Advocacy

We Are Legislated

Leading up to optometry school, I was excited to learn about the human eye and how it interacted with the rest of the human body. On the first day of school, I was met with a number of important names, phrases and guidance that I was told would help me be successful through the program. However, one phrase emphasized by the dean of our college that stuck out to me was,Optometry is a legislative profession.” He repeated this sentence over and over, hammering it into our brains like it was gospel, ensuring we would never forget. I was surprised by his determination to make such a point on the importance of legislation in the profession of optometry. I thought to myself,I signed up to be a doctor, not a lawyer!” However, I quickly grew to realize how important being involved in the laws shaping optometry are for each state. 

As a second-year optometry student, I will be the first to admit I still have much to learn about the role of advocacy and how a student can be involved in promoting the legal scope of their profession. However, I wanted to use this short paper to recount my journey with advocacy and share what I have learned over the past year and a half: 

  1. Optometry is a legal profession.

As I discovered very quickly, optometry is a legal profession, meaning the procedures and techniques optometrists are allowed to perform on patients varies based on the states where they practice. The “laws” setting the boundaries for which optometrists can practice are adjusted primarily through the passing of state laws. Because of this, much work is required to promote and push for the advancement (or protection) of the scope of practice in each state. This is a driver behind why having a strong state affiliation is essential for the health of each state’s profession. To take a deeper look into the varying scope of practice for each state, I have included a link to a great resource for comparing among states. 

https://www.optometrystudents.com/legislative-list/ 

  1. Lawmakers are people, too.

Prior to getting involved in AOSA, I assumed the individuals involved in policymaking were untouchable or completely out of reach to a student like me. However, I soon realized state and federal law makers are just people looking to serve us and are able to be contacted and talked with if the correct arrangements are made. A directory for each state and federal legislator is available online. I’ve posted a link to an example of one below.  

https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative#:~:text=If%20you%20know%20who%20your,the%20U.S.%20House%20switchboard%20operator. 

  1. Even as a student, you can get involved.

While one act may seem small or insignificant, every step you take really counts. Since getting involved at my school, I have had the opportunity to lobby at the state capital, meet with federal senators, help campaign door-to-door for a local state representative, and even discuss with patients state questions that were coming up on the ballot. If I am completely honest, there were times I felt my time and effort pushing for a new bill was falling on deaf ears. However, when my investment of time or energy was met with interest and acceptance, I realized the effort invested into the promotion of the profession was worth it.  

  1. Go!

As discussed in a previous article by the Michigan College of Optometry trustee (https://theaosa.org/where-do-i-start/), you can get involved by connecting with your school’s AOSA chapter, reaching out to your state affiliation, talking with your legislators and staying up to date on recent optometric news. Life isn’t going to slow down when you leave school, so if being involved in the expansion and protection of optometry is something you want to be a part of, start now! Even if that first step looks like signing up to be a member of AOSA, keep looking for the next opportunity to get involved and make your voice heard in your industry.  

It is my hope that the profession of optometry will continue to evolve so that patients will have better access to the best care possible. I believe this can only be done through the combined efforts of students, doctors and legislators working to promote and protect the optometric profession. I look forward to the lessons I will continue to learn about advocacy and hope these small tips will help you grow in your own career and student journey.  

Advocacy

Local Action

Regardless of how you feel about the outcome of this year’s presidential election, I’m sure most people will agree that it’s a stressful time to live in the United States. That single day in November feels like it will set the tone for the next four years of our lives and we all have our own ideas about what’s best for ourselves, our family, and our country.

As student optometrists I’m sure you are already aware, or soon will be, that our future profession is heavily intertwined with the legislative process. But when we advance the optometric profession’s scope of practice, it often has nothing to do with what’s going on at the federal level. For example, the American Optometric Association’s major breakthrough in Arkansas, allowing optometrists to continue doing procedures like a selective laser trabeculoplasty and injections, was all done at the state level. The implications for this outstanding result will have ripple effects on the national level, however, as the precedent has been set.

