Self-care is essential for everyone, but it is a great companion for graduate students. Students pursuing their online Master of Business Administration should consider prioritizing their self-care. While programs are flexible, they are often rigorous and accelerated. Self-care is vital for online MBA students because it can be a breeding place for anxiety, stress, and burnout when it is absent from a person’s life.
Self-care is a term widely discussed today. At times it may be closely associated with being selfish or narcissistic. However, according to an article from Psychology Today, self-care is paying attention to and taking care of oneself. It is prioritizing one’s health: physically, mentally, and emotionally. According to a self-care article on Everyday Health, the World Health Organization defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”
Students must be good to themselves as they pursue their online MBA. Students should survey themselves to assess their needs and priorities for the MBA, and they should determine how they can maintain or accomplish each of those things while prioritizing their health. Self-care is being explored here as assessing mental and physical health and planning, organizing, and keeping priorities.
Self-Care: Assessing Mental and Physical Health
One place to start is discovering oneself. When students survey themselves, they can answer the questions of where they are and what they need. Next, they can assess their priorities, and then they can begin the self-care journey. In self-seeking, students should evaluate what they do for self-care to enjoy life or maintain health and what strategies they use to cope when they are overworked or burned out. These things are referred to as positive and negative coping. Some positive coping is maintaining a hobby, meditating, listening to music, or socializing with friends. Negative coping can be yelling, smoking, or skipping meals. It can be helpful for students to keep the list of positive ways of coping close and explore other ways to release their stress.
Mental and emotional care is essential. When school, work, and home life can become too much, there are ways for students to make life feel a little lighter. One healthy way to respond to the overwhelming feeling is to remind oneself why they are taking an online MBA. Many students have a reason why they entered graduate school. After all, they must have said something in the personal statement of the application for the program. Students may benefit from writing out why they took on the program, why they made the financial sacrifice, what they are aiming for, and what outcomes they want to see—remembering one’s “why” can be grounding in the face of challenges and setbacks.
There may even be other ways for students to ground themselves in purpose. For some, a way to ground oneself in purpose may be to read inspirational literature or music. Students can also consume motivational material through books or podcasts. There are several podcast platforms, like Spotify, google podcasts, or apple podcasts, to name a few. Additionally, there are encouraging pages and hashtags students can search on Instagram. Searching tags (with the #) like graduate school encouragement, graduate school success, hope, motivation, etc., can lead to videos, reels, and quotes that restore hope and focus.
One common challenge or negative coping strategy students use, entertaining imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is a painful feeling where one doubts the ability, in this instance, to thrive in an online MBA. They feel as though they are a fraud. Maybe they start to question being able to complete their online MBA program and entertaining feelings of incapability. When people experience this, it can be helpful to remind themselves of all of their accomplishments, like being accepted into their program!
But also, they need to know they are not alone. Another healthy response for students can be to find people they can speak openly with. Someone to talk openly with, maybe a friend, classmate, colleague, therapist/counselor, or support group. Many students have a support system that consists of friends or significant others. But students may need to consider professionals that can help them navigate challenges. As medical doctors help with physical medical illness or pain, therapists help with mental health illness and pain. Therapists work on both an individual basis and in group therapy settings. Group therapy is often cheaper.
Students that have health insurance can look up practitioners in their network via their insurance website. Students may also want to consider betterhelp.com. Better help is affordable, and the platform’s goal is to connect those in need with licensed therapists. Students begin by filling out a questionnaire. The questionnaire is designed to see what one is seeking or in need of. Some of the listed topics on the website that people seek help for are depression, stress, anxiety, and self-esteem, to name a few. The next step is for the site to match the user with a counselor through the site. Once a person is offered a match, they can message the counselor at any time on the website or phone application. Better help is connected to over 20,000 therapists. If the counselor is not a good match, another counselor can be requested. The disclaimer is that students that need emergent help because they are in danger should call 911 or use national resources like the suicide prevention hotline, hope line network, or other crisis lines.
