5 Ways to Spend Your Time When You Are Not Studying…

Name: Courtney Backward

Undergrad: Oklahoma Wesleyan University

Hometown: Salina, OK

Fun Fact: I am the world’s most awkward high-five giver/receiver.

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One of my classmates once said “PT school is neither a marathon nor a sprint. It is both at the same time.” That statement resonated with me on a personal level. During my first year of PT school, I found myself drowning in homework and responsibilities. The temptation to ignore almost every other aspect of my life in order to survive school was strong. However, I found that this did not help my stress levels, and it only added to them in a negative way. Instead, I found that taking good care of my life outside of school is the foundation of taking good care of my school work as well. Sometimes taking care of yourself means…NOT STUDYING…yeah, that’s right! So, here are 5 ways to spend your time when you are not studying:

  1. Find a good hang out spot:
    • From coffee shops to book stores to the bar down the street. Find a spot you can unwind and relax. Some favorite local spots include Allegro Coffee Roasters, BookBar (if you are looking for a one-stop shop), Goldspot Brewery, and Local 46. All of these are 3-5 minutes from Regis and are just scratching the surface of the many hangout locations in the Denver area.

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  1. Exercise:
    • Whether you are a yogi, cross-fitter, avid runner, cyclist, power-lifter, or intramural sport phenom, you can find Regis DPT students covering the exercise spectrum. Joining a fitness club is a great way to connect with other people in the community. However, if you are into exercise options that are easy on the bank account, find a friend and exhaust the available free Youtube exercise videos or try out the many trail running paths nearby. If you love organized, competitive sports, Regis offers many different intramural sports. Our classes frequently compete together as a team and have won several championships (not to brag or anything…). Whatever you like to do for exercise, take advantage of opportunities and use it as a stress relieving activity.

 

 

(please enjoy the slo-mo video of Lauren’s epic trick shot)

  1. Get outside:
    • If you don’t take advantage of the outdoor activities in Colorado, you may be missing out on some serious soul medicine. From hiking to park days to outdoor festivals downtown, get out and enjoy the famous Colorado’s 300+ days of sunshine. Some enjoy tackling 14-ers over the weekends, others find beauty and excitement in the lower, half-day hikes. Some of my favorite lower hikes include: Mt. Galbraith Trail Lily Mountain Trailhead and Herman Gulch Trailhead. Our PT class loves to plan park days where we take advantage of the city parks to play volleyball, corn-hole, have a cookout, or just soak up the sun. These activities are very therapeutic and immensely enjoyable!

 

  1. Practice your creativity!
    • I often am so impressed by the creativity and talent that is displayed by many of my classmates. We have dancers, painters, poets, woodworkers, talented chefs, etc. Although my creativity is often derived from Pinterest, it is so much fun to put my creativity to work. Wine and paint nights can be a fun way to relax and unwind with friends. Some individuals enjoy improv dancing to help them to express themselves while others channel their inner “foodie” and put their chef skills to the work (I, personally, am very thankful I have friends with this talent). One thing to keep in mind when practicing creativity is to NOT get caught up in perfection. You are not being graded on this! I know this is a hard concept to understand in PT school. Just have fun with it and let your mind or body be free to run wild!
  1. Don’t think about school!!
    • School is very important. Responsibilities are very important. Becoming a capable physical therapist is very important. However, prioritizing your health and balancing your personal life is imperative. Remember that you are a multi-dimensional person and that is a beautiful thing. Take time to calm your mind. Take time to spend with your friends and family. Take time to treat yourself. We work hard at our school work, so don’t forget to work hard at other aspects of your life as well!

 

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Name: Amanda Rixey, Class of 2018
Undergrad: University of Kansas, KS
Hometown: Overland Park, KS
Fun Fact: My massive bear dog, Sherlock, has over 7,000 followers on Instagram.

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I think most of my classmates would view me as the hyper, kind-of goofy, and giggly one in the class.  It’s easy for me to hide under that personality— especially after having suffered from generalized anxiety and PTSD.  Both inside and outside of PT school, mental health is my passion.  In 2012, I lost my dad to suicide; ever since, awareness and treatment of mental health has been the biggest thing I’ve ever advocated for.  Mental health and physical therapy go hand-in-hand.  However, mental health issues can sort of creep up on you as a busy physical therapy student when you least expect it.

There are days when I never want to get out of bed.  There are days when I come home from school and all I do is lie in bed.  There are days when I don’t study because I’m too nervous about not knowing all of the material for school.  There are days when all I do is study because I’m nervous I don’t know enough.  Regardless of the day, I have to keep reminding myself I am not crazy.  Graduate school is stressful and it is normal to have these feelings of anxiety.  The biggest key, however, is to seek help and do something about it.