Change starts at the local level and spreads. Continue to pay attention to focus on the big picture, but engage with what you can actually have an impact on. The future of the profession is decided by state and local politics. Some states, like Arkansas and Louisiana, are permitting optometrists to perform laser procedures, while Massachusetts just recently allowed optometrists to pharmaceutically treat glaucoma.

This means we have to pay attention to far more than who is currently sitting in the oval office. Get involved in your school’s AOSA, enroll in the AOA when you graduate, pay attention to local politics, and be sure to fill out your entire ballot the next time you vote!

Student Experience

Snapshot of AOA and AOSA’s Plan to Increase Cultural Competency

During 2020, the murder of George Floyd catalyzed nationwide outrage and frustration around systemic racism and racial injustices. In response to these events, the American Optometric Association (AOA) released a statement condemning racism, intolerance and hate. Moreover, the AOA has reviewed how its structure, policies and culture around race has impacted the optometric profession. Minority members make up 38.8% of the AOA and 48.6% of the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) membership, according to the 2020 membership report. Although student membership of other minority groups, such as Asian members, has increased in the past years, the proportion of specifically Black and Brown have remained stagnant. 

In an effort to combat this trend and work toward a membership that better reflects the American population, the AOA formed the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force in June of 2020. Current actionsinclude increasing the representation of all races and ethnicities in the optometric profession and working to emphasize and support cultural competency amongst its members. Cultural competency and racial representation are crucial in providing better patient care. Research has shown that diversification of health care providers results in more inclusive decision-making, increased efficiency and improved health outcomes. Similarly, the AOSA Board of Trustees formed the Diversity and Inclusion Project Team with the same actions in mind.

To increase diversity amongst members, the AOA is further promoting Black EyeCare Perspective events such as “Impact HBCU” and “Pre-Optometry Club”. Furthermore, the AOA has renewed its commitment to cultivate and expand long-term relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Specifically, the AOA, with the help of the AOSA, is working to increase awareness, interests and opportunities to students interested in pursuing a career within optometry, especially to Black and Brown students.

Ongoing efforts include joint AOA/AOSA meetings, diversifying AOSA’s social media content and addressing barriers to the application cycle. In January 2021, the AOA and AOSA announced a long-term financial commitment to support the newly created Opportunities in Optometry Grant program to assist in alleviating costs associated with the application cycle. Up to 30 students will receive grants in 2021. Additionally, the AOA/AOSA are working to set up a mentorship program with practicing doctors for grant recipients. For more information or to partner with the AOA/AOSA to ensure the success of this grant in future years, visit the official grant page here.

The AOA also is encouraging ASCO to expand its “Optometry Gives Me Life” campaign to include more targeted messaging to members of the Black and Brown community. To promote diversity among AOA leadership, the AOA has developed the AOA Leadership Institute, chaired by Andrea Thau, O.D. The program is targeted toward newly graduated doctors 5-10 years out of school, empowering them to become leaders on the state and national level. This year’s Leadership Institute consists of 125 doctors who were nominated by affiliates, schools and colleges.

To further encourage cultural competency, both organizations have engaged in conversations with doctors of color to gain the perspective and knowledge to influence the most effective change. AOA and AOSA leadership have undergone training on diversity and cultural competency. Furthermore, the AOA and AOSA are committed to evaluating policies and resolutions to reshape organizational culture. For the past three years, the selection process for authors and speakers for Optometry’s Meeting® has been based on content rather than demographics, resulting in an increase of young, female speakers. The AOA will continue removing demographic information during this process in efforts to minimize implicit bias.

In conjunction with AOA’s efforts to facilitate diversity, equity and cultural competency, this year’s Optometry’s Meeting will have several continuing education courses centered on diversity, including “Understanding Diversity & Inclusion in Eye Health & Vision Care for Enhanced Compliance, Continuity of Care and Practice Growth” and Improving Patient Communication: What Does Culture Have to Do with It?” Finally, the AOA intends to increase optometry’s exposure and accessibility to the topics covered in these courses by offering them virtually on EyeLearn Professional Development Hub, an AOA member-exclusive education portal.