Another aspect of self-care is physical care. That can include nutrition and exercise. When there are stressors present in students’ lives, some of these things can be neglected. To help with nutrition, students may consider doing meal preparation in advance. There are recipes online or in recipe books. Some of them are listed as low effort or quick meals. With a little planning, students can avoid skipping meals and maintain health. They can have meals and snacks ready to go. To help with physical exercise, students can use applications for free workouts. They can also spend time outdoors when the weather permits and walk, run, jog, or bike. Students can also join a gym or find a park or establishment with free access to workout equipment. These are all positive coping strategies to maintain physical health.
Self-Care: Planning for the Online MBA
Planning and tracking the journey through an online MBA is important before applying to the program, while in the program, and after the program. It will help to keep the priorities which are ultimately self-care. For example, students may need to plan before they begin to consider their family and financial situation. They may also need to plan the steps to get into the job or career they hope for. Each of those plans that happen at the beginning of the program may need to be revisited during the program.
Before a program begins, students may need to determine when might be the best time of year to start the program concerning their family and personal life. Students could be planning around the birth of children, childcare, or care for elderly family members. They could be planning around a spouse’s job needs. Then once those things are planned, students may need to plan how they can complete and keep personal time a priority. Some questions to consider are: what will time with family look like, what time is friends, and what time is personal? These questions may need to be constantly referred to. The answers may also change.
Other planning during the program can be directly related to life after the MBA. Students enter an MBA program for various job and career reasons. For example, some are seeking advancement in management and need more knowledge and credentials. Some may be wanting to make a shift in their career and desire to enter the business sector for the first time. Still, others may be learning about entrepreneurship to start a business of their own. At times students may lose sight of what is after the MBA by only focusing on the classes. Whichever route a student is taking, the future has to be a priority now.
There are many ways students can keep their eye on the prize. If a school offers career services, students should connect with them. That office is a resource to get help with building a resume or practice interviewing skills. The career center may also use a platform for job hunting that is accessible to students or host career fairs that are networking opportunities. It is vital to meet companies or future business partners. Other tips for students are to keep track of the content that is being learned in the classroom. This content can be referred back to as students meet with companies as well as be directly applied in a current job. A student currently working in business can connect with their supervisor to talk about marketing concepts, for example, or ask for leadership opportunities to share things with their team. Lastly, it could be helpful for students to read current business publications. Their school could publish some on their websites and send articles by email. Reading those words could spark innovation or ignite new interests and direction.
Self-Care: Assessing Style of Learning
Students pursuing an online MBA may need to consider what type of learner they are. The types of learners are visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing. Knowing one’s learning style can help them maximize their learning experience because they can assess how they work and learn best. One thing to keep in mind is that each student may not simply fall into one category. Additionally, if an online program is not working well for a particular student because they are dominantly one of the styles, it is helpful to consider other options. For example, it could be beneficial for some students to enroll in a hybrid option to take some classes online and some in the classroom or even switch to being fully in the classroom.
Visual learners are also referred to as spatial learners. Spatial learners tend to want to see and observe what they are learning. Therefore, they prefer handouts and presentations with pictures and diagrams. To maximize the learning experience, these students may need to buy a whiteboard to take notes or draw their diagrams and pictures if they are not provided with the learning material. Students can also ask for presentations from the professor and take adequate time to process their learning.
Auditory learners like to learn by what they hear. Therefore, they should focus on listening to the lecture rather than writing down any notes during the presentation. They may also thrive during group discussions. Also, when studying or reading a book, they prefer to read the content aloud to themselves or record the material and play it back to themselves.
Kinesthetic learners learn by interacting with the new learning content. They are also referred to as tactile learners. One study tip for students who learn through this style is taking breaks during studying as it may be challenging to study for long periods. In addition, pacing or using a whiteboard can help with learning to engage their bodies.
The fourth learning style is reading and writing. These learners like to learn through words. These students prefer to read the books in class, write out notes, or look things up on the internet. The educational system itself is catered to this type of learner, as most of the content is information presented in the written and spoken word. The content is then asked to be returned through exams and essays. This type of learner can do that with ease.
