I just finished out my first year as a PHD student. After getting my Master's degree online & going on to get my PHD, I really feel like I have this grad school thing down. As someone who's always loved to learn, the whole process of going to graduate school was a very easy choice, but the thing that hasn't been so easy is juggling a new marriage, working full time, moving across states AND being a full-time PHD student. Here's some of my tips for staying sane as you pass through the struggle that is graduate school, whether it be your Master's degree or your PHD.
Remind yourself regularly that there is an end.
It is easy to become quickly overwhelmed at the beginning of your graduate career, as everything about it is so different from the undergraduate years. I often felt stressed out. It seemed as if every class session turned into more tasks I had to do, more processes I had to learn, and more mistakes I had made. I had to constantly remind myself that I would get through it all.
Find a way to relax.
Flipping out over everything you have to do will not help get any of it done. Organize your thoughts, and roll with the punches. It is no surprise that many graduate students work until late in the night. Make sure to take breaks from the computer, give yourself some "nights off," and just chill in front of the television. Cook a nice dinner one night, take a long bath, read for fun, paint, listen to music, go skiing, go to a free concert, work out in the campus pool, whatever. The point is to purposely add alone downtime to maintain your mental health. As a wise man once told me, "The sun will rise again in the morning."
You are not alone, however much it may seem like it.
Our work is often solitary. We write our own papers, work on our own research, and some of us even live alone. Not a lot of people get a doctoral degree. Due to this, not a lot of people will "get it". It's hard when you want to go out with your friends and your husband on a Friday night, but you've spent all week working & know you need to finish that 15 page paper you have due Sunday by midnight. Refer back to the top: this too shall pass. There are people out there who are feeling just like you, and this season will end and you will go back to normal life.
Be passionate about your work.
As you refine your topic of research interest, it is important that you select something you are passionate about. Again, that may sound like obvious advice, but I know plenty of graduate students who didn't, and who floundered as a result.
It is not about what your adviser wants you to do (although the two of you can, and will, often have similar interests). It is what you want to do because you are the one who will be doing all of the work. Selecting a research topic because it's "popular," or because you think it will be "easy" or "quick" often ends badly. Dissertations are neither easy nor are they ever completed as quickly as you think.