The topic of self-care has become one of my favorite things to talk about since experiencing my own issues with burn out throughout the pandemic. For those of you new here, I was in the second half of my PGY1 residency when COVID-19 first began. It can be a very difficult time to explain to someone who may not have been on the frontlines, but what I can say here is self-care is how I get through challenging situations like the pandemic.
I will say, I am extremely proud and honored to have been in a position to serve the public and that I had the opportunity to help in the degree that I did. However, because I wanted to help as much as I possibly could, I got into this go go go mentality that really took a toll on me. The pandemic has made me experience true burn out and in return has taught me the importance of incorporating self-care into my daily life, so that I do not reach the extreme burn out point in the first place. Below you will find my favorite self-care activities and relaxation tips that help keep me feeling balanced in my busy life. I hope these tips and examples can help you fight burn out and have better work-life balance as well!
You can read more about my experiences during the pandemic in my ASHP feature and throughout my posts on Instagram (my handle is @theluxepharmacist).
This post is sponsored by Pharmavite, the makers of Nature Made Vitamins and other wellness brands. Through their Caring by Nature Campaign, Pharmavite is giving back to Pharmacists for all of our work throughout the pandemic with 3 free virtual online meditation classes in the month of August and a chance to win free wellness-themed care packages! For more information head over to Pharmavite.com!
I know how easy it is to feel like you do not have time to work out or go to the gym when you are super busy and stressed out, but if I’ve learned anything throughout the years in pharmacy, it is how much moving my body and prioritizing exercise does for my mental health and over all well-being! No matter how much is going on, taking 30 minutes to an hour to move your body is so worth it. I always feel like I have more energy and a clearer mind after working out and of course, I can’t help but feel accomplished and proud for taking care of myself.
As a pharmacy student, even while on APPE rotations, my boyfriend and I found it manageable to make it to the gym five days a week. To keep it simple and help with work-life balance, we normally just did every weeknight after work and kept our weekends open. However, when we both entered residency, we found that we just simply did not have enough free time to dedicate to five different gym sessions. Since the start of residency, we have focused on making it to the gym three nights week. Some weeks we are really consistent, and other weeks our sessions are all over the place, but hey that is life as healthcare professionals and it’s okay!
A huge thing that helped us make it to the gym in residency and still helps us to this day, is staying organized and on top of what we need to get done.
Don’t get bogged down about this tip if the traditional gym setting or “working out” isn’t your thing! Anything that moves your body can be a great reset for your mind and well-being. You could do some yoga at home, go on a long walk, play with your dog outside, or whatever gets you moving that makes YOU happy. At the end of the day, we are all busy and it really comes down to making self-care a priority on our list and physical activity will always be on that list for me!
Cooking at Home
I personally used to struggle a lot with my eating habits early on in pharmacy school. I used to buy super easy meals like Mac and Cheese or microwave pot pie or get takeout because I felt like I just didn’t have the time cook or plan meals. I remember feeling sluggish, bloating, and fatigued but just remained in that “I’m too busy mindset” trap. If you are stuck in this mindset, I promise that you do have the time and you will feel so much better when you start giving your body real nutrients!
Thankfully, towards the end of our P3 (third year of pharmacy school) year and into APPE rotations, Conner and I started cooking at home and making meals together a priority and it was such a nice change. Most nights we would cook at home, but we did certainly go out and enjoy ourselves as well. I think the pandemic and having a lot of places closed pushed us towards cooking at home even more and we have been on that streak ever since! This doesn’t mean we are dieting drastically or restricting ourselves by any means, but we are choosing to cook meals we think are balanced and for lack of a better term “healthy.” We have found that it is overall healthier, cheaper and takes less time out of our busy schedules to have dinner at home together. We also both love cooking so I think it’s a nice relaxing activity that we can both enjoy and take a break from thinking about other tasks or things going on. Dinner time is like our little date night break every night and it is one of my favorite times of day!
If cooking meals at home seems like a huge time commitment or is overwhelming to you just start with simple easy meals. We honestly repeat so many meals just because they are quick yet delicious. Here are some quick meal ideas that we love:
- Tacos – we do steak, turkey, or fish to mix it up
- Pasta topped off with a protein – our favorite is chickpea pasta for extra protein topped with scallops and a store-bought sauce (our favorite is a pesto alfredo)
- Grilled protein with veggies or salad – we often do grilled chicken with asparagus and mushrooms on the side
- Burgers – I always opt for leaner burgers so we use 90/10 or leaner, you could also use turkey or chicken burgers if you prefer, top with a multi-grain bun and it’s not a bad way to treat yourself
Vitamins & Supplements
Speaking of food, another important thing to keep in mind when it comes to nutrition is making sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals for your body to stay functioning at its best! Even if you think you are eating “healthy” more than likely there are major gaps in your diet. Even though I take a food first approach to getting my nutrients, I always try to add a multivitamin and omega-3 fatty acid source like fish oil into my daily routine. It is such a simple additional to our daily self-care routine and can make a huge difference. I personally keep my vitamins/supplements next to my coffee machine because we all know I will NOT forget my coffee in the morning!
