Between balancing coursework, preparing dental school applications and maintaining a social life, it’s inevitable to not feel overwhelmed or stressed. The pandemic has exacerbated challenges with our physical health, while also amplifying many academic, mental and social challenges.
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.
Being a dentist seems glamorous, fun and exciting. There is always a new challenge around the corner with every patient. However, the process of becoming a dentist is not always glamorous and fun. A significant number of hours are spent behind a laptop studying for exams and quizzes. What’s more, there are assignments, simlab requirements, patients to treat and board materials to study. The rigors of dental school can cause you to sleep less and abandon socializing, ultimately increasing mental fatigue and stress.
As I come to my mat, I inhale my thoughts: “The eye orbit consists of which bones?” “I have 3 assignments due by midnight.” “I work at 5 on Thursday.” Then I exhale, bringing myself to my practice and letting go of the stress.
I picked up yoga and a few other activities last year after speaking with a co-worker, Dr. Michelle Pearson (North Carolina ‘03). She saw me become restless and drained at work as the months passed, and she shared with me the importance of taking time for yourself.
Since I started dental school, the biggest habit I picked up is being a chronic maximizer. As a first year, I was presented with so many new opportunities that I found myself overwhelmed with a desire to take on everything. But, when you’re trying to balance a personal life, academic obligations, extracurriculars and taking care of yourself, time becomes your most precious commodity. Efficiency became the name of the game and before I knew it, every little pocket of time was spent trying to tick off yet another item on my to-do list. Waiting in line at the supermarket? Perfect time to send out an email or two. Got out of class early? Time to call up those vendors for that event we’re planning next month.