Reducing Stress with Gratitude And List-Making

Published: Tues., February 23, 2021

Building effective and practical coping habits is imperative to your overall wellbeing. The symptoms of stress can compound the difficult reasons causing them in the first place. Stress left unchecked can lead to serious health issues, affecting your body, thoughts, emotions, and behavior. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, long-term stress can disturb your immune, digestive, cardiovascular, and other physiological systems that could succumb to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses.

Although not all stress is bad, it is in your best interest to find healthy ways to manage it while steering the many activities and responsibilities you have during graduate school. Practicing gratitude and strategizing your to-do list are simple and highly beneficial habits to work into your daily routine. However, it’s important to remember that support is available—virtually and on campus—to help you deal with stress when you’re overwhelmed.

Practicing Consistent Gratitude for Health and Happiness

Take 15 minutes or as much time as you would prefer to write in a gratitude journal. The Greater Good in Action Science Center says studies suggest that writing in a gratitude journal three times per week might actually have a greater impact on happiness than journaling every day. Although there is not a wrong way to maintain a gratitude journal, it is important to keep a physical, written or typed record rather than a mental or imagined record. Doing so could help develop a positive mood, reduce the potential for burnout, and lower levels of cellular inflammation while encouraging patience, humility, and wisdom overall.

You can also express gratitude by writing thank you notes so long as you’re specific, consistent, and deeply reflective during the process. If you need help getting started, use this gratitude journal guide or watch this brief presentation from Big Red Resilience and Well-being.

Improving Your To-Do List Method for Relief and Organization

As a graduate student, making lists is likely part of your routine for task and time management. Strategically organizing your lists can take this method a step further for stress relief. Starting with a primary list that includes your deadline dates for assignments, exams, and quizzes will give you a broader view. It may be helpful to create secondary list that details your recurring responsibilities by month or week depending on the nature of your schedule. From this point, you can create daily to-do lists that borrow from your primary and secondary lists whether you work them in or create tasks based on them. This allows you to focus on each day’s tasks and adequately prepare without losing sight of what’s ahead.

Most importantly, you should give yourself time to complete these lists. For a rundown on how to get started with strategic list-making, Big Red Resilience and Well-being has a brief video summary.