Saturday, December 27, 2014

Mind, Body, Spirit

The three tenants that Osteopathic Medicine revolve around are: mind, body and spirit. Keeping these in mind help not only with the amazingly arduous task of becoming a doctor, but in caring for our patients and ourselves.

A common problem in medical school

The mind is a terrible thing to waste - we've all heard this before. But it is also fragile and needs a break from time to time. Medical school stretches our minds to the limit, with huge amounts of raw information to memorize, millions of connections to be made between facts about diseases, treatments, symptoms and side effects, and rigorous schedules of deadlines, due dates and exams.
Taking a moment to think about nothing and veg out seems impossible, but its not - and we need to. Even just a few minutes a day are enough to refresh and reset our minds for the mental gymnastics our education requires.

Its temping to turn to Youtube or Facebook for some brain down time, but try these ideas instead for your mind rest/refresh:
  • Meditation - the Mayo Clinic has a great introduction to mediation and easy ways to get started. 
  • Rest - "sleep like the astronauts" was the pre-exam catch phrase all through medical school, and for good reason. We need to recharge the batteries and get a good nights sleep to perform at peek mental power and agility. 
  • Prioritize - don't let the day get too hectic and unbearable that your brain hurts. Plan ahead and create a must-do list for the day. Prioritize the top three things you absolutely have to do each day and start with them, then move on to the should-do items.
NEMO triathlon 2013 - I'm on the far left

DO you treat your body like a temple? Or more like a cheep motel? 

To live a fulfilled life we need our bodies to be there (and get us there).  Nutrition and physical activity are hugely important for all of us to maintain the hectic pace we live at, note I didn't say diet and exercise. 

Changing the way we look at food, at activity and fitness is the next step. Taking the focus off low-calorie, low-fat, High fructose corn syrup, etc and placing it on food that is recognizable, grown and fresh simplifies the quagmire of the grocery store. 

Get out of the elliptical machine, bench press gym frenzy and build activity into everyday actions, make fitness fun and pleasurable. 
  • Shop the perimeter - Yup, avoid the gooey-center of the grocery store and expand your horizons by shopping only on the perimeter of the grocery store. Here we find the fresh produce, the butcher counter and dairy section - identifiable food! Dehydrogenated and trans-fats are no where to be found.
  • Use a hand basket - Yes, I said it. No push grocery carts. Not only does this limit drastically what we can fit in the basket, but also makes us use our muscles (gasp) to carry the food.
  • Daily Exercise - Cant get to the gym? Awesome, take the stairs everywhere, park far away from the door, walk to the grocery store (bring a backpack) ride your bike to work. Make your daily activities active.
  • Get Out of the Gym - Get outside when the weather allows and bring the family too. Look up local parks and trails in your area and go try one out. All you need is a pair of sneakers, and dress in layers. Teaching little ones active hobbies and weekend activities will instill positive life habits in them early and encourage you to be a great example. Heading to the neighborhood playground is great too, monkey bars are way more difficult as an adult and all the bending and squatting while playing with the kids builds relationships and thigh muscles. 

North East Missouri sunrise

Life is hard, and we can make it so much harder by trying to make it alone. Keeping in touch with loved ones, family and friends and maintaining and growing those connections to the world are extremely important. Medical school can make you feel so alone, only a handful of people in the country understand what you're experiencing, your language changes, your ideals shift, your understanding of the world and systems around you change and its so hard to adjust. 

Keeping the mind and body in line and on track are huge, but not as important as keeping the spirit up and engaged and feeling involved. Over the years I found myself calling my family members more just to chat, to keep a connection and feel like I wasn't alone. I was checking my phone, email, Facebook constantly to the validation that others existed and cared that I was there. 

It's hard to feel loved, worthy and human when you are constantly pushing and dragging yourself forward. Depression can sneak into your life without any fanfare, you can find yourself just not caring anymore, no drive left and no pleasure in anything. Depression can feel like you've run out of gas, no energy or interest. Depression can be sadness and despair, nothing is going to change and you'll never be happy. 

Listen to your spirit, keep in touch with yourself and know when something feels different, or you feel nothing. There is help, there are people that care and you can feel normal.
  • Affirmation Statements - Check out this post by Remez Sasson to learn about affirmation statements and try out a few. Positive thinking can make you feel positive and change the attitude you approach the day with.
  • Maintain Connections - Make that phone call. Call your mother or grandmother while walking to or from class. It doesn't have to be a long call, and you don't even have to have something to talk about, just reach out to say hello and know you are connected to the people that love you.
  • Be Honest - Be honest with yourself, don't run or hide from how you are feeling. No one feels great all the time, and there is a point that you should seek professional help. I've been there and yes, its hard to accept at first, but there are professionals for this reason: we all need help sometimes.