The AOA Diversity and Inclusion Task Force consists of AOA Board of Trustees members Jacqueline Bowen, O.D., James P. DeVleming, O.D., Steven T. Reed, O.D., and Lori L. Grover, O.D., Ph.D. The AOSA Diversity and Inclusion Project Team consists of Jaime Antonio (OSU), Devyn Hayes (IUSO), Mikala Herr (WUCO), Kimber Mapili (ICO), Anjali Paramanandam (UCB), Helene Pippin (PUCO), Madi Sachs (UCB), Lotus Schifsky (IUSO), Veronica Schuver (OSU), Shaily Sheth (NECO) and Anna Venizelos (NSUOCO).

Advice Column / Health & Wellness

Make Mental Health A Priority

COVID, elections, zoom, family, friends, sanity. The list goes on and on. It can be difficult to step out of your own bubble to realize everyone around you is going through their own version of the same thing. We worry about our loved ones’ health and safety; we worry about the state of our nation; we worry about keeping up with countless online platforms just to stay on track with school, and all while maintaining our personal and romantic relationships.  

 

It can become very easy to feel desensitized by all the negativity we are bombarded with on the internet and it has become almost normal to expect the worst in the year 2020. We’ve all heard the jokes and the seen the memes. It feels almost unnatural to continue regularly scheduled curriculum while the world around us seems to be in a state of instability. Add the presidential election to the mix, and you have yourself the perfect recipe for anxiety. Not only is the abrupt transition having an impact on our learning, but also on our mental health.  

 

I challenge you to take charge of your mental health and reach out to various resources available to you. Many universities offer counseling/therapy free of charge to their students and you would be surprised how beneficial it is to talk about your personal experience with someone outside of your close circle. Personally, I had never participated in counseling sessions until recently, but it took a small weight off my shoulders and that made all the difference. Normalize saying no to others once in a while and take time for yourself to catch a breath. I know a lot of us are overachievers and want to do it all, both in our personal and academic lives, but it is important to take a step back and remind yourself how far you’ve come and to put yourself first. As someone who’s always had trouble reaching out for help, I can understand the hesitation.  

 

The first few months into the pandemic it seemed easier to stay productive with projects, trying new recipes, learning TikTok dances and even catching up on schoolwork. Now that we are more than half a year into the new normal, motivation can be harder to come by. For those 1st years who are beginning their journey in optometry virtually, for those 2nd years that are struggling to keep your clinical skills up to date with limited in person practice, for those 3rd years that are struggling to study for boards and keep up in clinic, and for those 4th years that are trying to learn as much as they can on rotations before setting forth onto the real world, remember that we are all doing the best we can and that is all anyone can ask of you.  

Student Experience

Optometry Externship In Bush, Alaska

After three crazy years of trying to balance classes, clinic, labs, and life, everyone in my class at Southern College of Optometry (SCO) was looking forward to our fourth-year clinical rotations. At SCO, we select two sites one institutional and one private in addition to our in-house rotation. In the summer of my second year, I was introduced to an institutional site in Bethel, Alaska: the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC). This site is an Indian Health Service located in the heart of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in the southwest Alaskan tundra. After researching all night when I should have been studying for pathology or pharmacology, I began counting down the days until I could begin my journey in the Last Frontier.  

When SCO closed secondary to the pandemic, my first thought was: Would this carry over into the summer? Fortunately, I was still able to fly north to work at the hospital, and I am extremely thankful both SCO and YKHC Optometry granted me this incredible opportunity.

Helping at-risk populations and those in need of eye care has always been a burning passion of mine, and this past summer in Bush, Alaska, re-fueled that love. 

 So, what is optometry like in an area surrounded by water that is only accessible by plane, boat, or snow machine in the winter? I was wondering the same thing about four months ago. 

