“Sometimes self care is exercise and eating right. Sometimes it’s spending time with loved ones or taking a nap. And sometimes it’s watching an entire season of TV in one weekend while you lounge in your pajamas. Whatever soothes your soul.” – Nanea Hoffman
Optometry school uses up a lot of time. Juggling courses, practicing clinical skills, seeing patients in clinic, and staying involved in club organizations are the obvious, but then there’s making sure you get enough sleep, eating healthy, and keeping up with friends and family. All this, simply put, can be overwhelming. Where does mental health fit into this kind of schedule?
It’s easy to put it on the back burner, but taking care of your mental health and yourself while going through a demanding program shouldn’t have to feel like a chore. There are a number of things you can do to help lighten the load and de-stress!
Take a Day to Yourself
At the Illinois College of Optometry (ICO), we are notorious for our two-exams-a-week schedule, usually landing on Mondays and Thursdays for first and second years. I felt as if I was always studying for the next test and I never took a break during my first year. Over time, I found that taking a day off did wonders. For me, it’s usually Thursdays or Fridays that I would either spend the day with friends or enjoy a night strictly for Netflix!
Upcoming assignments and exams are always in the back of my mind and I’m always itching to start working on them as early as possible. However, taking a day to relax and get out of school-mode has made me enjoy optometry school more and surprisingly more motivated the day after my mini break.
Do What You Love
Fitting in your hobbies into a busy schedule can be difficult. With other responsibilities to focus on, it’s easy to forget about the things we used to have time for. Nevertheless, just because life gets harder and busier, doesn’t mean that’s a good reason to put yourself on the lower end of your priority list.
For me, I love it when I get the chance to repaint my nails or get a good workout in the gym after class and before I start studying. Whether it’s getting into intramural sports, playing an instrument, taking a bubble bath, cooking a good meal, or even just a phone call home, doing something small for yourself everyday can make a big difference!
Reach Out For Help
Over the past couple of years, mental health and illness have come into light and are nearly well accepted as a topic of importance in today’s society. Graduate school can feel like a lot to handle at times and the first thing it can affect is our mental stability. Sometimes, it’s not easy to handle all of it all by ourselves.
I find that talking about my hardships with someone helps tremendously. More often than not, I’m usually telling a friend or a classmate who is going through the same struggle as I am, as they usually can relate and understand. Family members are also a great source of unconditional support, no matter what the situation may be.
In the past year, ICO opened and implemented Sankofa Phychological Services. This gave students a place to talk about anything and everything, as well as receive mental health counseling and it has made such an impacting difference at our school. Talking to someone and opening up about your mental health may not always be easy, however it can relieve some of the weight that you may put on your shoulders.
Dealing with mental health is a part of being in a vigorous school program, and as I’m learning through the years, it’s also just a part of life. Self care is a process that’s not always easy, but always rewarding in the end!