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Mental health, balance, and the Ivey MBA

  • Cali Keating, MBA ’22 Candidate
  • |
  • Jun 3, 2021
Mental health, balance, and the Ivey MBA

As I reflect on my first 90 days in the Ivey MBA, the need to prioritize mental health and balance stands out. I knew that this program would challenge me in new ways, but I worried about the potential impact on my mental health. I am here to confirm that you can maintain positive mental health during such an intense period of change. Here’s how I’ve managed so far:

Prioritize mental health

Mental health above all else has been my mantra every time I close my laptop lid and send myself to bed at a decent hour. I came into this program knowing that I would be challenged, probably more than ever before. I also knew what I needed to be a fully contributing member of the class: a lot of sleep, quiet time to myself, good food, and regular exercise. If I want to bring the best version of myself to my team and colleagues every day, I need to take care of myself – we all do.

One of my most enlightening early experiences was the first time I emailed the program office. I was enquiring about how to navigate a mental health appointment that conflicted with class, and I worried about the potential stigma that might come from divulging this information. I was met with empathy, understanding, and clear messaging: mental health always comes first. I have witnessed countless other examples of professors, faculty, and colleagues echoing this same sentiment. Mental health above all else.

Finding balance is key

It’s equally hard to step away from your casebooks as it is to not feel guilty when you do. Whether you’re doing it to exercise, take a deep breath outside, have a shower, or close your eyes for a brief moment, all are perfectly valid reasons. It is imperative to take time away from studying.

My favourite expression that has been said during the program is, “Trust the process.” Hearing (and repeating) this line over and over again has given me the mental space I need to find a productive balance. Many of my colleagues can relate to feeling that we have not accomplished enough in a day if we don’t check every box on our to-do lists. Let’s show ourselves more self-compassion and appreciate how much we do accomplish every day as high-performing graduate students.

Vulnerability is a strength

Everyone has bad days. Your outside life doesn’t stop when you start an MBA, and there will be times when you’re not feeling OK. Lean on those around you. Even if you are fortunate enough to be surrounded by family and close friends, only your Ivey colleagues will truly understand what you are experiencing on a day-to-day basis. You have 160 new friends who support you.

It takes courage and strength to be vulnerable. One of the things that I admire most about my Ivey colleagues, professors, and faculty is their consistent openness in and out of the virtual classroom. This helps everyone learn, brings us closer together, and fosters a space where vulnerability is widely embraced.

As you read this, I encourage you to spend some time today focusing on your mental health. Whether you need to relax outside, go for a walk, or reach out to a friend – take the time for yourself. You’ve earned it!

If you feel that you could benefit from support, but don’t know where to reach out, try starting here: