The Importance of Health & Wellbeing for the Health Professional

Sophia Pothen
Published on May 13, 2020. Updated on Sep 24, 2020.

Studying for and eventually pursuing a career in the health professions is incredibly satisfying work, but it can take a lot out of you. That's why it's so important to develop a series of best practices around leading a balanced life. In today's blog, medical student and Osmosis Medical Education Fellow Sophia Pothen shares her advice for improving your health and wellbeing in all aspects of your life. 

As medical students, we’re in the profession to promote the health and well-being of others. However, the irony is, we end up not practicing the things we intellectually know and learn in our own lives. We say we’re all about health and we tell our patients to move more, eat healthy, spend time with family and friends, promoting a focus on the whole person and holistic health—yet, we spend our days buried in books, hardly getting up or moving much, reaching for junk food or grabbing some food and eating outside meals, barely spending any time to process life or hit pause and reconnect with ourselves, and really neglecting this thing called self-care. Sometimes we have those days with a total of only 2,000 or so steps—especially during these COVID-19 times.

At the end of it, we end up being exhausted and worn out or “burned out” because we’re not able to be at peace with our own selves. This has definitely been my experience. I’ve learned a few things as I’m working towards becoming healthier and more intentional towards my own well-being. When I’ve made it a priority to practice self-care, to exercise regardless, and to study, I’ve done better in school.

Tips for getting started

1. There is enough time 

Really! There is time to plan out meals, workout, to take time for self-care on a daily and weekly basis, and to study and do well! There was a time when I was freaked out that I didn’t have enough time and ended up wasting so much time freaking out. When I started making it a "must" to have good health, I started noticing much better performance in school. Somehow you’ll figure it out for yourself and make the time for what you should start considering your "non-negotiables."

2. It is possible 

Some of the top people in my school are leaders in our school organizations too and I would see them in the gym at all different hours before COVID-19 hit. These go-getters also made it to lecture daily and figured out how to do well. Some of them even have families and children! They really inspired me and challenged me to figure this out for myself rather than thinking it’s hard or impossible. I can’t help but think: Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

3. You can do this 

Sure, there will be times where things may be hard or daunting and it’s very easy to give up. Remember those who have come before us and those who will come after us. It is possible and doable. Always remember to never let failure take root in your heart or success to get to your head. Keep going and try to learn from the mistakes. I’m learning to let go of this perfectionist mindset that gets paralyzing when things are not perfect. I am learning to be okay even if things might be messy at first.

Part of being a life-long learner is being a risk-taker and be willing to learn from mistakes. You’ll figure out the balance eventually. Remember to be patient with yourself. Life is a process and a journey and we’re all at different stages. The destination and end-goal is awesome, but so is the journey. Cherish it!

Osmosis illustration of a medical student finding balance.

Tips for Eating Healthy

1. Plan out meals & shop accordingly 

I know it takes some time to sit and think about what to make and shop, but it saves a ton of time, money and can ensure you’re eating healthy. It’s not always about trying new recipes either, I have my staple favorites that I keep in rotation and know really well, making adjustments when I get bored. My fellow OMEF Shane Farrell came up with this great meal, plan, too!

2. Use an Instant Pot or slow cooker 

You can really just throw in whatever you have (veggies or meat) and some broth or water and quickly have a meal ready. If you put stuff in the crockpot before you leave for school, you can come to a home that smells so heavenly and eat some delicious nutritious dinner. In the case of instant pot, you can have a meal ready in about a half hour. It’s been such a life-saver for me. Not an ad, I just really love being able to make so many things so quickly.

3. Get ideas or recipes from the many resources out there 

I’ve attached some recipe databases I enjoy with tons of healthy recipes whether it’s for breakfast, dinner, or a snack. Again, I’m not affiliated with any of them, just personal experience finding and making some really good and healthy recipes including resources like Real Simple, Well Plated, and Down Shiftology.

Osmosis illustration of a medical student meal planning.

Tips for Handling Stress

1. Remember to schedule in "me-time"

You can write or talk with family or friends, go out for a walk, practice yoga or meditation. Anything to just process life, anything to hit pause on life and to just be present and content. Take time to explore the world when you can and spend time with your support system.

2. Take a breath

Many times we are running after so many things and we don’t take the time to just be and that can be very self-alienating, or challenging to be in touch with ourselves. Living a life that’s “busy” but unfulfilling is not good for us in the long run. Take time to pause and just be.

3. Embrace your emotions

Also, part of experiencing joie de vivre, or joy of living is to accept that it does not mean we will always be happy and smiling. Life is full of so many emotions – smiles, tears, anger – it’s all part of life and each emotion teaches us something. So, cry when you need to, but also make sure you take time to laugh and giggle, to feel inspired and touched, to really take on the full spectrum of being human.

Stress relief methods are definitely personal to each of us, but taking the time to do them is important. Success really is not one-dimensional – it’s not just our performance. It is an end-result of being a successful human which may mean different things for different people. But ultimately, it’s about trying to find some balance physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Osmosis illustration of a doctor embracing the full spectrum of emotions.

About Sophia

Sophia Pothen is a second-year student at Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She’s originally from warm and sunny Florida, but in Virginia at the moment. She’s looking forward to third year to better inform her specialty decision, but considering something in primary care. In her free time, she loves to hike, cook or stop by the humane society and spend some time with the kittens (she’s a secret animal lover).


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