The YKHC provides comprehensive care— medical, dental, optometric, auditory, and more—to the village of Bethel as well as the 58 surrounding villages in the Delta. The region is about the size of Oregon and contains over 23,000 people. There are five sub-regional clinics in the area, and each village has its own clinic that houses traveling workers, such as nurses, dentists, and optometrists. The YKHC opened a brand-new hospital last year, including an eye clinic with an in-house optical, a technology room with a fundus camera, OCT, visual field, an anterior segment camera, and over 10 exam lanes for patient care. 

In the summer, optometry does not travel out to villages as frequently because most people are fishing or at fish camp smoking and preparing their fish. Due to this, more patients travel to the YKHC to receive eye care. Usually, there are a plethora of flights bringing people into Bethel, but flights were very limited this summer as a result of the pandemic. Most of our patients took a boat from their villages, some traveling several hours both ways to receive care. To offset this, YKHC Optometry traveled to eleven villages between May and August; I was fortunate enough to partake in two of these village trips. 

For my first trip, we traveled via plane to Akiak, and on my second trip, we took my preceptor’s family’s boat upriver to Kwethluk. The populations of these villages were just under 400 and about 750 people, respectively. Our housing was located at the back of each clinic as there was a room with bunk beds and a kitchen, as well as a private bathroom with a shower. Both trips were similar in that it was me with one other extern and one staff doctor providing care to as many people as we could in one week. Case history, chair skills, and ocular health examination took place in a nurse’s exam room, and we performed refraction in the dental room. Between the two clinics, we saw a total of 136 people. Most of the patients were either young children or elderly people who were either unable or uncomfortable to travel to Bethel due to the circumstances. There were a few patients we had to refer to Bethel for specialty testing or emergency follow up care at the hospital.  

To protect ourselves and our patients, all of us providers had to be tested for COVID-19 before traveling to the villages. In the clinic, masks were required at all times, and if a patient did not have one, face shields were provided. Tonopen was performed to check IOPs, and between patients, we completely sanitized our rooms, including chairs, equipment, and anything the patient had contact with during the exam. Patients were scheduled in 15minute increments to cut down on the number of people in the waiting room at a time. When choosing glasses, there were only a few options, and each frame was disinfected afterward. Additionally, a janitor cleaned the entire facility twice a day, including our housing quarters in the back of the clinics. 

 My experiences this summer in Bethel, Akiak, and Kwethluk were unforgettable, despite the impact from the pandemic. I could not have asked for a better rotation as my preceptors, fellow externs, and patients all greatly contributed to my growth as a fourth-year clinician. Alaska has a special place in my heart that I will cherish as I wrap up my optometric education and begin my dream career. 


Autumn Killop (SCO) with Danielle Dyke AZCOPT(left), and Dr. Krystle Peñaflor (right)

 

 

Advocacy

Why Advocacy?

Advocacy: not exactly the first word that came into our minds when we decided to become doctors of optometry. Most of us decided on optometry because we wanted to help people, not argue with them. Yet, why are we constantly talking about advocacy, and why is it that we must advocate so much, when it feels like our colleagues in other health professions do not have to? Well, the truth is, they do. It is easy to look out at the world and think that our own circumstances are unique, and in some ways they are. However, when it comes to advocacy, every profession must advocate for themselves in some way. Some health professions must advocate that they are the specific medical specialty that should be doing a procedure within their own communities. Others, such as optometry, must advocate to help create/change laws that more accurately reflect our capabilities as doctors. This is why we advocatebecause at the end of the day, no one knows what a doctor of optometry can do better than a doctor of optometry 

Then why is it that so many of us feel such distain for the word? Well, I think that one of the main reasons is that a lot of people have a distaste for politics in general, and a word like advocacy makes most of us think of politics. That is not all that being an advocate means though. The Oxford English Dictionary defines advocacy as, public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.”  Advocating for our profession means that we show it our support, but that does not necessarily mean you have to be involved in the political world. While yes, it would be amazing if everyone had the desire to go out and lobby for our profession, that is just not in some people’s comfort zone/skill sets and that is fine! Being an advocate for optometry can manifest in other ways. Staying up to date on the current issues facing our profession, voting for people who support our cause, or even just discussing some of the issues we face with your friends and family can all have positive impacts for our profession.  

