With the rigorous process of becoming a PA, it can be way too easy to lose sight of our own health when caring for others. This is something I’ve definitely struggled with, but continue to work on. We should be encouraging each other to be #healthyinmedicine instead of just focusing on our patient’s health. Here are some of the practices I’ve found to be helpful. I would love to hear about your habits and tricks for self-care in the comments or on social media. Make your own #healthyinmedicine post, tag @thePAplatform, and I’ll be sure to check it out!
Find ways to stay active. As a full-time physician assistant, wife to a busy medical resident, mom to a 10 month old, and blogger, sometimes I get a little tired or overwhelmed. (Understatement of the year.) I’ve had to get creative to find ways to keep myself moving and still be able to spend time with my family. Back in undergrad at the University of Georgia, I walked everywhere. Buses were available, but the campus was beautiful, so I only took advantage of hopping a ride maybe 10 times total. I took that built in exercise for granted, and realized how great it was once I was sitting in the same classroom for 8 hours a day in PA school. That changed things. I would never have made it to the gym if it wasn’t for two of my classmates. We were close friends, and they didn’t really give me a choice. I wasn’t always the best sport, but they encouraged me to at least put forth some effort in making my health a priority. Now, as a family, we love to go on walks and get outside. My baby certainly keeps me moving and chasing her, so that helps too. My medical assistant is great at walking during lunch, even if it’s only for 10 or 15 minutes. Find your small pockets of time and try to dedicate at least some of that to moving your body. I know some of these fancy Fitbits and Apple watches will even tell you when you’ve been sitting for too long.
Make the best food decisions you can with the resources available. With fast food (that is delicious) on every street corner, I find myself jumping to the easy option most times. This is something I’ve really been working on this year. I’ve even found that some salads and wraps are just as good, if not better, than the burger or fried chicken I would have previously ordered. Does this mean I always “eat clean?” Definitely not! I love the good stuff too much. I am trying to live in moderation though instead of indulgence. Less sugar, watching portions, and trying to actually understand what’s in my food and what it does for my body. We get so busy with school and work and life, and our food choices tend to be the last thing on our minds. In Emily Freeman’s new book about decision making, The Next Right Thing, she states that we make over 200 decisions a day just in relation to food! Planning out meals, even just for the next day, can make a huge difference.
Schedule dedicated workout time. With some trial and error, I’ve figured out that if I want to get an actual work out in, it’s more likely to happen in the morning. I’m not a night owl. Definitely more of a grandma/early bird. If I put it off and wait until the end of the day, there are too many distractions. I’m too exhausted from seeing tons of patients at work and all I want to do when I get home is love on my baby. Not my body. From making this shift to morning workouts, it helps me start the day on a good note. I feel energized and productive and ready to take on the day. That encouragement keeps me going and helps me continue my streak. You may find that night time or even at lunch works better for you, but make a commitment. Write it in your planner or put it in your phone so you make sure to prioritize dedicated workout time.
Invest in tools that hold you accountable. Another thing I’ve found that I pretty much have to do is put some skin in the game, aka pay for things. I’ve tried the On Demand and YouTube workouts and read tons of blogs on staying healthy, but because I’m really good at convincing myself out of things, I usually give up. I recently bought a spin bike for my house and invested in nutritional coaching with a fellow PA. Guess what? It’s the first time I’ve actually stuck to something for longer than a week or two! Having the accountability of a coach checking in to see how I’m doing and encourage me, and my husband saying I better get my money’s worth out of that bike have both made me actually take steps in the right direction. I hope you have better self control and more determination than I do, but it’s okay if you need a little motivation. There are a lot of great facebook groups centered around accountability that you could join or find a friend who is trying to live a healthier lifestyle as well and partner on helping each other out. Taking these steps has also removed some of the frustration of trying to figure everything out myself.
Take time off mentally and physically. I’m a proponent of vacations and “treat yoself.” We carry so much responsibility and mental load in our daily lives, that you have to give yourself a break. I’ll take days off where I don’t touch social media or even a computer. While those things are great for connecting, it can also be discouraging to see an illusion of someone else’s life if you’re not where you want to be. I also tend to always have a vacation planned. While I would love to go on elaborate trips all the time, usually it’s just a weekend at the beach or visiting with family. Taking these opportunities to invest in your mental health is so important for preventing burnout. Working in medicine is tough and very taxing. We have a lot on our plates and it’s okay to take some time off.
If you have tips for how you stay #healthyinmedicine, please share in the comments or on social media! Let’s encourage each other to take time for ourselves this week.
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