Stress can challenge us to do our best work, but it may also overwhelm our inner resources. Have you found yourself thinking or feeling any of the following?

  • I can’t concentrate anymore. How can I possibly do all this work? Why does everyone else seem in control?
  • They never knew. I could put on a happy face and indulge in small talk. They couldn’t tell what I was thinking and that I wasn’t able to sleep or eat for two weeks. I felt lost and alone.
  • Everything moves so quickly here. In my country, we depend on family and close friends to help with problems. Here it’s hard to know how to take the first step to get help.
  • I feel less motivated. I can’t seem to make decisions easily and I’m not looking forward to anything.
  • I’m functioning but I feel awful about my lack of academic progress. I feel too embarrassed to tell anyone in my department.
  • I’ve always been able to handle things on my own, but however hard I try, I can’t seem to manage my academic work and everything else I have to do.

Many graduate students visit Harvard’s counseling services for assistance with a range of emotional and psychological conditions, such as depression, anxiety, interpersonal conflicts, financial difficulties, career confusion, loneliness, and physical symptoms associated with psychological issues. It’s not unusual for these issues to emerge during the student years.

Academic Signs

  • Ongoing delays in getting started on papers, dissertation, or other projects
  • Deterioration in quality of work
  • Missed assignments or appointments; not responding to email
  • Repeated absence from class or laboratory
  • Continually asking for unusual accommodations (extensions, postponed examinations)
  • Acting withdrawn in participation-oriented activities, such as section meetings or lab assignments
  • Inappropriate disruption or monopolization of the classroom

Physical and Behavioral Signs

  • Feeling discouraged about academic progress
  • Lack of confidence in quality of work
  • Deterioration in physical appearance or personal hygiene
  • Sleep changes (sleeping too much or too little, being tired all the time)
  • Unusual weight gain or weight loss
  • Changes in or exaggeration of personality traits
  • Unprovoked anger or hostility
  • Irritability, constant anxiety, or weepiness
  • Noticeable changes in ability to concentrate and stay motivated
  • A disquieting sense that something is very wrong

Interpersonal Signs

  • Expression of concern by other students
  • Avoiding contact with colleagues and friends
  • Written statements or verbalization of hopelessness, futility, or lack of energy

In an atmosphere that places high value on success, acknowledging the need for assistance in getting through difficult times is not always easy. But ignoring or putting off getting help with problems can make them more serious and disruptive.

The University provides a range of professional services to supplement the advice and resources within each department. Resources for GSAS Students can help you access what you need to make your graduate school experience a success.