Mental wellness

Mental wellness is an issue of particular salience for graduates students, as a recent survey conducted by  the graduate student government at Berkeley revealed that 47 percent of PhD students scored high enough on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale.

Evaluative scale to be considered depressed: ( Respondents noted concerns ranging from Career prospects, to Feeling valued and included, to overall health (

Pushing forward the boundaries of human understanding can be taxing work, and the experience of stress, anxiety, or the ‘impostor syndrome’ is completely normal. Recall that your colleagues and faculty have had these feelings and experiences also. Experiencing anxiety or depression as a graduate student or postdoc is not atypical, but it is not inevitable either. There are many ways to work toward cultivating and maintaining mental well-being.

Creative activities

Engaging in creative activities like playing the piano or attending a dance class can also be great ways to reduce your overall levels of stress. A 2010 article in the American Journal of Public Health suggested that augmented engagement in the creative activities, such as  listening to and playing music and ‘movement-based creative expression’ can reduce anxiety and stress and restore a sense of emotional balance.


Practicing mindfulness meditation is one empirical verified means of tackling stress and anxiety and cultivating mental wellness.  Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness is “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Many resources exist to help you develop a meditation practice, including the well known guide Mindfulness in Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana.


You also have access to mindfulness courses which are provided each fall and spring semester at Duke:

For more formalized treatment, Duke Medicine offers Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) to help patients cope with medical problems, job or family-related stress, and anxiety and depression:

Keep perspective and a sense of humor: