I think it’s fair to say 2020 has been a tough year that has upended our lives in many different ways. Getting through a global pandemic, along with the added pressure of optometry school, challenged my mental and physical health in ways they’ve never been before.
As someone who truly values routine in my life, I found myself struggling when this structure was no longer there. The turning point for me was when I stopped resisting all these changes and accepted it. This acceptance shifted my mentality from victimhood to a growth mindset which then allowed me to adapt to the changing circumstances.
Now whether you’ve had a similar experience to me this past year or maybe you’re battling your own respective challenges, I would love to share some tips that helped prosper my health and wellness during these turbulent times. My approaches focused on nourishing the three domains of my wellbeing that I felt were most important: mind, body and soul.
As students in optometry school, I feel like our mind and mental capacity are challenged on the daily. Or maybe it challenges how much information we can shove in our head four hours before an exam. Nonetheless, our minds are consistently engaged in this aspect.
As important as it is to challenge our mind, I think it’s just as important to give it the rest it needs. Prioritizing my sleep has been one of my goals this past year and it has had profound impact on my mental health. If I have an exam the next day, I try my best to study all the material before a reasonable time so that I can get at least 7-8 hours of sleep. This shift was made possible after I self-acknowledged that my well-being is more important to me than getting a perfect score on a test.
Another realm of our minds is our thought processes. This past year I realized the importance of having these thought processes challenged. Oftentimes, our views on certain topics and the way we think about certain things can be linear and based on the way we were raised along with our individual experiences. Having these thoughts challenged can possibly widen our perspective and provide a deeper sense of compassion. I believe developing compassion is one of the most empowering characteristics to possess as health care providers.
As up and coming health care professionals, I believe the importance of staying active and getting a daily dose of physical activity has been stressed more than enough. I can attest to the countless benefits I’ve experienced in my everyday life due to this practice.
Prior to lockdown, my routine consisted of going to our school gym first thing in the morning. However, once lockdown started, I was left in my bedroom with a yoga mat and some make-shift dumbbells that were less than ideal. My motivation to get that daily exercise became extremely diminished, but I knew it had to get done. That 45 minutes of physical activity resulted in a full day of increased energy and better mood. I also came to the realization that starting my day off with exercise made the other tasks I had to complete in the day much more attainable.
If you’ve already established this habit in your life, I’m sure you’ve also experienced these wide range of benefits. If you’re someone who‘s been looking for some extra motivation to get started, I hope reading this has been able to give you some of that. You should get started with an activity you enjoy (biking or yoga) at a time interval that’s comfortable and slowly start working your way up.
The soul is the core of our being. The times where I feel the most in tune with it is when I’m not thinking about anything and just focused on the moment at hand. As trite as it may sound, I feel the most connected when I’m walking through the forest. There’s something about the organized chaos that grounds me and engages all my senses in a way that nothing else can. I have tried to make this a habit once a week and I’ve noticed that it provides me with this sense of clarity and awakening that coffee can’t achieve.
In today’s world, it can get hard to have some time to yourself where you’re not bombarded with notifications and the upsetting news around the world. Therefore, actively seeking those moments where you don’t have to engage in anything except yourself can be very powerful. I live close to a forest so those walks are what bring me peace, but your practice can be individual to you. Whether it’s meditation, yoga or just sitting on grass and watching the sky; I think you’ll find profound benefits in slowing everything down in a world that’s constantly moving.
I personally don’t have it all figured out, but these are just some of the things that have helped me this past year. I’m sure these are things you already know, but sometimes it takes reading it at the right time to actually implement it. As we move into 2021, let’s prioritize our health and wellbeing and start to welcome change.