You’ve just started a new semester of school. You’re nearly two weeks in, not too overworked, but you already feel exhausted. Getting out of bed to get to school is a chore, and you’re left wondering where the zeal and excitement you had during your first semester went. This is a common routine for dental students around the country and is one of many manifestations of burnout.
I found out I was pregnant within the first two weeks of the spring semester, and I had a zillion questions that rushed through my head. How am I going to get through dental school? Will it affect my grades? How many days will I need to take off? What do I do when I feel sick and nauseous? The anxiety and worry were much greater than my excitement at first. I realized I needed help and a plan for the few months ahead.
We’ve all been there — that moment when our eyes droop during lecture, or we go for our third cup of coffee to make it through afternoon clinic. Through dental school, I’ve gone through various phases of trying to stay awake, but at the start of my fourth year, ahead of NBDE Part 2 and ADEX, I needed to refresh my tactics. I polled my friends on how they coped with exhaustion and found two decidedly different camps: one entirely dependent on caffeine and the other who swear by the power of naps. I decided to investigate both in hopes of nailing down the perfect routine.
Early on, we learned that winning a game of Go Fish or Hide-and-Seek was positive. It gave us a reason to celebrate or be celebrated. Without some competitive spirit, few of us would be here. You’ve probably been first (or close to it) a lot. You’ve compiled a list of “wins” neatly into a CV and presented it proudly. It’s part of who you are and why you’re in dental school. But here, all of your peers have similar résumés. Some may be more impressive than yours. An unfamiliar territory for most, this comparison becomes a source of negativity for many.
I was inspired to try my first hot yoga class after hearing my physics professor share how his journey through yoga helped him lose over 100 pounds in under a year. As a retired competitive cheerleader, I’d lost touch with my flexibility, and I yearned for a practice to get me moving again. What could go wrong?
How is your body positioned at this moment? How are your arms and legs situated? Are your shoulders slouched? Is your head bent over? Regardless of the answers, you just practiced mindfulness simply by becoming aware of the present moment. We often go through a whole day without checking in with our bodies. Our minds are constantly jumping from one thought to the next without a break. We rarely allow our minds to rest for even a few minutes in a day.
It’s well-known that work-related musculoskeletal disorders are highly prevalent among dentists. A 2009 study by Hayes in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene stated that between 64 and 93 percent of dental professionals experience musculoskeletal pain. In 2016, Leggat published an article in the international journal, Healthcare, claiming the prevalence is 85 percent among dental students.