By Josh Casillas, Master of Counseling Psychology, Career Consultant | Career Development Office, Lab Manager | Positive Sport and Peak Performance Psychology Lab
We all know graduate school can be taxing, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Studies have shown that graduate students are six times more likely to experience depression than the general population and many report they need help and support.
Researchers found that institutions can help graduate students by establishing processes "that support students current and future career outcomes, including interventions that can help those who may not otherwise seek help" (Flaherty, 2018).
What graduate student does NOT feel anxiety or stress in graduate school? So what can you do? CGU offers programs designed to facilitate your holistic development, seek these out to help you develop positive psychological capital (PsyCap).
PsyCap has been described as "a core construct reflecting individuals' positive psychological state of development". Interestingly, PsyCap has been associated with the increased levels of positive emotions, which can act as a buffer against anxiety and stress. The following four capacities are the foundation for building PsyCap: Hope, Self-Efficacy, Resiliency, and Optimism, commonly known as the HERO within (Luthans & Youssef-Morgan, 2017).
Hope. Hope can be developed by using a goal-setting exercise where we identify a goal, list potential barriers to those goals, and list ways around the potential barriers. For example, you can take time to identify a personally meaningful goal and follow the suggested steps, both goal directed energy (agency) and a plan to meet that goal (pathway) can help you to develop hope.
Self-Efficacy. Self-efficacy can be developed by mastery or success experiences, social persuasion and positive feedback, and vicarious learning or modeling from relevant others. For example, during a particularly stressful period during the semester, you could reflect on the accomplishments (i.e., successfully completed assignments, projects, or classes) that you have achieved up to that point. Reflecting on past accomplishments (mastery experiences), can provide positive motivation that can help you to persist academically.
Resilience. Resilience can be enacted by the development of resources (personal, social, or psychological), which help an individual to overcome adversity. For example, if you are stressed you studying for finals can lean on individuals who can help you maintain a positive perspective and keep a balanced view of your stressors.
Optimism. Simply put, optimists expect positive things to happen. In developing optimism, you could keep a diary of three things to be grateful for each day and meditate on how these three things, have positively impacted your life.
Finally, researchers have identified that hope and resilience may be most beneficial to develop for graduate students, as it has been associated with academic outcomes and has relevance for psycho-emotional well-being. If you can focus on the development your positive psychological capital, it may be an investment that can yield rich personal results during graduate school!
I challenge you to do the following gratitude exercise
List five things for which you are grateful and take a few minutes to reflect on why you are grateful for them
- "I appreciate ___________ because ____________."
When you are feeling stressed or need a positive mental boost, look back at these statements and practice gratitude.
Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377â389. doi: 10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.117
Flaherty, C. (2018, March 6). New study says graduate students' mental health is a "crisis". Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/03/06/new-study-says-graduate-students-mental-health-crisis
Liran, B. H., & Miller, P. (2017). The Role of Psychological Capital in Academic Adjustment Among University Students. Journal of Happiness Studies, 20(1), 51â65. doi: 10.1007/s10902-017-9933-3
Lopez, S. J., Snyder, C. R., & Pedrotti, J. T. (2015). Positive Psychology: the Scientific and Practical Explorations of Human Strengths. London: Sage.
Luthans, F., & Youssef-Morgan, C. M. (2017). Psychological Capital: An Evidence-Based Positive Approach. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 4(1), 339â366. doi: 10.1146/annurev-orgpsych-032516-113324