How to Find Your Work-Life Balance in PT School

Name: Tom Sears, Class of 2019
Undergrad: Wheeling Jesuit University
Hometown: Moundsvill, WV
Fun Fact: I once gave a ten minute impromptu (and decidedly silly) speech about apples for an undergraduate class.

The king of the world in the Appalachian Mountains.jpg

The ultimate question for me once I found the perfect PT school (Regis) was:

How do I balance the rigors of PT school with my family, friends, and all the responsibilities that accompany everyday life?

This is the question. So, what is the (your) answer?

Well, to begin… I am fortunate enough to be blessed with a beautiful wife, a dog and cat (the cat is temperamental and bites for no apparent reason), and a house (and the lovely mortgage and maintenance that goes along with it). Oh, and my wife and I are in the process of adopting a child! And, well, I have friends and hobbies and I even like to workout on a regular basis.

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My dog Rufus’ puppy graduation

So, how does one achieve this so-called balance? The most important piece of advice I can give you is to surround yourself with a good support system. Let your friends know that your life is changing (for the better) and you will need them to be patient with you. Ask them to check in with you on how studies are going, to celebrate with you when you do find the time (celebrate that anatomy lab practical being over!), to understand when you have to turn down their invite to try line dancing at the Grizzly Rose, and to be there when you need to decompress.

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Tom plays music with his brother to de-stress

My wife has been SO supportive of my endeavor, and for me this was imperative. Be sure your spouse or significant other is forewarned of the change that’s about to take place. If you don’t have an “other,” let your family and closest friends know. They likely cannot fully appreciate what the experience is like, but have this talk…Let them know you will need them by your side. You will be in school much of the day and studying more frequently than you ever have before. You won’t always be as available as you would like. Get them on board! And perhaps best of all, be prepared to meet some truly awesome new people. These are perhaps the only people in your life that will truly understand what this experience is like. You may be amazed to see how quickly you become close with your classmates. Lean on them!

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Service learning with my classmates

The other essential part of work-life balance: develop a routine—a routine that fits with your needs. This, of course, will be difficult to determine at first. But alas my young apprentice, it will come. This may mean planning your days out to allow for your studies or for time to relax/decompress. Think forward to your assignments that are due and allot enough time to finish them.

I have talked with 2nd and 3rd years (much wiser and more experienced than I) and for a few of these folks their answer revolved around boundaries and separation. They would arrive to school at 7 AM and leave at 5 or 6 PM. During this time they would study with absolute focus. You know, the kind that doesn’t involve watching Youtube clips, posting tweets, or watching a ball game in the background (okay—guilty as charged!). And when they came home, they were with their family and friends. Truly with them. This was not my answer, but it could be yours.

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Professional Ceremony with my family

My answer was not so easily developed at first. I have a dog at home who had not been out for 8+ hours, and thus I feel the need after class to return home to let my beloved furry friend out for a long walk. I then return to my studies before joining my family for a nice conversation and an episode of Game of Thrones.

Whatever your familial and personal needs are, plan accordingly and give time to them.

The next key to work-life balance: build into your routine a time for rest. Whether you’re parking your gluteus maximus, medius (and other various muscles) in your most comfortable seat to watch the weekly Steelers game, checking out one of the local breweries with your peers, or enjoying the wondrous outdoor activities that Colorado has to offer, find the mental and physical space you need to completely unplug from schoolwork.  No matter how much time you spend on studying, you may never feel like you are as on top of the material as you would like to be. But trust me: this time will refresh your mind, reinvigorate your resolve, and ultimately help you to perform optimally in PT school.

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Fireworks night with the Colorado Rockies!

Oh ya—and there is this thing called exercise. Chances are you’re a fan (or will at least be soon). Some of my peers elect to put this on the back burner. I would strongly suggest keeping exercise in your routine. For me, blasting some 1975, John Legend, or Tool and going for a run is the perfect way to clear my mind and prepare me for a night of studying.

It is well worth an hour of your time to keep your routine, practice what you preach, and prepare your mind not just to cram, but retain the material at hand. This will bring you closer to your future success as a PT.

Your routine may take time to develop, but that’s okay. If you had all the answers to achieving optimal balance for success in your new PT career right now, you would be the first! Be steadfast in your resolve and be flexible. Prioritize your needs and you will find your answer!

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