Becoming a counselor can offer several fantastic benefits, including long-term job satisfaction and the opportunity to do meaningful work that will have a positive impact on others. Counselors also tend to enjoy excellent job security and have a great selection of jobs and career advancement opportunities. That said, training to become a counselor is hard work, and you will need to complete a masters in counseling before you can apply for a license.
A masters in counseling is intensive and requires a huge investment, both in terms of money and time. Studying for a masters qualification can be mentally and physically draining, especially if you are studying alongside work and other commitments. Students must pay close attention to their health and be aware of the risks of stress and burnout. If you’re about to enroll in a masters in counseling, then here are ten tips to help you stay healthy while studying.
1. Write a study schedule
One of the first things you should do when you enroll in a masters in counseling is to write a study schedule. This will help you get organized early on and motivate you to complete your learning tasks efficiently. Check the course details of your masters in counseling program carefully and make a note of all important deadlines. This will help you decide how much time you need to dedicate each day/week towards your learning. Following a routine and sticking with a study schedule will help you stay on top of your coursework and avoid missing deadlines. This, in turn, will help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. You should also set yourself a few goals while studying for a masters in counseling i.e. to complete a piece of coursework within two weeks. This will give you something to work towards and you will get a sense of achievement once you reach your learning goal.
2. Take regular study breaks
Your brain is only able to concentrate for a limited amount of time. Trying to work for too long is rarely productive, and you are more likely to become stressed and frustrated. With that in mind, you should create a study schedule that includes plenty of breaks and avoids late-night cramming sessions.
According to socialtriggers.com, you should aim to have a short break from studying, i.e. 5 to 15 minutes, every hour or so. You should then take a longer break of at least 30 minutes every two to four hours, depending on the study task. For instance, you should have a decent break at least once every two hours when you are doing an intensive learning activity like essay writing. This will give you time to relax and unwind before returning to your studies.
3. Create a productive study space
Where you choose to study will have a major impact on your mood, learning ability, and overall academic performance. For example, studies have found that clutter affects your brain’s ability to focus and can reduce your working memory. Clearing away clutter will make it easier for you to concentrate on your learning tasks without becoming distracted. You should focus on maintaining a tidy study space that will encourage high levels of productivity. Ideally, you should create a distinct learning space i.e. in a spare room. If you don’t have the luxury of a spare room, then create a study space in another area of your home by adding a quality desk and chair. Make sure that you remove potential distractions such as televisions and smart devices. Having a clean, well-equipped study space will improve your mental health and make it easier for you to complete your learning tasks while studying for a masters in counseling.
4. Exercise to fight stress
A masters in counseling program is demanding, and most students experience stress from time to time. Some stress while studying is to be expected, although too much stress can damage your health. High levels of stress can harm your emotional wellbeing and lead to mental health issues like depression. Prolonged stress can also put you at a higher risk of medical conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease. With that in mind, students must find healthy outlets to combat stress while studying for a masters in counseling.
Numerous research studies have found that exercise has stress-relieving benefits. Exercise increases endorphins, which enhance mood and alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), regular exercise can also “reduce fatigue, improve concentration, and increase overall cognitive function.” This makes it the perfect activity for students studying a masters in counseling.
On top of the mental health benefits, regular exercise will also keep you in good physical shape and help you avoid weight while studying. Try to get out of your house at least once a day to do some form of exercise. This may involve going for a walk in your local park, doing group workout classes in the gym, or going on a bike ride. Find an enjoyable exercise routine that works for you. That way, you will be more inclined to stick with your exercise plan and lead a more active lifestyle while studying.
5. Get more quality sleep
Sleep plays a fundamental role in your health, learning ability, and overall academic performance. Despite this, surveys have found that more than 70% of students get less than eight hours of sleep each night. Sleep deprivation will impair your ability to focus and memorize important learning material. It can also cause various symptoms, including weight gain, mood changes, and weakened immunity. Getting enough sleep when you're a student can be challenging, particularly if you’re balancing study with an active social life. However, quality sleep is essential, and you must make an effort to get the recommended amount of sleep each night. Here are some tips to help you improve your sleep quality while studying for a masters in counseling:
- Get into a healthy sleep routine that involves going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time each day.
