and be at my best, it helps to designate a set amount of time for relaxation and self-care daily. Even a short 15 minutes, when used well, can improve my mood, my happiness, and my stress levels! During this time, I like to unplug from work and science, as well as from my phone along with any obligations that could possibly arise from email or text message notifications. One of my favorite ways to spend this unplugged time is by getting outside and getting active. This could be me taking a walk to enjoy the fresh air, listening to music, or doing yoga to destress and calm my mind. Another way I love to spend my free time is by reading. While I read scientific articles and publications frequently for my research and studies, I find comfort and reinvigorated curiosity when reading fiction novels for enjoyment or biographies/historical texts to learn about people and events outside of the science world.

In addition to taking time to relax and recharge daily through small routines, it is also important to me to separate my weekends from my coursework and research as much as possible. Although it is sometimes unrealistic to completely get away from work over the weekend, I aim to manage my time during the week as best as possible so that I can fully enjoy my weekends. This gives me the opportunity to spend quality time with my friends and family, which allows me to prioritize my relationships and feel supported by a community—both of which I have learned are necessary for me to achieve a fulfilling work-life balance. Spending time with loved ones exploring New York City, trying new restaurants, picnicking in the park, or even running errands to the grocery store leaves me feeling joyful, content, and recharged for the week ahead. Not only does this free time allow me to feel balanced in my personal and professional life, but I truly believe it also helps me to be a better student and colleague as I am excited about my STEM research and studies each week.