Mental Wellness 2021
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Medical training can be very demanding. As a result of this, medical learner and physician burnout is very common. In fact, more than 25% of physicians and residents report experiencing feelings of burnout. All this to say that if you ever begin to feel this way, know that you are not alone.
If you suspect that you may be experiencing burnout, there are many resources available.
Firstly, The Canadian Medical Association’s Physician Wellness Hub has a section of their website dedicated to burnout: https://www.cma.ca/physician-wellness-hub/topics/burnout
On their website, there are several articles written about how to recognize and approach burnout, podcasts about physician wellness and entries written by physicians about their own personal experiences with burnout.
The American College of Physicians also has a similar website section that compiles various podcasts, toolkits and wellness apps that can help to fight burnout. https://www.acponline.org/practice-resources/physician-well-being-and-professional-fulfillment/individual-physician-wellness-and-burnout-tools
Lastly, it is most important to keep up to date with the resources that are in place at your school. These resources can likely help you navigate through the difficulties that you encounter over the course of your training in a personalized way! Many medical schools now recognize the importance of addressing burnout in their learners and have initiatives that can help reduce this. Thus, if you’re feeling the effects of burnout and don’t know where to start, your faculty’s resources are a great place to look for easily accessible support.
By: Raveena Kapoor
On days where you are quite busy and have multiple tasks and responsibilities to address, finding a short amount of time in the day to take a break can be quite beneficial. Also, after a long day, it can be relaxing to engage in a de-stressing activity. Taking breaks that involve making time for yourself can be helpful for recharging your energy, and also avoiding burnout. However, sometimes it can be hard to know what a break can look like. Breaks can mean different things for different people, but I wanted to share a few activities that I like to engage in as my break, that I find very relaxing and allow me to take my mind off of the busyness of life!
If you are interested in engaging your artistic side, painting is a great activity to do. You can get as creative as you want with painting; all that is required is a paintbrush, some paint, and a canvas! You can usually find these supplies at your local dollar store. If you aren’t too sure what to paint, something that I like to do is find an image online that I like, and try to recreate it. It can also be fun to recreate pictures that you have taken yourself! Feel free to experiment with different paint mediums and painting techniques. If you would like to develop a painting skillset, there are dozens of YouTube videos out there that are easy to follow along. If you would engage in this activity socially, hosting a paint night can be a great way to spend the day or night (even if the paint night needs to take place virtually at the moment!).
Reading is another great activity that can take your mind off of daily stressors. Reading fiction books can allow you to explore alternative realities and storylines. On the other hand, reading non-fiction books allows for the opportunity to learn about new topics that you are genuinely curious about, rather than things that you may have been required to read. I especially find this a great activity to engage in after long day; reading before bed can be very relaxing, and a strategy to avoid screen time right before sleeping (if you are using a physical copy). If you are looking to have convenient access to books on-the-go, investing in an e-reader like a Kindle can allow you to have access to multiple books, without taking up too much space or weight.
Going for a walk/hike
Finally, going for a walk or hike is something that I like to do when I want to take a break. I find it to be a great way to enjoy the weather, get some fresh air and observe the nature and scenery around me. Spending time outdoors overall can be very refreshing, as it can be easy to end up spending a lot of time indoors with school, work, and additional responsibilities. Finding a neighbourhood route is an accessible option, but if you would like to explore your surroundings, I would suggest searching for nearby trails in the forest or by a waterfront! Overall, these are some activities that I like to engage in when I want to take a break, but I encourage you to try out activities that feel relaxing to you.
Digital Burnout and Social Media
Quarantine has undoubtedly made us rely on virtual platforms and social media to stay connected with others. There are many advantages to social media as it has proven to be wonderful in keeping us updated on current issues, raising our awareness of important societal causes, and keeping us connected with closed ones when face-to-face time has been limited. However, social media can be a double-edged sword: comparing ourselves to other people’s lives and reading through the incessant stream of bad news can exacerbate our feelings of loneliness, anxiety, inadequacy and depression, not to mention how scrolling is often the first and last thing we do in our day, contributing to disrupting our sleep schedules.
There are countless ways to try to limit the time we spend on social media and prevent us from slipping into a digital burnout. The following are the ones I have found most useful and easy to apply:
- Schedule/limit the time you spend on social media
- Invest in a proper alarm clock to avoid relying on having your device close to your bedside.
- When trying to get some work done, leave your phone in another room and disable social media notifications on your laptop. Using the Pomodoro work method can also help you schedule and limit your breaks.
- Try tracking your screen time: certain apps and devices come with an integrated function of showing the amount of time you spend on each app.
- Reminding yourself of what you wanted to check in the first place and staying mindful of when that is done can help you decide when to log off and avoid from being sidetracked.
- Find a healthier substitute: regularly schedule time offline with friends and family, take time to exercise and pick up a new hobby are all different ways to prevent mindless scrolling.
- Changing your phone to grayscale or black and white mode can make our devices a lot less appealing and hopefully make us turn to the real world for inspiration and stimulation.
In difficult times like these, we are encouraged to stay connected and interact with others, but let us also take some time to foster a healthier relationship with social media and our mental health!
Online Mental health support
Since March, we have faced an unprecedented and precarious situation with the COVID-19 pandemic. The intersection of the pandemic, financial pressures, and isolation underscores the mental health risk for Canadian citizens. Other factors such as losing loved ones to COVID-19 has a compounding impact on the mental health of individuals. National Crisis Services have seen an 185% increase in the rates of calls received by Canadian citizens. Post-secondary students are particularly vulnerable to the mental health risks posed by the pandemic due to delays in graduation, cancelled placements, or increased financial barriers. In addition, online learning has been challenging, making some courses self-taught and adding the stressor of dealing with new, and at times, faulty technology. The impacts of the pandemic emphasize the need for self-care. Although having access to mental health professionals in a timely manner can prove challenging, virtual mental health supports in each province are present to support students in times of hardships. Crisis services (links provided below) for each province provide a 24/7 empathetic, confidential, and non-judgmental support for callers, as well as help students identify short- and long-term crisis management plans. These plans include collaborative safety planning with crisis responders or referral to tailored resources. It is important for students to take a proactive approach and not ignore or suppress the anxiety or other mental health concerns. Bringing awareness of this anxiety and finding ways to cope during tough times can be more constructive and beneficial for one’s mental well-being. Although coping looks different for each person, being mindful of coping strategies can prevent the onset or further exacerbation of mental health symptoms. Virtual mental health supports can extend beyond crisis services, as counsellors/therapists are providing reduced-cost or sliding scale fees for their clients. Overall, the pandemic is an unpaved path that we are navigating. Reaching out to support systems provided by provincial healthcare authorities is important as we try to pass through this pandemic.
Province-specific 24/7 crisis services
- BC https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/mental-health-substance-use/resources/crisis-line
- AB https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/findhealth/Service.aspx?id=6810&serviceAtFacilityID=1047134
- SK http://www.mobilecrisis.ca/cold-weather-alert
- ON https://ontario.cmha.ca/provincial-mental-health-supports/
- QC https://amiquebec.org/crisis/
- MB https://klinic.mb.ca/crisis-support/