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10 Vital Mental Health Tips for Thriving in Pharmacy School

Let’s face it, pharmacy school takes up A LOT of your time.

If you’re not in class, you’re most likely studying or doing homework. That’s just the life of a pharmacy student, and the same applies to other health programs as well. The problem with this lifestyle is that it can lead to some serious burnout in students (and even in staff and faculty). One crucial thing I learned in my first semester of pharmacy school is to make sure you are maintaining your well-being.

Pharmacy school gets hectic and stressful at times, so it’s important to consistently practice self-care and give yourself breaks from the laptop screen (or books, if you’re old-fashioned). In this article, I’ll share 10 easy ways you can prioritize your mental health and keep yourself sane during the academic year.

1. Experience nature

One of the best things to do when you’re feeling stressed out is to go out and get some fresh air. Going on walks is a great way of experiencing nature and stepping away from the screens and books. You can take a walk to a nearby coffee shop or store, walk along a nature trail at a park, or take your pet on a stroll around the neighborhood. If you want to take it a step further, I would strongly recommend going music-free so you can listen to the sounds of nature and feel even more relaxed.

2. Pick up a new hobby

A great way to distract your mind from pharmacy work is by giving it something else to focus on – something fun. This is your chance to learn something fun that you’ve always wanted to learn. You can learn how to play an instrument, improve your cooking skills, start a fitness journey, start or join a reading club with friends, and get better at photography – the possibilities are endless. Keeping your brain active with something new that you enjoy is an excellent way of giving your mind a break from school while still being productive.

3. Keep your living space clean

Whether you live in your own dorm, in an apartment with roommates, or at home with your family, a clean living space can make a big difference in your mental health. Believe it or not, when you have a messy living space it can translate to your brain and fog up your thoughts as well.

Working in a clean environment overall improves your mood, which in turn leads to decreased stress levels and increased concentration. Not to mention, your sleep quality skyrockets in a clean environment, and the satisfaction you get after cleaning and seeing the results is a huge serotonin boost.

4. Step out of your usual environment

This mostly applies to students who live on campus and spend virtually all their time in the same busy environment. When you live somewhere and the bulk of your time there is spent doing school work, being in class, or studying, you begin to subconsciously associate that environment with the stress and fatigue you’re used to feeling. Mentally, this can be extremely exhausting, especially toward the end of the semester.

A great way to avoid feeling very overwhelmed and suffocated is by leaving this environment as regularly as you can. In my case, I spend most of my weekends during the semester spending time at my family’s house in a different city 30 minutes away. I still study while I’m there, but it’s a much more relaxing environment. By the time Monday comes back around, I feel refreshed and ready to take on the new week. If you can’t do something like this, you can try visiting a different city for a day to explore, study in a different environment, meet new people, and more.

5. Set hard stop times

In my first year of pharmacy school, I learned how helpful it is to set hard stop times. What this means is that every night you stop studying or doing school work at 10 pm, for example. Whatever gets done by then gets checked off from your to-do list, and anything that’s left is tomorrow’s responsibility. After the stop time you have determined, you can focus on practicing self-care and getting a good night’s sleep (more about self-care below).

Establishing stop times can be great for ensuring you get time for self-care each night and getting enough sleep to keep you energized the next day. This will further lead to improved mood, increased concentration, and increased productivity. Who wouldn’t want that?

6. Add self-care time to your routine

As promised, let’s talk about self-care. Oxford Dictionaries defines this as the practice of taking action to “preserve or improve one’s own health”. Our mental health is as important to maintain as our physical health, and we should put effort into staying healthy in both ways. By setting hard stop times as discussed in #5, we can guarantee ourselves enough time for self-care every night.

What you actually do for self-care is completely up to you. For some people, self-care can include journaling or meditation. For others, it can be reading a book or listening to a podcast. Whatever you decide, you can rest well knowing that you gave yourself time to wind down and do something relaxing to end the night.

7. Find a support system

Nothing can make you feel like you’re drowning in pharmacy school more than being alone. In pharmacy school, we are all working toward the same goal and don’t have to compete with each other. You’ll find that almost everybody in your class and in other classes is always willing to lend a helping hand. Put yourself out there and meet as many people as you can, and you’ll be sure to find a tight group of friends that will support you every step of the way.

8. Have a ‘mindfulness’ night with someone

Practicing mindfulness can have a variety of benefits for mental and physical health, such as reducing stress, improving focus and concentration, and promoting feelings of calm and relaxation. Having a designated time for mindfulness practice with a friend, such as a “mindfulness night,” can help establish a routine and make it easier to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life.

Sit with a friend and watch the stars at night, go to a park and experience nature, have a deep conversation where you talk about your biggest fears or any other vulnerable topic, or do anything else that allows you to be present in the moment and experience the simplicity of life while developing a deeper friendship. Aside from this, practicing mindfulness at night especially can help improve sleep quality, which is important for overall health and well-being.

9. Avoid studying in your bedroom

There are a few reasons why it might be better to avoid studying in your bedroom. One reason is that your brain may associate your bedroom with sleep, making it harder to focus and concentrate on your studies. Additionally, bedrooms tend to be more comfortable and cozy, which can make it easier to want to fall asleep. Another reason why you should avoid studying in your room is that your bedroom may have more distractions such as a phone, TV, and other devices, that can make it harder to focus on your studies.

Besides this, having a dedicated study space can help create a sense of mental separation between work and leisure time. This can help you create and maintain a study routine, which can improve your productivity and focus. It’s not to say you can’t study in your bedroom, but it’s better to have a dedicated study space, in a room with fewer distractions, where you can focus on your studies and avoid distractions. That will help you improve your productivity and focus, which will drastically help your mental health.

10. Save your money for vacations

Saving money during college to go on vacation can be a great way to take a break from the stresses and demands of school, and give yourself a chance to relax and recharge. Vacations can provide a change of scenery and new experiences, which can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

Additionally, traveling during college can be a valuable learning experience, as it can expose you to different cultures and ways of life, and can help you develop important life skills such as adaptability and problem-solving. It’s also important to consider that college is a time when you are expected to invest in your future, and a vacation after all that hard work can be a great way to reward yourself and make the most of your college experience.

Additionally, traveling during college can be a great opportunity to create lasting memories and strengthen relationships with friends and family. Saving for a vacation during college can be a good way to balance the demands of school with the need for relaxation and rejuvenation, and also helps with budgeting and financial planning, which is an important life skill to master.

Best of luck with your pharmacy journey! – TSP

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