It’s now 11 p.m. You’re still on campus studying for tomorrow morning’s oral pathology exam which you’re ill-prepared for. You’ve got an ASDA lunch and learn tomorrow that you have to organize, and you’re seeing your first patient in the afternoon. You also have two unfinished fixed pros projects in the sim lab that you have to complete before the end of the week. You’re trying to do research, and you feel like you can’t spend enough time in the lab to collect your data. On top of all of this, you’ve got responsibilities with your local religious group and a new baby at home that you haven’t seen in a while.
If you can relate to any of these situations, you know just how stressful dental school can be. At different times we will all feel like we have way too much on our plates. How do we keep from losing our minds when dental school gets stressful? Below are a few things that have helped me maintain my sanity during school.
Some things you do in school (and in life) aren’t as valuable as others. If you find that you’re getting overwhelmed with too many to-dos, sit down and make a list of everything you have going on. Try to order them from most important to least important. You could consider eliminating an item or two from the bottom of the list. Though the exercise may seem elementary, it is very easy to quickly lose sight of the things that are most significant in our lives. If your goal is to get into a residency, but you’re spending every Tuesday night in a bowling league and every Friday night going to movies with your friends, you may be causing yourself some undue stress. Scale things back, and focus your energy where you will get the greatest returns. Also, be sure to repeat this exercise from time to time. Priorities are dynamic and may not be the same in the future as they are now.
Learn to Say No
In at least some way, we are all overachievers. We like to stay busy, and we love to accomplish things. Whether it is because we want to build our CV or because we love adventure, many of us don’t like to turn down opportunities. This is typically a good thing, but it can definitely get out of hand if we aren’t careful. Strive to develop the ability and the courage to say no to things that detract from your long-term goals.
It may be hard at first to say no, but the more you do it, the better you will feel. You will have more time to dedicate to what truly matters to you.
The best decision I ever made in life was to marry someone much more capable than me. My wife enables me physically, mentally, and emotionally to do things I otherwise wouldn’t be able to do, and she keeps me accountable for doing them. You may have a significant other who does the same for you. If you don’t, worry not. There are many other avenues for you to find support. It may come in the form of family, friends or even classmates who are struggling with similar challenges. Look to them for strength in difficult times, but also be prepared to offer support in return. Service is an excellent way to gain clarity in personal pursuits.
Have a Hobby
Lastly, do something fun. We all have mental batteries that need an occasional recharging, so find a form of recreation that helps you keep going. For some it may be spending time in the outdoors. For others, it may be spending time with a good book. Whatever your interests are, don’t forget to make them a priority too. Your mental and physical health depends on it.
These can be difficult skills to master, but the more you practice them the better you’ll get. Dental school will always be busy, but learning to manage your time goes a long way toward improving it.
~ Trevor Paskett, Roseman ’18