To be able to become great physicians, first and foremost, we must take care of ourselves. During this past year, doing so has been much more of a challenge. Being stuck at home and not having access to our usual coping outlets has taken a toll on many of us (I sure do miss that basketball court in our neighborhood). Nevertheless, we must take care of our minds so we can study and become even greater doctors.
Here are a few tips to keep us armed and ready for battle:
1. Stick to a Routine
Although quarantine and staying at home has created a drastic change to our daily lives, this change can be halted a tiny bit by following a schedule. If you were already following a schedule before telecommuting, then by all means, continue following it. But if you were one of the few who didn’t, creating a new schedule can be beneficial. Start by creating a sleep schedule where you go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Then start scheduling meal times, work times, phone time, exercise, and any other activities you do throughout the day.
Don’t create an arbitrary schedule that you simply follow through a rough mental outline. Write it down! Write it down on paper for simplicity’s sake, or go all fancy and make an online template. It’s completely up to you. Even if you don’t have much to do, having a routine to follow can create a sense of structure to your life.
Staying at home and staring at the same environment for a long time can start to feel redundant, sticking to your newly made routine can blast those walls down.
2.Stay off the News and Social Media
Keeping up-to-date on the world’s news can be exhausting. Turning on the TV and turning on the news channel has been quite distressing for me lately. Listening to the worldwide disasters that are occurring on top of the Covid pandemic makes me uneasy, if anything they cause me nothing but anxiety. Therefore, I’ve decided to cut it out completely. As doctors, we do need to keep informed on the new medical advancements regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as other medical issues. However, that does not mean that we have to know EVERYTHING, a bit of information here and there is quite enough for the time being.
Open your news outlet’s website and scroll past everything and into the medical section, get what you need, then scatter.
Although social media is a great way to stay in touch with your family and friends, it can easily become a double-edged sword. Scrolling through Instagram and Twitter for hours on end won’t make you feel more connected. If anything, it could make you feel left out. Therefore, limit your social media exposure to a few minutes a day, or schedule your social media time to connect with your loved ones. If you cannot go off social media completely and you still struggle with it, try to mute the words or phrases that might be particularly triggering.
Staying connected with friends and family can function as a kind of outlet. The interaction can make you feel relieved and relaxed afterwards. Schedule some phone calls or video calls with those you would like to keep in touch with from time to time to combat feelings of loneliness. If you live with other people, try to spend time together during lunch or dinner time. But also make sure to schedule “alone time”, sometimes social interaction can be exhausting and we need time by ourselves to recharge..
For those of us studying during these times, video calling and zoom calls can be of tremendous value. I personally spend hours a day on a zoom call with my close friend preparing for Step 1. Not only do we motivate each other, but we keep each other accountable. Accountability is a thing I struggle with greatly, therefore being kept in check has done wonders to my productivity.
Some creative ways to stay connected are emerging online games and challenges: A simple game of charades can be managed over a conference call.
4.Get out of your PJs
Although it is very tempting to stay in your pajamas the entire day, getting out of them can do wonders. Yes, we end up staying up late and tend to be most comfortable in our pajamas, but dressing up can be a great form of self-discipline. Wake up in the morning and stick to your normal everyday routine. Get dressed, have breakfast, and get changed. You don’t have to wear your work uniform or your scrubs, anything will do as long as it is a change of clothes.
This subtle change can create a sense of normalcy, allowing us to function better even in these weary times.
5.Never evaluate your life when you are tired
One of the most important pieces of advice I was given early on is to never evaluate my life when I’m tired. Fatigue and exhaustion can be associated with some negative feelings, therefore anything that you might think of while in that state has a much higher likelihood of being negative. Get a full night’s sleep and re-evaluate when you are fully rested.
When I say “practice self-care”, I don’t mean it in an indulgent manner. Self-care should be a habit or discipline. It should be an everyday thing, no matter the circumstances. The media these days has made us feel like self-care is a once-in-a-while indulgence of sorts. “Take a self-care day”, “Use this face mask and exfoliator for self-care”. Self-care can be anything from making your bed in the morning and taking that 30-minute jog, to meditation or other types of stress management.
In fact, self-care is divided into four categories:
- Physical; this includes sleep, diet, and exercise
- Emotional; this includes stress management and emotional awareness
- Social; this includes positive social media, communication, and boundaries
- Spiritual; this includes having a sacred space, connecting with nature, and journaling
A bit of each will surely transform your day-to-day life. Always remember, put yourself first!!
As always, it is okay to ask for help. Asking for help from your loved ones can be a starting point but seeking out professional help is always a great option. During these times, seeing a practitioner in a clinic might be hard. But thanks to technological advancements, virtual meetings, and phone calls can be easily arranged. Call your GP and ask them for the best options available to you, or a simple google search can often reveal many options.
8.One day at a time
Just that. Take life one day at a time. You’ve got this!
Life has taken an unexpected turn. A lot of our plans have been thrown off course, and a lot of our daily routines have become unavailable to us. However, this change doesn’t have to be for the worse. Let’s take this time to focus on ourselves! Let’s do all the things we were holding off because of time restraints during our hectic lives. Let’s start learning that new language we always wanted to learn or let’s ramp up that skill; we do have much more time on our hands, now that time wasted commuting is out of the question. Let’s take much better care of ourselves and our mental health.
Now buff out that armor and shine!
“The only thing I’m focused on right now is bettering myself.” -Anonymous