Wellness and Life Balance

The following topics are frequently experienced by dental students and others in professional programs.  Here is some brief information about better life balance and overall wellness.  If you find you are struggling managing any of the items below, please feel free to reach out to the Office of Counseling and Student Development for assistance.

1. Exercise

  • Moderate exercise 3 times per week can be very useful for maintaining health and fitness. It can also relieve stress and provide benefits for mind and body.
  • When your schedule does not allow you to engage in moderate exercise several times per week, even once per week can be helpful.
  • Additional options include brisk walking frequently for 15-20 minutes or a short run for 15 minutes.

2. Healthy Preparation for a Test or Skills Assessment

When preparing for an exam or skills assessment, studying and practicing are the best beginnings for prepping.  Several other things can also be helpful such as being well rested, staying hydrated, having a light meal before the exam.

It can also be helpful to use some grounding techniques to reduce last minute anxiety “jitters”.  Breathing slow and deep with hand on chest to abdomen for about 1 minute.  Write down your favorite quote, verse, mantra or saying so you can refer to it often during the test.

Taking intermittent scheduled breaks followed by breathing or stretching can be very helpful.  Example:  During an exam after every 20 questions, stretch, breathe and rest your mind with your grounding technique.  During a skills assessment, allow yourself a 2 minute breathe and stretch after every 45 minutes of work. (if you are allowed to get up and stretch, that would be best, if not you can stretch in your chair)

3. Life Balance—Mind/Body/Spirit

In order to maintain good life balance and healthy it is important to nurture your mind, body and spirit.  Keeping your mind stimulated in dental school is not the problem, it is actually finding time to slow down and relax your mind, so you are not in a constant state of overdrive.  Nurturing your body with proper nutrition, hydration and sleep are more critical to your success than ever before.  It is also important to nurture your spirit by incorporating your spiritual practices into your weekly routine.  Whether you do that with others or by yourself it is important to engage in some sort of activity to enhance your spiritual growth.  You may feel as though you don’t have time to do anything but think about dental school however, engaging in other activities for your body and spirit keeps you healthier and allows you to have better life balance for the “long haul” during dental school.  Consider investigating the area in which you live to engage in small activities to best nurture your body and spirit…and your mind. 

4. Multicultural Awareness

This involves a larger understanding, appreciation and sensitivity to groups outside your own on a micro and macro level.  It goes beyond “tolerating” others and actually compels us to embrace others who are different than ourselves by race, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, religious beliefs/practices, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, age, marital status, military status, or other life experiences.  It also involves our own awareness of our natural tendencies and biases which are innate to our environment and upbringing.

5. Personal growth

You will find that you will not be the same person graduating dental school as you were when you were admitted.  Along with developing the professional within you, there are also changes which will happen to you as an individual.  You can foster that growth each year by embracing small changes along the way.  Here are a few tips for your personal development:

  • Reflect at the end of each day, finding 2 positive things that happened or for which you are grateful.
  • Have a plan that is flexible. See your goals and write them down (short and long term) and allow them to flex as you see things change along the journey.
  • Stay honest with yourself. Don’t allow yourself to get so caught up in the general overall goal of gradation that you cannot be honest with yourself about life.
  • Find others to encourage, push, commensurate and play with during the week/month. Creating and nurturing healthy relationships will allow you to see yourself differently.
  • Be a part of something bigger than yourself. Whether you volunteer your time, attend religious services or support organizations, finding yourself as a part of a “whole” can be rewarding and help you keep things in perspective.

6. Recreation

Recreation is a healthy habit to maintain whether you are involved in intramural sports, enjoy outdoor activities or engage in personal training.  Incorporating recreation into your lifestyle even a small amount can make a large difference in your overall health and wellness.  Even 2-3 hours per week can increase your physical and mental fitness.  Check out some of the opportunities at Campus Recreation And Wellness

7. Relaxation/Breathing

This may seem like an obvious task to do in order to keep yourself healthy yet very few people actually do it regularly.  Deep breathing can be extremely helpful to regulate your body’s reaction to stress as well as re-oxygenating your blood for better brain power. Mindfulness Breathing and Relaxation can provide you a recharge in just about any situation at any time.  The best part of doing these simple tasks is that they are free, and you can carry them with you anywhere.  You can engage in these tasks before you walk into class, during breaks, at lunch, before studying, before bed, before seeing a patient, or just about any time where you can get 10 minutes or less to focus on one task in the moment and breathe while relaxing muscles along the way.

8. Sleep Hygiene

Getting proper sleep is always important yet it becomes vital to your overall well-being in dental school.  Many individuals sacrifice sleep for time to study, play, plan and a host of other seemingly productive things.  Sleep however, cannot be made up and is difficult to recover from a lack of good rest.  Here is an article from the APA regarding strengthening your brain by resting it. Strengthen your brain.

9. Support Systems

Your support systems are almost as important as your ability to complete your goal of graduating from dental school. Your supports can be from a variety of individuals or entities. Knowing how and when to tap into those supports can make a critical difference in your ability to enjoy dental school and minimize your overall struggle.  Your supports can come from your faculty, friends, family, distant relatives, adopted family, as well as the staff and administration in the school.  Your supports want to help you when they can so have an idea as to how they can help is most beneficial.  Supports within the school can be used throughout your journey. If someone in the school cannot help you, they can typically refer you to someone who can.  Supports outside the school, within your family and friends can do small and big things to assist you in your program.  Just a word of encouragement can make a difference on a bad day as well as making a meal or two can relieve you of having to eat out or skipping a meal.  There are lots of creative ideas to consider when letting your supports actually help “support” you while in dental school.

10. Time Management

Using your time efficiently and effectively is a golden egg for most dental students.  All of us procrastinate at some point, especially on the tasks which we find arduous or daunting.  Sometimes the difficulty is in starting a project and other times it is finishing a project. Most of us know the basics about setting a schedule, getting a planner, keeping things in folders and making a list.  The difficulty many times is executing each of these things with competing contingencies and when “new” stuff gets added which seem equally important as everything else.   Prioritizing and re-prioritizing your tasks each day and sticking with doing something on the list is the momentum successful people use to accomplish a long list and not feel totally whipped at the end. Clockify app might be helpful.  

Here are a few additional suggestions: 

  • make your tasks realistic/manageable
  • give up perfection
  • give yourself grace to say NO
  • give yourself breaks and rest as needed
  • set goals
  • set reminders
  • delegate where you can
  • don’t work on impulse
  • set times for tasks/time blocking (30 min or 1.5 hours)