How to Look After Your Mental Health During Your MBA

How to Look After Your Mental Health During Your MBA main image

MBA programs are intense. When you’re not studying or meeting with a team, you’re networking or writing a cover letter. If you didn’t think you were efficient in time management before the program, you’ll certainly learn to be. Between the hectic pace and stress, we all struggle to do one important task: take care of ourselves.

Every MBA will have a different experience, but everyone will feel some level of pressure at times, and we all have bodies and minds to protect. The inevitable “mid-term cold” is a sure sign that we’re failing to care for our bodies throughout the chaos.

Now that my cohort is seasoned and able to recognize our negligence, we’re aiming to help our incoming class and future MBAs to find ways to keep their wellness at the forefront of their mind. My classmates have shared their tips on how to make health an important stakeholder throughout the MBA program.

Slow down

You won’t be able to read every single word of your assigned readings as the term progresses, so pace yourself. This will require looking at the week ahead and prioritizing the assignments that will have the greatest impact on your grade, and, most importantly, your learning.

As someone who tends to be thorough in everything they do, I struggled with not being able to give ample time to each task. Now that I’ve almost finished the program, I’m grateful I prioritized giving the assignments that pushed me to grow my maximum effort.

Sleep more

Planning out your work for the week will help you draw your “study-time” boundaries and encourage you to get to bed at a reasonable hour. Marc Wandler emphasizes that “rest is needed for both the mind and body” and he hopes you find a way to prioritize your sleep schedule in the MBA program.

Some classmates have determined their own “hard stop” times as they know when their efficiency levels are low and would rather sleep to recharge for the next day.

Eat right

Ensuring you eat nutritious and well-rounded meals will keep you healthy and energized throughout your busy days. Camille Hunt recommends meal prepping as it will save time during lunch (walking to the cafe, waiting in lines) while also being a healthier and cheaper option which you’ll appreciate as a student.

Save Sunday afternoons to make up meals that you can stretch for a few days. A slow-cooker might also be a worthy investment.

Be active

Incorporate activity where you can. Camille also suggests you try and get off the bus one stop early so you get those steps into your day; take the stairs when you can instead of the elevator; go for a walk during class breaks instead of staying seated. Small things like this can clock up activity, which will make you feel better, and help you stay awake especially if coffee isn't doing the job.

Similarly, Sheldon Fernandes suggests if the sun is out (an exciting occasion for our cohort based in Vancouver), go outside and soak it up for 15 minutes as you walk around the building. You can even use these breaks to meditate and reground yourself for the next portion of the day.

Make time

Whether this means for you, your partner, family or friends, it’s all worth it. This one seems impossible when your head is barely above water but if you set (and keep) personal priorities and boundaries, you will learn to work and study within those limits.

My classmate, Teri Grant says, “I set aside non-negotiable time for my wife/home life, and work super hard to be efficient with my school work so I can maintain that commitment.” Teri is an excellent role model for our class as she demonstrates how to find the right balance for the individual.

One of our professors, Ann Stone, echoed the importance of minding our health during a vulnerable and memorable conversation during our final class, saying, “Stay curious and hungry in your life for knowledge about your own health.”

She shared this parting wisdom as we enter our next chapters after the MBA, but I wish I’d heard this on our very first day. I’ll never forget this sentence, and I hope to honor it as I make decisions about my career. Whether you are just starting your MBA, or you’re searching for your next career opportunity, remember that your health is an element you can’t ignore.

Written by Jen Bower

Jen Bower is a Full-time MBA candidate at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. Jen has chosen the Entrepreneurship & Innovation track with a secondary focus in marketing.     Her background is in legal practice development and data consulting. Jen enjoys working for companies who choose to make a difference through their daily operations. Outside of class and work, Jen is an avid runner, hiker, and baker. 

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