Dr. Melissa Mondala is a Southern California native and a double board-certified Family Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine physician. One of the pillars of lifestyle medicine is emotional wellbeing and she is sharing 7 tips on how to take care of yours while practicing or earning a degree in medicine.
Mental Health is dear to my heart because as a primary care physician, “45% of suicide victims had contact with primary care providers within 1 month of suicide.” (1) We are gatekeepers and the first provider a patient sees to get help. Most mood disorders are disguised in a long list of medical issues and concerns. They often have to be unraveled through conversation and nonsocial cues but also directly addressed by screening questions.
I remember several times of my training from undergraduate years, post-baccularette, medical school, and residency – feelings of doom and overwhelming sense of panic. These typically happened after I nearly failed exams or missed an important deadline. It’s easy to feel like this when we feel we missed the “mark, the “grade, or the “expectation.”
First things, first! It’s not the end of the world! Life is bigger than tests and grades. That “one professor” or “counselor” does not dictate your destiny.
However, these depressive and anxious thoughts cannot be ignored. You may feel the sense of hiding from everyone or lack motivation to do anything or not wanting to see anyone. You may have less drive to go to class or show up to the hospital. Amongst healthcare workers and those training to be, we need to learn to adapt healthy coping skills to manage stress, anxiety, and depression.
Here are my Personal Tips
Prioritize finding small moments in your day to fill your mind with affirmations that add up to meaningful minutes. This helps you pause and reflect. Tell yourself positive words such as “I am going to get through this and I will do amazing.”
Daily find ways to be grateful for simple things around you. Typically this list keeps going and before you know it, your negative thoughts disappear.
Reaching out to your family and friends is not a chore. You need them as much as they want to hear from you. Make time for them often because it will be natural for you to reach out for help, when you really need it.
A healthy mood and brain is an overflow from a healthy lifestyle. This means load up on fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds and minimize excess salt, sugary, oily foods.
Get outdoors and move. Walking, jogging, biking and sunshine is equivalent to taking an anti-depressant.(2)
Practice deep breathing exercise to allow your mind to relax and get rid of the tension of your body.
Ask for help early. Talk to a professional school counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. They are your allies and there is no guilt in this.
- Luoma JB1, Martin CE, Pearson JL. Contact with mental health and primary care providers before suicide: a review of the evidence. Am J Psychiatry. 2002 Jun;159(6):909-16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12042175
- Blumenthal JA, Smith PJ, Hoffman BM. Is Exercise a Viable Treatment for Depression? ACSMs Health Fit J. 2012;16(4):14-21. doi:1249/01.FIT.0000416000.09526.ebhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3674785/