December is upon us and, for many students, that means final exams and the start of end-of-year stresses from holidays, jobs, traveling and family gatherings. It’s not uncommon for our stress and anxiety levels to increase during this time—especially for graduate students, who have to balance the holidays with academic commitments such as writing dissertations, teaching as graduate student instructors and attending seminars. The good news is that Berkeley has many resources to support graduate students in better managing work/life balance during the holiday season.

Experts at the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) specialize in happiness and provide students with the tools and resources on happiness techniques, how to manage stress, balance their time, find self-compassion and how best to concentrate during your studies.

Get Happy with Happiness Guru Christine Carter

Christine Carter, Greater Good Science Center
Christine Carter, Greater Good Science Center

UC Berkeley sociologist Christine Carter is a great source to find tips on how to stay productive and well-rested while enjoying your holiday eggnog. In her newest book, The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Work and Home, due out in January 2015. The author discusses how to find happiness and work-life balance by combining scientific research and practical application. Carter looks at living life from our “sweet spot“—that place of both power and ease.

In November, Christine Carter will offer a tele-series titled Low-Stress, High-Joy Holidays: Here’s How The Experts Do It.” Learn more happiness tips on her blog and follow her on Twitter for daily doses of inspiration.

Get Grateful with Robert Emmons

GGSC gratitude expert Robert Emmons and author of Gratitude Works! studies the effects of gratitude on physical health and psychological well-being. Cultivating gratitude can positively impact your physical, psychological and social life and even help you cope with harder times, according to Emmons. “Being grateful is a choice,” Robert Emmons said. “When disaster strikes, gratitude provides a perspective from which we can view life in its entirety and not be overwhelmed by temporary circumstances.”

Robert Emmons’ 10 Ways to Become More Grateful

  1. Keep a Gratitude Journal. Establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits and good things you enjoy. Setting aside time on a daily basis to recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your personal attributes or valued people in your life gives you the potential to interweave a sustainable life theme of gratefulness.
  1. Remember the Bad. To be grateful in your current state, it is helpful to remember the hard times that you once experienced. When you remember how difficult life used to be and how far you have come, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind and this contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness.
  1. Ask Yourself Three Questions. Utilize the meditation technique known as Naikan, which involves reflecting on three questions: “What have I received from __?,” “What have I given to __?,” and “What troubles and difficulty have I caused?”
  1. Learn Prayers of Gratitude. In many spiritual traditions, prayers of gratitude are considered to be the most powerful form of prayer, because through these prayers people recognize the ultimate source of all they are and all they will ever be.
  1. Come to Your Senses. Through our senses — the ability to touch, see, smell, taste and hear — we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive. Seen through the lens of gratitude, the human body is not only a miraculous construction, but also a gift.
  1. Use Visual Reminders. Because the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude. Often times, the best visual reminders are other people.
  1. Make a Vow to Practice Gratitude. Research shows that making an oath to perform a behavior increases the likelihood that the action will be executed. Therefore, write your own gratitude vow, which could be as simple as “I vow to count my blessings each day,” and post it somewhere where you will be reminded of it every day.
  1. Watch your Language. Grateful people have a particular linguistic style that uses the language of gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate and abundance. In gratitude, you should not focus on how inherently good you are, but rather on the inherently good things that others have done on your behalf.
  2. Go through the Motions. If you go through grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. Grateful motions include smiling, saying thank you and writing letters of gratitude.
  3. Think Outside the Box. If you want to make the most out of opportunities to flex your gratitude muscles, you must creatively look for new situations and circumstances in which to feel grateful. 

10 Ways to Become More Grateful courtesy of Greater Good Science Center.

Counseling and Psychological Services

2222 Bancroft Way #4300 (third floor of Tang Center)
Berkeley, CA 94720

From personal growth and development, stress management to career planning, Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) offers free counseling services to all students (regardless of your insurance plan). Request an appointment online or by calling 510-642-9494. For group counseling, CPS has workshops and skills groups such as “Mindful Mediation,” “Mindfulness for Stress Reduction & Resilience,” and “Focus for Success.” Workshop participants learn how to reduce anxiety, cope with distressing emotions, and how to gain relaxation skills and better assertiveness skills.

University Health Services provides anonymous online screening to check for disorders as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress and others. To understand more ways to balance your life, read CPS’ Four Tips for Graduate Students, and check out tips below: