If you’ve ever been on an airplane, you’ve probably seen that safety video. You know, the one that tells you to place your own oxygen mask on before helping small children or others who may need assistance?
It’s funny, it wasn’t until recently that I realized how this is a metaphor for real life. Being the kind of person I am, I often want to get involved in many projects and help lots of people. Over the years however, I have noticed that when I get too involved and forget to take care of myself, the extent of my impact dwindles on all of my initiatives. On the flip side, when I take the time to relax, recharge and recover, I make a much bigger difference.
It makes sense that in the healthcare field, this principle has a lot more power. For example, it’s hard to persuade someone about the benefits of improving their sleep when you look sleep deprived. As humans, we naturally model the behaviour of people who we believe are doing well in the areas we would like to improve. Thus, being a role model for our patients is, in a sense, part of our job.
Now I want to make it clear that there is no expectation of perfection. In fact, perfection is a strange concept to me, because it indicates that there is nothing left to do. If life is all about the process and living in the moment, then it’s okay to always have different areas to work on improving. The key is to have awareness around what you’d like to improve, how you’re going to do it, and what resources (including other people) you require to help you achieve your goals.
That final piece is incredibly important, because you must understand that you are never alone. I know from experience that we are often overtaken by pride and guilt, holding back any indication that we need help from our friends, family and other support figures. There’s a fear of looking weak, incompetent, or incapable. I’ve come to learn that this is far from the truth! There is immense courage required to indicate to others that you need their help, and it is admirable when someone lets down their guard and their ego in order to better themselves. We are all in this crazy world together, and by supporting one another, we can achieve so much more than when we are on our own.
Okay, so that’s enough of my philosophy for one blog post, here are 5 easy ways to start “putting on your oxygen mask first,” based on what has worked for me.
1. Sleep better: It usually only takes one night of not sleeping and one night of an amazing sleep to understand the restorative value of this activity. While sleep disturbance is a complicated issue that may require some help from a healthcare practitioner, there are some simple changes that can help. One important note is that lasting change with sleep difficulties can take some diligence, but the improved energy, mood and various other benefits are well worth it.
Easy Tip: Keep a sleep journal, writing down what time you went to bed, what time you woke up, and how your energy was on a scale of 1-10 in the morning. The awareness over a period of a couple weeks can be enlightening and help support positive change.
2. Eat more whole foods: Again, this one seems pretty obvious, but as much as we know that this is important, sometimes we can get caught up in student life and forget. Consider clearer skin, better digestion and more energy worth a little bit of effort.
Easy Tip: Pick an easy day of the week when you have free time (I like Sunday afternoon) and complete JUST ONE food prep task that supports you eating more whole foods. My personal favourite is to make a batch of hummus making it easy to snack on veggies like carrots, celery, peppers and more. Here’s my favourite recipe that I make all the time, though there’s lots of quick and easy ones if you do a google search or check youtube. (http://noahlitvaknaturopathicstudent.blogspot.ca/2016/10/best-hummus-recipe.html).
3. Exercise regularly: Once again, I think we all know that moving regularly is important and provides numerous health benefits, but it can be hard when you get really busy. Keeping in mind the benefits that are important to you (maybe improved energy or focus?), and picking exercises that you really enjoy are key to keeping this habit.
Easy Tip: Come up with a list of exercises you like doing, ranging from 10 minutes to 1 hour. On Sunday, WRITE DOWN what exercises you’ll do during the week and WHEN, scheduling it in just like a class or meeting. When you complete it, give yourself a check mark (or a smiley face sticker!) so you can visually see your progress.
4. Meditate everyday: Meditation is incredibly trendy these days, and for good reason; it reduces stress, helps you focus, improves sleep and does a whole whack of other great things, and it costs nothing! Meditating so often can seem daunting, but check out this quick 2-minute video that really simplifies and makes it easier (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLvPhzNuxE4)
Easy Tip: If you’re wiling to give it a bit more of a go, I recommend an app that has guided meditations to ease you into the practice. I really like Simple Habit and Whil, because they have 5-minute meditation options (and are free), fitting into anyone’s lifestyle, and still providing a lot of benefit.
5. See an intern: I’ve seen an intern since my first day at CCNM (and still see one today), and it’s an opportunity that I really appreciate. With the clinic right at school and having such an affordable price to get care (noting that the NSA Health Plan - http://www.nsa-ccnm.net/student-resources - covers 18 visits to the clinic 100%, and other extended health plans generally do very well), it’s something that is easy to do, and an invaluable resource. Having someone in your corner who can help you with your self-care goals and support you on your journey through CCNM is a wonderful perk of going to school here, and it’s great to see so many students leverage that benefit in order to help them Thrive!
Easy Tip: Book an appointment and thank yourself for taking time out of your week for self-care. After all, you absolutely deserve it!
To see a list of 4th year interns and what their interests visit the document here.