Student Wellness Series

Wellness is the evolving process of achieving your potential, as per the National Wellness Institute. It’s “multidimensional and holistic, encompassing lifestyle, mental and spiritual well-being, and the environment.” Student wellness has become an important topic for me in medical school. I need to actively put time aside to take care of myself in order to perform at my best.

This is the start of our series on student wellness. It’s written by me, a third-year medical student in the middle of a busy surgical rotation. I try to stick to tips that I have actually incorporated into my life. That means that they work for me and have been achievable!

Before getting into the tips, I want to acknowledge that I’m privileged to have control over my life right now. I know that this isn’t the case for a lot of people. Also, I do think that schools need to play an active role in taking care of their students in order to reduce the rates of mental health issues. Finally, if you need help with mental health, seek it. In Canada, this website has multiple crisis resources, and in the United States try this one.

Without further ado, here are the first 4 tips:

1. Sleep is your superpower

I first heard this phrase from Matt Walker, and later wrote about it in our article Sleep Strategies Before an Exam. I have become fiercely protective of my sleep since starting medical school. I try to sleep at the exact same time every night, which right now is from 9 pm to 5 am for a solid 8 hours. And although it’s taken me a while, I’ve incorporated many sleep hygiene practices into my nighttime routine like wearing a sleep mask to block out light, avoiding my phone for an hour before bed, and keeping my room cool. Just improving sleep alone for me has been monumental.

2. Take a break

When I’ve had a busy day, sometimes it’s tempting to keep working. I can tell I need a break when I find myself unable to pay attention to my studying/lecture/someone talking right to me. The best thing for me is to go outside for a short walk. I get re-energized, get some time in nature, and a bit of physical activity.

3. Talk to someone

Life feels much easier when you share your hard times with close friends and family. I used to be someone who bottled up all of my stress, and only shared the highlight reel with my loved ones. Now I talk to people who care about me when times are tough. Venting to a friend or comparing notes about a difficult rotation with a classmate instantly makes me feel less alone. Bonus points if you can provide support for someone else too.

4. Focus on what matters

I made myself a little life cheat sheet that I can look at anytime I need to refocus on what matters. For me, that’s making time for my family and close friends, learning medicine, and taking care of my health. If what I’m spending my time on doesn’t fit with these values, I take steps to change that.

That’s it for now; more to come in our continuation of this series next week. Good luck and stay well.