School can be stressful and insanely chaotic, so there are going to be moments when you feel like you can’t handle another second. Here are some of the ways that I combate feeling burnt out
We’re officially on the downward spiral of finishing Didactic year of PA school (aka year 1). We have one week of regular class left before finals week, and then we’ll spend a week doing some pre-clinical housecleaning (perfecting our physical exam, talking to some current second year students, etc) before TWO weeks of break. Once we come back, we’ll be second year students.
AND I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO EXCITED.
I try to always be honest with you guys, so I’m not going to lie now. There have been times this year that I have been so incredibly stressed and overwhelmed, to the point that I considered giving up. Days I’ve felt like I could never actually make it as a PA, and that I should just give up now before I continue to make a fool out of myself. And, I’m not the only person who has ever felt this way. When you enter any of the fields in medicine, you’re going to come across burn-out. I have friends in nursing school who feel like they’re constantly drowning, I know med students who can’t imagine taking one more exam, or sorority sisters in undergrad who are already so sick of school they can’t understand how they’re going to make it through grad school. It happens, and it’s not something to be ashamed of. Our society has this stigma that you need to be perfect – perfect grades, perfect scores, perfect presentation to the outside world – and that any imperfections should be hidden, swept under the rug and not shared.
And honestly, this is so completely backwards.
Imperfections make us into the unique individuals we are, and they make us better than the person we once were. Because of the challenges we face, we learn to understand the challenges that others overcome. This makes us into better providers.
So now that I’ve ranted a little bit about how imperfections should be more acceptable in society, I’m going to discuss my ways of combating burn-out in a program where you really don’t have a lot of time to wallow.
Take a break. Step back from school and studying for a moment to allow yourself to just be yourself. This could be watching an episode of a show, going out to dinner, taking a nap, whatever you need to do to make yourself relax. Set a time limit and try to NOT think about school. The worse you feel, the longer your break should be. One of the things I try to do to make sure I always have some time for myself is never studying while eating. I leave food time just for food (and watching some TV).
Reach out to someone. I’ve talked about support systems before, and I really can not emphasize how important it is to have people during school. Learn to ask for help – ask a classmate or reach out to a professor. Chances are someone else is also struggling, and you and your classmates are all in this together. Talking out your stress is a great way to relieve it. When you keep things bottled up, you’re more likely to have a big explosion of emotion and this is just going to set you back, which will cause more stress, and a whole big cycle that you don’t have time for.
Be healthy. There are a million and five studies out there that talk about the benefits of exercise. It releases endorphins, aka those things that make you happy. Yes, a lot of studies say you should exercise for 30 minutes a day (this is also what we recommend to our patients), and it’s not always possible to do this during school. But make an effort to do something every day – walk instead of driving, take the stairs instead of the elevator, do some stretches when you wake up in the morning. Even if you’re only doing 15 minutes of activity, it’s better than nothing and you’re going to feel better for it. Those days when you’re really feeling overwhelmed, add an extra little work out in. The same goes for food. When you eat crap, you feel like crap. Give your body the fuel it needs to make it through school, and you’ll be surprised at how much less stressed you feel.
Some of my favorite things to do are Bikini Body Girls by Kayla or Do Yoga With Me. Both of these are convenient enough to do in the comfort of my own home. As for recipes, there are a million sites out there for beginner cooks trying to eat healthy. Clara’s Clean Eats is a very interesting look at a nursing student and her adventures with food
Remind yourself why you are doing this. You’re in school for a reason, and you can’t forget about that. Think about the patients your going to see, the families who’s loved ones you’ll help. All of this time and energy you’re putting into studying is going to pay off. You’re going to be an amazing provider. You’re learning how to save people, and that is so incredibly important – of course it’s going to be hard. But in the grand scheme of your life, school is only a short time period and you can do it.
Also think about all of the challenges you have already overcome. You got into school – beating out thousands of other applicants. Something about you stood out to the admissions committee. You are worthy of this spot and you’re going to make it.
Limit the time you complain. This is one of the tips that a second year student gave to us when my class first started – only complain for 20 seconds a day. And honestly, while this is hard to do, and I’m often complaining for longer than that, it does make me think about how often and for how long I am doing it for. There is a downward spiral when you start complaining, and it’s not going to do anything to really help your problem. So instead of complaining, take action and fix the problem. You feel like you have too many things to do? Make a checklist and start crossing things off; that feeling you get when you put a check next to an item is going to give you the energy to keep going. And you’ll be able to see just how much you’re able to get done.
Remember even if you don’t do as well as you’d hope on something, you’re still a great person. Tests are not the only thing that matters in life. Being the best in your class is not what is going to make or break your career. Having that great GPA does not determine your worth as a person.
You’re made up of so much more than just school, and as long as you remember that, some of the stress is going to disappear.
The most important thing to remember when you’re feeling burnt-out?
You. Are. Not. Alone.
If you ever feel like you can’t handle school, and have any thoughts of suicide please reach out to someone. This is the number for the National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255
It’s open 24/7, so someone is always going to be there for you to talk to.
I know this subject was a little intense, but I think it’s something that doesn’t nearly get talked about for how much it happens. If you’ve had experience with feeling burnt-out, I would love to hear about the ways that you helped overcome it.
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I’m here for you guys and together, we’re going to make some kick-ass PAs. I started this blog because I wanted to help others, so feel free to reach out to me. I’m not always great at responding off of my personal Facebook (all y’all’s messages get “filtered” and I don’t always get a notification), but I’m always checking the blog’s email (firstname.lastname@example.org).