There are other things for students to consider related to their unique learning and studying styles and preferences. Many online MBA programs have much more flexibility than in-person graduate programs. Some online programs have asynchronous and synchronous programs. Synchronous means the teaching material is offered at a specific time, or modules are unlocked at a particular time. In an asynchronous program, all or most of the content becomes available, and students can complete tasks independently; it is self-paced. Particularly with asynchronous classes and programs, students may want to consider whether they work well in the morning or evening. Students with full-time jobs may not have much choice in when to do work. But working smart will be critical. There may be opportunities to read or do an assignment on a lunch break, an off day, or on the weekend.
Students can think about whether they can multitask or if they are more singular-focused. Some students are high capacity, and some are low capacity. It is important to know if one can max out on the number of classes to take or if they need to take one class at a time. Of course, with those decisions, financial situations are important to consider. Family needs may also need to be taken into consideration.
Some students in an online MBA are motivated by good grades; some are motivated by the career progression they will experience. Still, others may need to provide other rewards for themselves. A reward system could be helpful. Students may want to consider celebrating their wins. Wins can look like moments of progress, like great test grades or bringing up a good point during class discussion.
Much is required of a student pursuing an online degree. However, more is required of a full-time working professional pursuing a degree. It can be easy to be consumed and overwhelmed with one’s home, school, and work needs. It may seem necessary to find balance; however, students may need to organize the priorities of their lives rather than balance. Setting priorities include personal needs. Some students may need to used systems to organize and prioritize to maximize success. There are many resources available for organizing one’s life.
One tool for maintaining organization is Todoist. Todoist helps people to account for their checklist items and organize them to ensure progress is made on what is important. Using the application on iOS and Android or online websites helps users feel less overwhelmed and confident. Through Todoist, users can create projects and then list tasks under them. With the cost-free option, up to five projects can be made, up to five collaborators can work on each project, and five megabytes of content can be uploaded. There is also a pro plan that can be paid yearly for $36 or $4 per monthly, totaling $48. With the pro plan, users can create up to 300 projects, add up to 25 guests to projects for collaboration, choose from over 150 filters to change color features, and review their activity histories. Todoist also offers discounts to nonprofit organizations at 50% off. Many online MBA students have full-time jobs. If that job is with a nonprofit, the deal can be applied. If not, the place of employment does not disqualify a student from using this resource.
Another tool for organization and building good habits is Streaks. It is another to-do list, but it is listed in a fun way and can even become a game, but it is to help for good habits. It is a habit-tracking application. The home screen shows items like sleep for eight hours, drinking water, running, studying for three hours, eating a healthy meal, or brushing teeth. Users can add up to 12 tasks. There is a choice in noting tasks as daily or on certain days. Users can also track their streaks, percentage of completion, and total completions. The app is available in the Apple Application Store and is compatible with the Apple Watch. A different application is available in the Play Store for Android users. It is also called Streaks.
There are other practical tools for organization that can be written on a piece of paper. One of those tools is an action priority matrix. The matrix helps people that have several activities that they would like to accomplish. It ensures that energy and time are used well. Typically, there is time to complete the things that are important that people value. However, at times people waste time on less important things. This matrix is something that can be drawn, or the matrix can be downloaded from mindtools.com.
The instructions for the action priority matrix are to write out each of the tasks or projects. Students in an online MBA program can begin this process by dividing a sheet of paper into four to six boxes, either by drawing lines or fold the paper. The next step is to label each box. This can also be done in a list form. Boxes can be labeled by areas of focus like personal, home, school, and work. If those areas are too broad, expanding the work category to individual projects may be necessary. For example, students may need to break down the school group to each class. They may need to expand the group labeled personal to family, friends, and partners. It can also depend on the person; some people work broadly, and some work specifically. Lastly, students should rate the level of effort it would take to complete them and the level of impact it would have. The scores range from 0-10. Once the user rates the projects, they can self-assign the projects to a quadrant.
Self-Care: Action Plans
Practicing self-care while pursuing an online MBA includes being good to oneself. First, students should survey themselves to assess their needs and priorities and how they can maintain or accomplish each of those things. Then develop a plan. One step is planning well, and another step is finding organization tools that work well. The last steps are tracking levels of health and using tools to maintain them. These steps to forming a plan do not need to be done in a specific order, but students should go through them, write down what they want to do, implement it, and refer back to it.