However, if you are on the fence about becoming even more involved with advocacy, let me assure you that there are many opportunities out there for you! The AOSA and AOA do an outstanding job with educating and providing us with opportunities to present our profession to people in a positive light.For example, in September I was a part of the Virtual AOA on Capitol Hill event where we as students got to meet with politicians and staffers to discuss some of our concerns within the field. At first, I was nervous and thought that I would screw up or say something wrong, but the AOSA did a remarkable job briefing us and providing us the information that we needed to competently speak to these representatives. Another really interesting takeaway I got out of this event was just seeing how much politicians and people in general value and respect our opinions as future doctors of optometry. I know it is hard to believe when most of us are so young, but we worked very hard to get where we are, and people know and respect that.

I hope that if you can take anything away from this, it is that every one of us is important to the future of optometry, and if we want it to continue to be the best it can be, we all have to be good advocates and show people what we’re capable of.  

 

Health & Wellness

Optometry: Opening The Door To Disease Prevention

It is well known that chronic disease is a driving force for doctor visits today and comprises a large component of health care expenses. However, it has been found that a strong link exists between preventing chronic illness and proper education on smoking cessation, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and nutrition.

Overall wellness involves not just the physical aspects of one’s health, but the mental and social as well.The concept of an integrated health care team is becoming even more essential in the management of patient care.  

As optometrists-in-training, we have the knowledge to educate and guide our patients towards the right information and resources needed to achieve optimum wellness. Optometry in particular is especially unique in that the doctor-patient relationship created from examining the eyes sets up an opportunity to offer preventative health advice. Patient education on nutrition is just one important component in the multimodal approach to the management and prevention of chronic health problems. However, what healthful information we tell our patients is just as important as how we present it to them. In this article, we’ll talk about why optometrists are in a critical position to influence disease prevention, how to open up conversation about health to our patients, and what pieces of nutritional advice we can provide during patient education.  

In optometry school, we are taught to gather information along every step of the comprehensive exam: beginning with the key elements of a thorough patient history and ending with a complete vascular and neurologic assessment of the back of the eye. We get to know our patients’ personalities and lifestyles by asking targeted questions and using careful listening to deeply understand the entirety of their complaint and condition. By the end of the exam, we have a wholistic picture of our patients’ mental and physical wellbeing. This unique perspective places optometrists in a critical position to be able to impact the health of our patients. However, the manner in which we communicate with our patients is a crucial step in initiating change in their lives.  

Patients with chronic health conditions may feel overwhelmed and rarely motivated to act when given a laundry list of health checks they must meet.

Adopting a patient-centered approach by showing empathy, carrying open, non-judgmental conversation, and seeing the patient’s perspective is important in order to leave them feeling empowered to change.

Motivational Interviewing (MI) techniques have been found to be an effective mode of communicating to increase intrinsic motivation, particularly in diabetics. Below is a list of example questions, some of which have been adopted by the MI technique, that can be used to spark open conversation about health and establish rapport during patient education, a concept shown to leave patients feeling more confident about taking charge of their health.  

  • “With your permission, I’d like to propose a plan…” or “If you don’t mind, may I share a bit of information with you…”1  
  • Replace “I think…” or “You should…” with “Perhaps you could start with…” or “One option you may consider…”1 
  • “Tell me what you prepare for breakfast in the morning…” 
  • Patients in the past have found that…”1 

With the immense amount of health literature that we have access to today, it can be difficult to narrow down the most important take-home message regarding nutrition and health. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants play a critical role at the micronutrient level at impacting our metabolism, microbiome, and cognitive function as well as preventing eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. While patients may have a generalized understanding that proper nutrition can affect their physical health and weight, not many are aware of the nutrients essential to eye health. Patients often respond the best when given a single piece of advice, and are surprised to hear that such small changes can make a large difference in their overall health.  Included below is a list of important elements in nutrition and eye health to steer patients towards healthier habits. 

