How to Look After Your Own Mental Health
You would have thought that a group of people who are studying medicine would be much more accepting and understanding of mental health conditons and their impact than the general population. But, as medical students, we seem to be afraid of admitting our weaknesses whether in ill health or otherwise. And mental health seems to be the biggest taboo of all.
We are supposed to be treating the sick, not being sick ourselves. Doctors and medical students are portrayed as invincible almost superhuman, especially in the media. This is possibly as ploy to convince people that we don’t make mistakes. But this has the downside of causing thousands of medical students across the world to feel inadequate and to question whether they are actually ‘strong’ enough to become a doctor.
And so, here are some tips to help you look after your own mental health so you can carry on looking after others. Of course, this list is not exhaustive but
Sleep, diet and exercise
The holy trinity which we never seem to stop reminding patients of the importance of. But honestly, since when have doctors been renowned for their impeccable sleeping patterns or healthy diets?
It is, of course, easier said than done as it is so hard to find time for these things as students and undoubtedly it will only become harder as we graduate. But why not (try) form these good habits now?
Looking after your physical health will undoubtedly have a positive impact upon your mental health. Weekends are prime time to catch up on sleep or fit in some exercise. And whilst diet may not always be the easiest or cheapest thing to correct, it is always good to treat yourself from time to time.
Broaden your horizons
Medicine is a full-on degree. But that does not mean that it has to be the only thing which you spend your time doing. It is so important to let your mind think about something other than anatomy and pharmacology for a change and actually relax! How you choose to spend this time is completely up to you and contrary to popular opinion, it does not HAVE to be a sport. If you’re going to relax it may as well be by doing something which you actually enjoy.
Phone a friend
Perhaps the hardest of the three to achieve. Fear of embarrassment or being looked down upon definitely play a major role in deterring people from openly discussing mental health issues. But medical schools, tutors and friends are all incredible sources of support and should not be underestimated. All universities will have a pastoral support system and their one and only function is to make sure you are as supported as possible. So sometimes it is just better to sit back and let other people look after you for a change.
Mental health conditions are no less common amongst medical students as they are in the general population. It is completely natural to feel stressed, especially whilst doing such a demanding degree. But there is no need for you to suffer in silence. Maybe it would be for the best if we actually listened to the advice which we are giving to patients from time to time.
About the Author
My name is Georgia and I am currently a third-year medical student. I am passionate about all things mental health related. I have an Instagram page @girlwithastethoscope which follows my journey through medical school. (You can also check out her Etsy shop here!)