Masters in Surviving Graduate School: Mental Health for graduate students

The UP-Environmental Science & Meteorology hosted the IESM’s first talk/workshop on Mental Health and Stress Management in the context of Graduate School, facilitated by guest speaker Mr. Rolando C. Delos Reyes II of the UP-OCG, held in the IESM Auditorium on October 23, 2018.

The organization initially proposed this activity to help address the mental health issues of graduate students. Many external stressors such as financial constraints, high academic standards of IESM professors, strict deadlines, and the dreaded thesis/dissertations that these students face, often affect their mental health. These, in turn, are further exacerbated by internal stressors such as self-doubt, self-esteem issues, the dreaded “Impostor Syndrome”, and presentation/test anxiety; add to the already heavy load many graduate students carry.

The workshop began with various warm-up/icebreaker tasks facilitated by the guest speaker to help the participants reflect on their mental health via parallelisms to their physical health. The participants lined up according to how they rank themselves on their stress management skills. The participants were then asked to identify who among them they perceive to be the best stress managers.

Mr. Delos Reyes asking students their stress management strategies to kickstart the workshop.

Volunteers were chosen as the model stress managers. These students shared their strategies, such as prioritizing urgent tasks without losing track of long-term goals, managing one’s time to produce meaningful output, maintaining a relaxed, positive attitude, fighting the urge of laziness, and managing one’s emotions, despite external stressors. These, in turn, became the springboard for the lecture on accurately defining mental health, and stress.

This portion of the workshop explored many aspects of mental health that one must consider in maintaining a holistic and healthy lifestyle, and outlook. The lesson from this portion of the lecture was that mental health is not necessarily the absence of illness. It is the maintenance of overall well-being so that one can be optimally productive in his/her endeavors. The workshop also clearly defined stress, categorized external and internal stressors. The speaker then showed an analogy on how people should adequately manage stressors. According to the speaker, external stressors are akin to toxins, which one should manage by not letting them into his/her state of mind for a long time, while internal stressors should be removed from one’s system. The speaker then summarized the main gist of stress management as “A-B-C” Acceptance of, Boundaries, and Compassion. These comprise, acceptance of the things one cannot control and choosing how to react to these, knowing one’s boundaries, and being proactive in managing external stressors, and having compassion to give proper self-care, to be able to care for others.

The next activity had the participants listing and tallying their significant stressors. As expected, the top three stressors IESM graduate students expressed were their thesis, finances, and negative thoughts. As these issues were processed, the last portion of the workshop focused on identifying irrational thoughts, and reframing situations.
This portion of the workshop showed the participants statements that were irrational thoughts, such as the idea that “our family, friends, and loved ones are expected to love you unconditionally,” that “one can achieve anything,” and “your significant other knows everything you need.” The speaker explained why these are irrational because one cannot control how others feel and react, and that people have limits. He shared his physical limitation of having one broken finger on his right hand, which severely limited his musical abilities. He then showed how to reframe these things more positively.

Another student, UP-ESMS President for AY 2017-2018, Arjay Lerios shares in detail his stress management strategies
as well as his multi-tasking techniques.

When one is brave enough to accept this with a proper frame of mind, one’s mental health will improve. The workshop ended with a reinvigorated audience of graduate students, now equipped to tackle their external, and internal stressors head on.

This activity will help our students navigate through the rigors of graduate school. May you all stay healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally, so that you will be able to become great scientists in service to the nation.

Group photo during the UP – ESMS Mental Health and Stress Management

Abante UP – ESMS!
Photo credits: Ms. Alyssa Jose De Ocampo