  • Lutein & zeaxanthin. Xanthophylls are one of the two categories of carotenoids, antioxidants that play a role in protecting the health of the macula, ocular surface disease, cognitive function, and skin health. Add 1 cup steamed or 2 cups raw spinach to your meal each day. This could be in the form of a smoothie, a salad, or sautéed into your dinner. Sidekicks are kale, collard greens, swiss chard, arugula, and bok choy.2  
  • Carotenes. The second of two categories of carotenoids. Color your plate with red and yellow peppers, sweet potatoes, squash, cantaloupe, apricots, peas, and broccoli.2  
  • Vitamin C is a water soluble, potent antioxidant that plays a role in immune function and wound healing, among others. The most abundant natural sources include guavas, kiwis, and bell peppers, though a dissolvable supplement in a glass of water may be necessary in order to reach adequate levels.  
  • Vitamin D is a prohormone that has a supportive role against autoimmune disease, fractures and falls, depression, heart disease, influenza, and type 2 diabetes.2 For fair skinned individuals, spending a few minutes outside without sunscreen, or for darker pigmented skin, up to 15 minutes, would be enough.  
  • Healthy fats, specifically polyunsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA, ALA), have been found to support ocular surface disease, fight inflammation, improve cognitive function, and contribute to hormone production. One handful of walnuts, five times per week, or incorporating wild salmon, Alaskan halibut, or canned, chunk, light tuna (1,000-2,000mg/day) is recommended.2  
  • Absorption of vitamins with healthy fats. In order for proper absorption of vitamins, supplements or foods should be taken with or cooked in healthy fats including avocado, nut butters, and olive oil.  

While these are just a few aspects of health that we encounter during patient care, the optometric exam opens the door to caring for so many other areas of overall wellbeing. As largely a medical profession, we can positively impact our patients’ lives beyond their eyesight and significantly contribute to disease prevention in our community today.  

  1. Welch, G., Rose, G., et al. (2006). Diabetes Spectrum. Motivational Interviewing and Diabetes: What Is It, How Is It Used, and Does It Work? 19(1). 6-8. 
  2. Richer, S., Poteet, J., Summerton, S, et al. (2018). Review of Optometry. Wellness Essential for Clinical Practice. 1(1), 6-17.   
Student Success & Residency

A Survey Of Study Methods: What Works?

Tis the season for studying here at the University of Houston College of Optometry. The third years are busy with boards, the second years are tackling pharm, and the first years are just now realizing what they have gotten themselves into.  

 As a third year myself, it has been a time of reflection; as I began studying for boards, I realized that there was a lot of information that I had “learned” in my classes, but never retained. Then the big realization hit: I had been cramming for tests my entire academic career. 

 So, as a reasonable person in a state of reflection, I mass-emailed the entire student body of first, second, and third years asking for some advice on studying. It was disguised as a survey of study methods, saying it was for an article I was writing, but the real reason for sending out the survey may have been two-fold.  

Everyone, of course, is different when it comes to learning styles. It’s best to know yourself and your own preferences. Unfortunately, I had no time for that. What I needed was DATA and I needed it quickly.  

Here are the findings (n=151 unless otherwise stated): First, I should say that the classes were almost equally represented. If you really want to extrapolate, it means that I have only a slight skepticism for the current first years.  

People overwhelmingly thought that the best study method was writing and re-reading notes.

 

Many people are happy with their methods for studying, but a good amount are not. Interestingly, the OPT IIIs were proportionally the least likely to be happy with how they study. 

Most people had to change their style of studying for optometry school. 