Reading is one of my favorite self-care activities because of the mental break it provides me.
I loved reading in high school, but between pharmacy school and then residency I really fell out of the habit, and I’ve made it a priority to get back into a good reading routine. No matter what is going on in life around me when I get my head sucked into a good book, I totally forget about it and honestly sometimes that is exactly what we need! I enjoy many different genres like mystery and romance, but lately I have really been focusing on books geared towards women, empowerment, and self-help.
I feel like this tip seems like a no brainer but if you are anything like me, then you know how easy it is to continuously get too little sleep each night until you find yourself at your breaking point. Since I am multi-specialty, I typically work many different shifts (both earlier and later than I would like) and I often have an issue adjusting my sleep schedule around my work schedule.
What I have found to be the most helpful with my sleep schedule is adjusting ahead of time. For example, if I know I have to be up at 04:00 instead of 05:00, I need to be proactive about getting to be early, instead of saying, “Oh darn look it’s super late!” and paying for it hard the next day. On the flip side, if I am working an evening shift and get home at midnight, I have to find a way to sleep in past when I normally would, and with a puppy, oh boy is that hard. My secret weapons when it comes to sleep are a glass of warm relaxing tea, melatonin, and a dark eye mask. It also helps if your partner and animals aren’t loud, but I have no useful tips on this because I’m on the same struggle bus!
Outside in Nature
I grew up in New Hampshire, so the outdoors is no stranger to me, and often feels like home no matter where I am. Growing up I played many sports, started hiking at the age of 4 and fell in love with the beach, the woods and all that Mother Nature has to offer. Whenever I’m in a bad place or stressed out, a trip to the beach, a hike or just taking in a beautiful landscape makes such a huge difference. I swear fresh air and the sounds of nature are truly good for your soul!
If you have followed me for a bit you probably already know this, but I have two hands down favorite ways to get outside. The first is going up north (Vermont or New Hampshire) during the fall for all the beautiful color changes or during the winter for skiing. Conner actually taught me to ski during pharmacy school and I absolutely love it! We take at least one trip up north during the fall to see the leaves change, go sight-seeing and eat some of our favorite foods. I don’t personally consider myself a “leaf peeper” since I grew up with the gorgeous color change every year in New Hampshire, but so many people travel from all over to get a peek at it. If you haven’t done it, it should be on your bucket list!
My other favorite way to get outside is being by or on the water. Truthfully, any body of water like a lake, river, or ocean (although ocean is my number one if I had to choose) will do the trick. There is just something about the being by water that relaxes me to my core and puts my mind at ease. I always call the ocean my happy place and take trips to the sea whenever I can. It also doesn’t hurt that I LOVE seafood and where there’s a beautiful beach, there’s bound to be some delicious seafood. Our favorite ocean towns to visit in Connecticut (where we currently live) are Old Saybrook and Mystic, although any town along that coast is a New England dream.
Friends & Family
There is nothing I love more or find better for my soul than getting to spend a day with my family or girlfriends. My dad and I are really close and while we went a long time not seeing each other due to the pandemic, we spent a lot of time on FaceTime or traditional phone calls. In many cases whenever I have a bad day or need advice, he is the first person I call for a pick me up.
On this same topic, I often get asked how I find the time to put so much work into blogging with how busy I am, and the answer is easy, it can be so much FUN! Yes, I love planning content, graphics, connecting with you all and so on but I swear my heart is so happy when I am frolicking with one of my girlfriends taking photos and exploring. It’s like getting to hang out with one of your BFFs while checking tasks off your list. The next time you make a to-do list I challenge you to ask yourself, “Can I get this done while reconnecting with a loved one?” It could be as simple as chatting on the phone while you’re doing laundry or dishes! Make an effort to re-shift your mind away from stresses and tasks and towards something that makes you connected and happy.
Self-care is a personal journey…
I want to end this post by reminding you that self-care is a life-long journey. Some days we will be better at taking care of ourselves, juggling all the things going on, remaining positive in bad situations, etc., and other days we may fail at these. I know for myself self-care and work-life balance has been something I have gotten better at each year. I learn what works for me and what doesn’t, what the amount of work or additional blogging I can handle and what is too much and so on. I encourage each of you to focus on making self-care and mental health a priority and reflect on the times where you felt like you had great balance and the times that you didn’t so that you can improve going forward. What helps me feel relaxed and at peace may not be the same for you, but I hope this post gave you a better understanding of what my journey has been and gave you some ideas that you can implement for yourself.