Achieving work-life balance can sometimes feel elusive or even out-right unattainable during graduate school. After all, graduate school requires a lot of time and energy, so finding space for hobbies and personal interests can be difficult. However, it is unrealistic to sacrifice every aspect of who someone is to focus solely on studies. Some SPSP student members reflected on how their own hobbies and personal activities fit into their graduate school experiences.
Hobbies come in all shapes and sizes.
Some students’ hobbies were centered on developing new skills like learning a new language or learning how to cook. However, hobbies don’t have to be about acquiring new skills. Hobbies and personal activities can also be more passive. Many other individuals commented that they consider their primary hobbies to be watching TV or movies (whether that’s Netflix shows, Anime, or soap operas), playing video games, taking long walks, and hanging out with friends and family. One student member discussed that they often feel pressure to have hobbies that are meant to challenge them, but that “can feel as draining as working, so it’s better for my mental health and well-being to take the time outside of school to relax in passive ways.” In short, hobbies don’t have to conform to any particular category and should be what helps each individual person take a break from working.
The frequency of engaging in various hobbies and personal activities often depends on the activity itself. For some student members, their hobbies are daily or semi-weekly occurrences. One person shared that they work out 3-4 times a week to relax. Another member shared that their favorite hobby is traveling, but planning and then actually taking a trip is a less common occurrence, particularly over the last year.
It’s never too late to start (or return to) a hobby.
One individual commented that they were reluctant to start a new hobby (playing the guitar) because they were worried it was “too late in life” to learn. However, they ultimately reached the conclusion that this was untrue and began taking lessons. Another member shared that prior to grad school they loved to draw and paint, but they stopped engaging in these activities when they started their studies. However, when the pandemic started, they returned to drawing and painting regularly. The pandemic served as reminder to re-prioritize these personally important activities.
During some weeks (or months), balancing school and hobbies is more challenging than at other times.
There are times when work-related responsibilities force students to push personal activities aside temporarily. Several people spoke to the fact that at their busiest times in the school year, they’re unable to engage in their hobbies. At other times, when the workload is lighter, it’s easier to make time and space for personal activities. One student member commented that during the most stressful times of their year when they can’t engage in their hobbies, it can be hard to remember that they are “more than just a graduate student.” Therefore, they shared they try to keep these breaks from hobbies as short as possible.
Hobbies promote well-rounded (and productive) graduate students.
Several student members shared that engaging in hobbies and personal activities helps them feel happier and more satisfied with life as well as less stressed and overwhelmed by school responsibilities. Further, hobbies also help several students be more productive. One member talked about how scheduling activities into their day-to-day life forces them to get work done ahead of their planned time for their hobbies. Another member remarked that hobbies help them “recharge,” so that when they are working, they are less distracted. Further still, one member shared that their hobbies allow them to connect better with the students they teach and also think more broadly about the research they do in addition to providing personal benefits. All-in-all, these insights highlight how students can and should make time for personal interests.