I’m sure you have a study timetable, but do you have a self-care plan and timetable?
September contains a lot of days that draw our focus on mental health and well-being, with R U OK Day and World Suicide Prevention Day to mention a few. In 2020 and 2021, we have had to work out how to maintain a balance in our new normal that is our pandemic world. All of us are discovering firsts and learning to adjust to this new normal. So, in this month’s blog I have been asked to write about how to maintain a balance between study and our other needs.
I think most medical students are highly proficient at studying but what about maintaining a balance? Many students have commented to me, “What else is there to do but study?”. If you have had this thought, it might be helpful to invest some time intentionally considering how we can use our time in ways that promote our well-being and help us flourish.
The above type of thinking is normal, especially when so many things out of our pre-pandemic lives have disappeared. Activities and tasks that would punctuate our days, weeks and months triggering a break from study have dropped off our daily and weekly schedule. So, what might we replace them with? Examples would be travelling to and from our place of study. Travelling to and from university might have been time consuming, but it is having a change of atmosphere that often does us good. Travel would previously give us a break between university and home. In the car or public transport, we might have listened to music and looked forward to coming and being at home.
Accessing different study environments such as being able to study in a library, going to a café to study or to catch up with friends, seeing university friends in lectures and tutorials, celebrating birthdays and other special occasions with our family face to face are no longer as feasible. Our sporting and exercise activities can no longer be done in groups. Our previous spiritual activities in with our fellow worshipers are now no longer possible. All the above are losses. So, I wonder, have you recently looked at your timetable to accommodate these losses? One way of accommodating these losses is to develop a self-care plan and timetable.
Just like having a lecture/tutorial timetable and study timetable orientates, delineates the boundaries between subjects, and focuses you, having a self-care plan and timetable will consciously help you delineate between study and personal time. Like having a study timetable, a self-care plan is more likely to be performed and actioned by you if you have intentionally identified self-care activities that are important and meaningful to you. No plan is ever perfect and often not executed completely, however having a think about the barriers that might get in your way and identifying these might assist you in overcoming such barriers.
Below is a Self-Care Plan taken from The Australian Psychological Institute Education and Training, 2017. The Self Care Plan as a table will help you think about the areas of self-care that are important to focus on: what will you do, how much you will do, and how much of it is alone or with another.
You can copy this template and amend the content.
What am I going to do?
How much am I going to do?
When am I going to do it?
Whom am I going to do it with?
Lifestyle self-care strategies
How’s my routine?
Regularity in sleep waking cycle.
Will I give myself a day to sleep in or a nap?
Will I give myself a day away from study?
Dress & attire as if you were at university
Making bed & tidying up sleeping area.
Cleaning your bedroom
What’s the air circulation & temperature like in my bedroom?
Water consumption, healthy food & regularity of meals, slow reduction of coffee & alcohol intake
Cleaning & reviewing my study area e.g., Lighting, air circulation, music compilation for study.
Cleaning my home space.
Leaving study areas tidy and organised, with next task ready to go before you take a break or finish for the day.
Psychological self-care strategies
How’s my sense of connection with others?
Nurturing supportive relationships
Scheduling virtual or telephone socialising.
Debriefing with friends
Virtual dinners & virtual movie nights.
A book or podcast or book that takes you away
Self-monitoring & self-reflection: keeping a journal along your study desk for recording thoughts for challenging.
Taking time to listen to comedy & feel-good music.
Scheduling time to tackle a hobby, or get a job done you’ve wanted to i.e., getting your taxes done! Sorting out personal paperwork or organising a closet or wardrobe. Something that gives you a sense of completion.
Supportive counselling. Do I need to reach out to someone professionally?
Are there boundaries to be reviewed in your relationships?
Professional Self Care Strategies
What behaviours support me in my professional development?
Virtual study buddies
Research self-directed study techniques
Plan for self-directed study sessions
Reviewing the rewards of studying medicine
Getting involved with professional organisations and student bodies
Spiritual Self Care Strategies
What behaviours get me closer to a sense of peace and tranquillity?
Work out a behavioural string of bedtime behaviours i.e.
Showering or bathing to relax
Reading spiritual material that feeds you
Pray alone or with another
Donate something you don’t need or want any longer.
Practising compassion by reviewing your day with kindness and compassion for yourself and others.
Acts of kindness; Acts of kindness bring in e.g., someone’s bin, cook a meal for someone.
After considering your self-care plan and scheduling these activities into your weekly timetable, you might want to consider what barriers you might have in completing some of the self-care activities. Do you have stigma about self-care? Was it practiced by your family members? Do you have friends that practice self-care? What do you think about self-care in general?
I hope this activity gives you food for thought and it is something you can take into your future years of studying medicine and into your career. Feel free to drop me a line and let me know what your thoughts are of such an activity.
To good self-care.
Head of Student Well-being
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