by Erin Wilbanks, c/o 2020
Being a dental student can be taxing—both mentally and physically. We can feel so overwhelmed with school that we often forget to take care of the most important thing… ourselves! Maintaining a balance between school and health is key for high performance. The following tips will hopefully help keep you well physically and mentally during long days at school.
Make time in your schedule to work out, and more importantly, enjoy your workouts.
Variety is key for me in my workouts. An app called ClassPass is a great option for big cities, and now it is offered in New Orleans! With this app, you are able to try different studios and classes without the upfront contract commitment. There are different levels of membership depending on how often you plan on working out. Find a friend that already has a membership—they can give you a discount code to try for a month for close to nothing! If you hate running, there is no use in forcing yourself to go run every day. Find what you enjoy- whether that be boxing, barre, Pilates, yoga. Most importantly, listen to your body. You can actually see better results working out with less intensity and fewer times per week if that is what your body needs. I try to do high intensity workouts 2x/week and the other low impact movements, like yoga or stretching 2x/week as well.
Set a workout schedule at the beginning of the week to hold yourself accountable and avoid decision-making fatigue.
Know that you are boxing on Monday, doing yoga on Tuesday, Pilates on Thursday, you are less likely to skip a workout when you have a schedule. In addition, making fewer decisions throughout the day leads to a lower risk of having brain fog. Decision making fatigue is a real thing! Use the break from schoolwork and give yourself something healthy to look forward to.
Meal prep on a certain day of the week, every week.
Bring a grocery list when you go to the grocery store (simple, but it works). This allows you to only shop for the things you need, which leads to saving money and wasting time wandering the aisles of the grocery store. Meal prepping on Sundays works for many people. You will start the week fresh and prepared.
The quality of food that you eat matters.
If you want to experience high performance, you need to nourish your body with the right foods. Choose organic when possible. Pesticides like glyphosate lead to inflammation and endocrine dysfunction. Incorporate high quality fats, proteins, and carbs into your meals. Here are some examples:
Healthy fats: avocados, grass fed ghee, olive oil, raw nuts, MCT oil, coconut
Healthy vegetables: asparagus, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cucumber
Healthy proteins: pasteurized eggs, grass fed beef, low mercury salmon, chickpeas
Healthy fruits: blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, grapefruit, pomegranate
Healthy carbohydrates: sweet potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, white rice, cassava
Find a reputable food and wellness blogger to follow on social media.
Their daily posts can spark new ideas and motivate you. Follow people that bring you up and make you feel happy, rather than make you feel like you are constantly comparing yourself. Learn new hacks and tricks from them to make your life more efficient. My favorite health bloggers on Instagram are @shutthekaleup, @leefromamerica, and @rachaelsgoodeats.
Try something new every month, whether you love it or hate it, new experiences are exciting!
Keep an open mind and step out of your comfort zone! This is where growth occurs. Try a new workout class with a friend. Try a food that you have never tried before. Go on that first date. Experience all things “woo-woo” and mystical. Put your judgments and fears to the side and LIVE!
On long drives, listen to podcasts instead of music; multitasking at its finest.
Find a podcast on a topic that you are interested in. There are so many categories… Health and Wellness, Business, Comedy, Politics, Technology, even dental… the possibilities are endless! I learn some of the most beneficial tips from podcasts. My personal favorites are Bulletproof Radio, The goop Podcast, and The Balanced Blonde on iTunes.
Get sufficient sleep!
Your melatonin levels drop after being exposed to just ten minutes of bright light. For at least thirty minutes before bed, avoid bright lights. The blue light from your phone is interrupting your sleep cycle - use apps like f.Lux on your laptop to reduce the emission of blue light. Sleep in a blacked out room. Even a tiny bit of light in your room can disrupt your sleep cycle. Wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day!
Other Health Hacks
1. Try intermittent fasting
2. Eat fresh, whole, real foods (no more processed junk)
3. Download f.Lux for computers during studying- decrease blue light at night
4. Eat fermented foods and drinks
5. Read ingredients on every item you use- from food to cosmetics
6. Decrease sugar intake to lower your inflammation
Most importantly: listen to your body and practice self-care!
Dental school puts your mind and body through some major hurdles. Not every diet and every health trend works for everyone. Pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods. Being in touch with your body leads to your overall well-being and happiness and ultimately high performance!