Finally, I asked for some thoughts if anyone was willing to share. Zebin Dholasaniya, a second year, gave some practical advice by saying that tables allow him to visualize relationships between related or opposing concepts and that color-coding material surprisingly makes recollection of material easier. Some other interesting study methods people reported included teaching others the material, walking around while talking through the material, and spaced recall. 

Brandon Le, another second year said that “[everyone] has different methods. Not one thing works for everyone. It’s important to realize that especially when giving advice; you don’t want to project your own experience onto someone else as gospel. What works for me might not work for others; everyone learns differently and it’s ultimately up to that individual to figure out what works best for her or him.  

 As much as I hate to take someone’s advice about giving advice, I had to agree with him. There’s only so much that data can do, but if anything, it’s a place to start. From this I have started to incorporate more study methods to see what works for me. This was also a good reminder that as challenging as school can be, reaching out to classmates who are going through the same struggles can help.  

 

 

Health & Wellness

6 Life Hacks From A Fourth-year Student To Enjoy Your Uni Years

Have you ever met someone who always has time, never denies an invitation and is always up for trying something fun or doing something spontaneous? I have a feeling these people are getting more and more rare. I find it so sad that most people (including myself) are stuck in their strict schedule, thinking it’s just a phase. We think it’s always going to be better/easier/quieter later, but of course that is never the case. Life never slows down, new challenges are always ahead and we always postpone our happiness. For the most part, I think us students are particularly prone to thinking that way. You’ve probably heard many of your friends say that once they graduate, life is going to be greater and easier, or maybe you’ve even said so yourself... There’s nothing wrong with being excited about the future and dreaming ahead, but what I do think is wrongful is thinking that right now is not a perfectly enjoyable moment to live as well. Don’t get me wrong, studies are hard. I mean they are mucho hard when you’ve already downed your third coffee of the day and you still have 1,000 slides to study for your exam the next day. The thing is, we have to take charge of our own happiness and find ways to enjoy the present. Here’s my take on this very important issue: 

 

First of all, don’t wait to until you’re exhausted to take a break! 

If you plan your breaks, they’re going to be way more satisfying and soothing. Procrastination is always tempting, but have you ever tried premeditated procrastination? It’s a whole other game, I swear! The real satisfaction and benefits of taking some time off comes when your rest is planned. 

 

Say yes to spontaneity sometimes! 

I know I just told you to plan your breaks, but every good advice has a bit of contradictionWith everything that is planned nowadays, up to appointments to see your friends, it is good to keep our minds sharp and our adventurousness on our toes with unexpected activities. I suggest you try to do something spontaneous at least once a week. That way you’re allowing yourself to feel the liberty and flexibility of not having to follow a precise plan. 

 

Mindfulness and meditation 

That one is already understood. I won’t elaborate much because you’ve probably heard a lot about it, but just know that if you’re dealing with anxiety, the art of living in the present can really become your best friend. 

 

Journaling about what you’re thankful for 

I have yet to try this one, but apparently taking five minutes every morning to write down three things you are thankful for will trick your mind into thinking that you are the luckiest person alive and therefore make you happier in general. It won’t keep bad days from happening, but it will make you more positive in the long run. Looks promising! 

 

Don’t neglect personal growth  

We all have some personal stuff we want to work on, but we often don’t take the appropriate time to do it. Whether you want to work on your self-confidence or improve your communication skills, try to work on these goals on a weekly basis. Even though personal growth takes time and effort, it is always an excellent investment of time. Investing in yourself should never be procrastinated. 

 

Notice, notice, notice! 

Make sure you are aware when of when you’re having a good time! Take two seconds to fully realize that you are living your best life RIGHT NOW! If you do this often, you’re going to trick your mind into thinking you’re the happiest person ever.  

 

That’s all my advice for now. I hope you find a technique or two that works for you. I am not a professional in the wellness field, but I am a student with the absolute certainty that every step in life is neither better nor worse than the next, it is simply meant to be enjoyed as much as we can.  

 

From an already nostalgic fourth year student at University of Montreal, 

 Catherine Poitras