Mental health almost seems like a taboo subject in medical school. We learn about it, the causes and the side effects, we learn how it may affect one’s life and the relevant medical and non-medical treatments. In a way we carry all the knowledge to diagnose when we are struggling with our mental health, yet when it is put to addressing ourselves and our own complications we may be facing with our mental health we find it harder to accept.
Medicine can be a stressful, busy and time consuming degree and it can be hard to accept when we may be struggling to cope mentally.
Speaking from personal experience I sometimes have felt too stressed to accept my own feelings of worry or anxiety, and too busy to reach out for help. However hard it may feel, the benefits of putting yourself first and balancing your own academic life with your non-academic life is vital to living a happier and more well-rounded future. It isn't always the easiest, but accepting that we need to change our routine to incorporate more self-nourishment can allow us to perform better overall and boost your mood, confidence and general daily satisfaction.
What can I implement into my daily routine?
Sometimes life can feel very overwhelming and we don't have the time to do everything that we feel we need to and that is okay. I find that using a calendar with daily to-do tasks is a really effective method for me to feel satisfied that I have had a successful productive day. Breaking down your academic tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks will make them seem much more accomplishable and you will have the satisfaction of ticking these tasks off as you complete them.
Equally, I believe that including self-care and socialising tasks into your to-do list can be a valuable way of allowing yourself to have a better work-life balance whilst still feeling productive. For example things you may schedule into your to do list:
- Have a bath
- Watch a film
- Read a fictional book
- Call family
- See family/friends
Putting self-care and social activities into your to-do list can make you feel much more organised as you can clearly see that it is possible to manage your tasks for the day whilst also ticking off tasks beneficial to your happiness and mental health, which is equally as important as your academical work.
Self- care, relaxing techniques.
Sometimes life can become very overwhelming, and it can be extremely beneficial to take a step back and focus on yourself by taking a segment of your day to completely focus on yourself and your current feelings, to make them more manageable and to come within acceptance of your own emotions, good or bad.
Taking 5-10 minutes out of your day to write down how you have been feeling can be a really beneficial, relaxing technique to clear your mind. Whether this be at the start of the day to process your general thoughts and emotions of the day ahead, or at the end of the day to summarise how you have felt throughout it. Being in-tune and aware your emotions can make them seem more manageable and it can be easier to let go of negative thoughts when we can put them to paper to get them off our chests. Whilst writing in your journal take some time to include a section on gratitude. Writing down each thing you are grateful for in your life, whether that be your family, your health, your pet or whatever they may be, allows the brain to focus on what makes us truly happy in life. So even when things feel at their worst you can focus on what you are grateful for and the positivity you have in your life.
Yoga is a practise I personally took up during the first lockdown, and it has become a religious part of my daily routine. A long or particularly stressful day can lead to not only mental cloudiness and drainage but physical body tension, which can result in a poor or negative mindset. Taking the time to follow a simple yoga routine - I find there are loads of excellent ones on YouTube - in either the morning or before you go to bed, is proven to have calming effects on both your mind and body. For me personally it is a time of day where I feel I can truly dissociate from all the stresses of my life and focus on making myself feel calm and at peace.
If you enjoy reading, implementing it into your daily tasks can be a truly positive way of detaching from your worries and focusing on your enjoyment of a good book. Whether this be fictional or a non-fiction of particular interest, having a hobby like reading where you can relax and focus on something completely non related to your negative mindset can be an excellent solution to ease yourself away from negative thoughts.
When I say exercise I’m not necessarily advising you to go hardcore at the gym - unless that is what you’re passionate about of course. But taking some time out of your day to move your body. This could be an exercise class, swimming, cycling, or going for a walk around your local park. Exercise can be just as beneficial to the mind as it is the body and allows us to intertwine, improving both our physical and mental wellbeing.
It is okay to reach out for help.
Speaking from experience it can be very overwhelming when you feel that you may need more help in feeling positive. You may be experiencing anxieties or negative thoughts which have had an impact on your wellbeing that is not resolving. Firstly I want you to know that you are not alone. So many of us feel how you do and it is completely understandable that you don’t feel okay. All I can promise is that things will get better.
Taking the bravery and honesty to reach out to family/friends as well as mental health support and your GP can seem very daunting. But I promise once you take the first step, every step from there on gets a lot easier. You may find yourself going on a journey to improving your mental health, and reaching out to a medical professional can be beneficial in offering you medical and non-medical support in this.
We may be training to help patients but don’t forget we are humans ourselves. Mental health can be drowning and can put you into a state of hopelessness, but don't give up. Reach out to anyone you feel comfortable in doing so. Inform your university and take the first step to finding yourself again.
One of the bravest things you can do is admit you need some help. I did and it was the best thing I could have ever done for myself. Having a diagnosis makes everything suddenly feel like it's making sense and will hugely improve your happiness.
I hope that by implementing some of these practises into your routine you will be able to feel calmer and more at ease with your routine, if it doesn’t work straight away try it for a little longer, or add other passions of yours more thoroughly into your work-life balance. And if you do need to speak to a medical professional, do so with pride and confidence because you are putting yourself first, as you always should.