Managing Mental Health in Optometry School

It is no secret that optometry school is one of the most stressful times in many of our lives. Between balancing numerous courses, prepping for boards, clinic shifts, and other obligations, it is an extremely busy phase of life. Pushing through the responsibilities and challenges of school can certainly take a toll on the average student’s physical and mental health. Anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, and unhealthy eating habits are just some of the issues that can arise as a result of school related stress.

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With May having been Mental Health Month, it is a fitting time to bring awareness to mental health and the role it plays in this professional school setting. Listed below are a few suggestions to help manage stress and overcome the overwhelming experience that is optometry school.

Be Kind to Yourself and Your Body

Studying day in and day out can be exhausting for both your brain and body. Try and do one thing a day to benefit yourself physically, whether that be a trip to the gym, a short walk around campus, or just a simple stretch break. And although it is easier said than done, getting a decent amount of sleep is essential for allowing your body to rest and reset for the next day. Although you may feel like you don’t have the time, making yourself a priority and investing in your wellness is something that will allow both your body and mind to thrive throughout your academic journey.

Don’t Neglect Your Life Outside of School

Let’s face it: being an optometry student means that your studies consume a majority of your time. It is important to spend time outside of class bettering yourself as a student and as a person in general. In order to benefit your current and future social life, it is crucial to find balance between your studies and social life. Ultimately, patients will want their optometrist to be a real, relatable person, so don’t feel bad taking some time to live a life outside of school.

Take Time to Detox

Perhaps the most important piece of advice one could receive when tackling school stress is that it is okay, and sometimes necessary, to step back and take some time for yourself. Although it might temporarily set your study schedule off, it is probably more beneficially to give your mind and body a rest. Go on a walk, grab a bite to eat with friends, or watch an episode of your favorite show – just do whatever it is that makes you happy and will reset your focus on your goals.

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Talk to Someone

One of the most reassuring things about going through optometry school is knowing that you are not alone. Having dozens of classmates who are also dealing with the same crazy schedule is definitely a benefit because all of you are feeling the same way. Sometimes all it takes is a good conversation with a group of friends to help you feel a little less alone and more motivated. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you think you might need a different perspective or professional help, most optometry schools also offer stress counseling which is a wonderful resource to take advantage of.

Remind Yourself of Your Long-Term Goal

Sometimes you get caught up in the craziness of surviving professional school. This distraction may cause you to forget the reason you started this academic journey. As the tests, assessments, and responsibilities pile on, it can seem like graduation is an intangible reward that is too far away. Next time you are feeling exhausted from the day to day grind, take some time to re-assess your long-term goals and remind yourself why you are here in the first place. Each little thing you do is getting you one step closer to your goal. Reminding yourself of the big picture will allow you to renew your motivation and reduce stress knowing that in a few short years, it will all be worth it.

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