Dear diary, this is me: Journaling for wellness

Smiling woman writing on note pad at home

When planning today’s Wellness Wednesday blog, I thought to myself, “What do my fellow dental students want to read about health and wellness? What is going to help them in that aspect of their lives?” As the stress levels rose, I pulled out my daily journal and read through a few entries from last year. Page after page, every day it seemed like I had a good and a bad experience. Some days seemed more balanced than others. But one underlying theme I noticed was that I always managed to figure things out. I always relieved the stressors so they wouldn’t hit critical mass. So I asked my classmate, Macaire, to write a journal entry for today’s Wellness Wednesday post to demonstrate how journaling can be a stress reliever. It provides you an opportunity to get your thoughts on paper with the hope of learning from today’s experiences in the future.

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From Macaire’s journal:

When asked by a great friend to pull together an article this week, I said without hesitation “Yes!” Then I proceeded to wrack my brain and wring my hands over having nothing to write about. I had a week filled with meetings and work and babysitting after school and then I added this post to my plate. Am I the only one with the compulsion to help others even if it pushes me further to the red zone on the stressed-out scale?

I feel that dental students are all guilty of this. At our orientations they tell us, “Take care of yourself, and take care of your family”. Do we listen? As I reach the “CRDTS-anxiety-fueled, my-patients-are-bailing-for-financial-reasons”—home stretch, I’ve found myself reflecting on the last three and a half years spent with some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known. This nostalgia-driven reminiscence has led me to a few conclusions: These four years have been both the longest and fastest of my life, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I’m not great at taking care of myself because sometimes I’m trying to hard to be there for others.

This is not new or Earth-shattering. No clinical studies to back up my ramblings today—this is not evidence-based dentistry. The best version of yourself is probably not the one that is running on three hours of sleep, four cups of coffee and half a banana. That person may still show up in clinic, but will they have the patience and compassion to give the patient in the chair their absolute best effort? I believe in the idea that as healthcare providers, if we are not at our best, we cannot give our best to those who need us.

So I urge you, be selfish once in awhile. It’s okay! It’s encouraged! You will spend your career helping others, but if you are pushed to your limits, will you be able to give them all you want to give? We cannot grow unless we push and stretch and challenge ourselves, but there still has to be a gentleness and ease with which we treat ourselves from time to time. The best hour of my week was when I hit the exhausted limit and left it all behind for a yoga class with my favorite instructor. I entered the studio with a sloppy ponytailed and bags under my eyes. Sixty minutes later I emerged a radiant (sweaty), glowing (those dolphin push-ups are hard!) woman with a clear mind and a plan. It doesn’t have to be yoga. Maybe it’s tennis with a classmate. Baking red velvet cupcakes and wine with a good friend. Perhaps you accompany a buddy to an event, not because you know anything about figure skating, but because you enjoy their company. Have a FaceTime date with a significant other a thousand miles away. Call your mom. Netflix binge on Grey’s Anatomy. Go to trivia with some classmates and take down the faculty team. If it makes you happy, carve out the time in your busy schedule. It’s these memories that you’ll smile back on later, and they’ll keep you going in the thick of the madness.

From my busy life to yours, take care. Love,

-Macaire

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Do you keep a daily journal? What are some ways you organize your thoughts and relieve stress? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

~Jay Banez and Macaire Thiel, Marquette ’16

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About Macaire Thiel

Macaire is a D2 at Marquette School of Dentistry. She co-organized a new committee for Marquette ASDA, Health and Fitness Committee, of which she also shares the responsibility of co-chair. She enjoys babysitting fellow classmates' children, dancing, and exercising.

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Comments (2)

  1. Colleen Greene

    Nice post, Macaire! Love my old collection of journals – even from elementary school years. It’s always a fun stress release to read through what seemed so bad or so crazy back then and realize that everything is going to be okay. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Vickie Austin

    What a great message, not just for ASDA members but for all busy, committed service professionals. I had the honor of working with the ASDA staff and board several years ago and was so inspired (and amazed) by the energy, commitment and accomplishments of ASDA leaders and members. Your post is a good reminder that, just like on the airplane, we have to put on our own oxygen masks first in order to help others. Also, there’s evidence that the act of journaling itself lowers stress and serves as a good self-care practice. Bravo, Macaire!

    Reply

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