- Increase your exposure to natural bright light during the day by working next to an open window or going on a daily walk. This should improve your sleep quality at night.
- Reduce blue light exposure in the evenings by avoiding using laptops and mobile devices for at least one hour before bed.
- Avoid consuming caffeinated drinks later in the day. Opt for decaf alternatives instead.
- Try to avoid napping during the day. If you do nap, then set an alarm and limit sleep to 30 minutes or less.
6. Eat energy-boosting foods
What you eat can have a major impact on your physical and mental health while studying for a masters in counseling. Students often rely on quick, convenient foods while busy studying, but unfortunately, these tend to contain high amounts of sugar, salt, and fat. A sugary snack may give you a quick energy boost, but the results won’t last long, and you are likely to experience a sugar crash and feel tired and lethargic later in the day. Eating unhealthy foods may also cause you to gain weight while also increasing your risk of chronic diseases like type two diabetes. With that in mind, you should consider the quality of your diet and try to make healthier food choices. Some of the best energy-boosting foods include bananas, oily fish, brown rice, eggs, and sweet potato. These foods are packed with nutrients and will give you a much-needed energy boost when you are studying for a masters in counseling.
Preparing home-cooked meals every day can be difficult when you have a busy study schedule. Luckily, there is an excellent selection of healthy recipes that you can cook in 30 minutes or less. This includes easy one-pot casseroles, pasta bakes, and flavorsome curries. Cook extra so that you have leftovers to reheat and eat throughout the week. This will save you time and means you’ll have nutritious meals already prepared.
7. Use school holidays to rest
You will have regular holidays throughout the academic year when studying for a masters in counseling. This includes the Christmas holidays, spring break, and time off during the summer months. You may also have shorter breaks halfway through the term. You may need to do some studying or revisions during the holidays, but try to keep this to a minimum by getting ahead of your work during term time. A masters in counseling is an intense program, and you need to take a proper break every few months to unwind and recharge. Use the holidays to go on vacation, catch up with family and friends, or simply spend some time relaxing and enjoying activities outside of college.
8. Practice self-care
Studying an intensive program like a masters in counseling can be draining and take a toll on your health and wellbeing. You should check in with your mental health often and make time for self-care. Everyone needs some time for themselves, and you should factor adequate downtime into your schedule. Use this time to practice self-care and take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. For instance, soak in a warm bubble bath, cook your favorite meal, listen to relaxing music, or indulge in pampering home spa treatments.
Deep breathing exercises can be a great way to reduce stress and achieve a calm state of mind when you are feeling overwhelmed while studying. These simple activities should enhance your mood, reduce stress, and help you to relax and unwind. You can read blogs online for more tips on how to practice self-care when you are studying for a masters in counseling.
9. Reach out for support
Most students studying for a masters in counseling struggle with their learning tasks or feelings at some point. Remember that you’re not alone, and there are lots of ways to get help and support while studying. Make an effort to connect with your peers and tutors, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are struggling with a particular assessment or piece of coursework. Most colleges have online platforms where you can communicate with other students and discuss coursework and learning materials. Your family and friends can also provide a valuable support network when you are feeling stressed or anxious while studying. Reach out to your loved ones and stay connected using communication apps like Watsapp and Skype.
It is normal to have times when you feel stressed or anxious when you are studying for a masters in counseling. However, you should acknowledge if your feelings go beyond what is normal and seek support if you start to feel overwhelmed or depressed. You can speak with your general practitioner to get advice if you’re struggling with mental health issues. Your student adviser may also be able to connect you with help and support.
10. Avoid drinking too much alcohol
It is common knowledge that college students like to drink and party. You should have fun at college and participate in social activities. However, a masters in counseling is hard work, and you are likely to struggle if you drink too often and go out all the time. Be conscious of how much you drink and try to save parties and alcohol for special occasions.
Every student will agree that earning a masters degree in hard work. A masters in counseling will require you to dedicate at least a year of full-time study and may need to make some sacrifices and you will likely have less free time to spend with family and friends. However, earning a masters in counseling is an incredible achievement that can bring about a wealth of benefits. The program will equip you with the skills and qualifications needed to join the exciting and rewarding field of counseling. Remember to pay close attention to your health while studying and use the above tips to help you stay healthy, happy, and productive while studying for a masters in counseling.