Here is my list of how I “keep calm and carry on” during PT school:

1. Get help when you need it

The longer you wait to seek medical guidance, the harder it will be.  I sought out a counselor and take medications for my anxiety and depression.  Regis is awesome and offers free counseling to students—take advantage of it!

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Sharing hugs and thoracic manipulations during MMII lab

2. Don’t be afraid to take medications if that’s what’s right for you

I take an SSRI every day. I find that there is some sort of stigma regarding medicating for depression and anxiety. Overcoming this stigma allowed me to experience life to the fullest for the first time. Talk to your primary care physician or counselor; they can help.

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Spending Thanksgiving with the Class of 2018 and our puppies

3. Find a network of support

 Be open with classmates, professors, family members, friends, or even your dog about what you’re going through.  Let them know when you feel anxious or down and talk to them about it.  I text my friends when I don’t feel like myself.  They are there to help.

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My sisters and friend at the University of Kansas Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk with AFSP where I served as Chairperson in May 2014

4. Take days off from schoolwork

I know that school can seem overwhelming, but it is acceptable to take one or two days off during the week for yourself.  Do what you love: workout, hike, do some Pilates, lay on the sofa and watch Bridesmaids for the 50th time, walk your dog!

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Enjoying a beautiful day off in Vail with my best buddy, Sherlock and my boyfriend, Joe (not pictured)

5. Get involved in the community  

Through Regis, I was able to get involved with Spoke n Motion, an integrated dance company.  Sharing my experience with dancers of diverse backgrounds helped me feel wanted in a very close community and enjoy dance from a beautiful perspective.

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Dancing with my fellow Spokes during our May 2016 show at the Colorado Ballet. PC: Spoke N Motion

6. Believe in yourself

When I doubt my abilities in school, I notice that I often find myself in a rut.  Accept what you know and what you don’t know.  Cherish the moments your classmates compliment you and when you succeed.  These little moments add up and you will realize that you are a capable student in this profession.

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Enjoying a Friday night with classmates

7. Remember that mental health doesn’t have to take over your life

Taking the proper steps and finding the right help will put you on the pathway to overcoming it. Please feel free to email me with any questions at arixey@regis.edu.


If you or someone you know needs help contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK

Regis Counseling Services: 303-458-3507

 

How to Avoid Burnout in PT School

 

Name: Brad Fenter, Class of 2019
Undergrad: University of Texas at Tyler, TX
Hometown: Vernon, TX
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Burnout is an interesting thing, mainly because it only happens with things that we love. No one gets burned out on things we hate or even things we just feel a little “meh” about. The concept that we no longer want to be around or indulge in something we love is very unsettling . No one has ever gotten burned out on onions; no one loves onions. We tolerate them and can even enjoy them, but love them? No. And if you’re thinking to yourself, “I love onions!” Then you’re most likely an alien trying—unsuccessfully—to assimilate with human society.

No, burnout is only possible with something we love. For me, I love Clif Bars—specifically the white chocolate macadamia flavor. If you think another flavor is better, that’s completely fine. Just know I’ll be judging you until the end of time. Unfortunately for me and my love of Clif Bars, I went on a backpacking trip a few years ago with an entire case in tow. Every day I crammed those delicious little bars in my face until, one day, I just couldn’t eat them anymore. I wanted to eat them, but I just could not do it. I was burned out.

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My sadness is palpable.

After the trip, I had just one bar left and it has stayed in my pack as a sad, dilapidated reminder of what once was. I want you to learn from my mistakes and avoid burnout. Since this is a PT blog, here are 3 ways to ensure your time in PT school does not become a macadamia Clif Bar.

1. Pace Yourself

This is most important for when you’re first starting out in PT school. That first semester you tell yourself you’re going to read all the textbooks, watch all the online videos, and take excellent notes. If you do everything at top gear, you’ll be out of gas by October. Then what will you do? There are approximately…all of the semesters left at this point. Instead, take the time to learn good study habits and you won’t have to worry when you feel a little fatigued halfway through a semester.

When we discuss long commitments, the analogy of a marathon is always used: “Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint!” When I ran my marathon, though, it took only part of 1 day and I was finished by noon. To contrast, PT school is 8 semesters—which is around 3 years—which equates to…A lot of days. A better saying would be, “Remember it’s a 3-year commitment.” It may seem long right now, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a long time. If you start with the right pacing in mind, then you will be better off. Do not be the brightest star for the first month only to flame out spectacularly for the next 32 months.

Had I paced myself a little better, Clif Bars and I would still be going steady and I would have my first love second love. My wife, of course, is my first love (as the bruise on my ribs proves after writing that previous sentence).

2. Get Involved (but not too much)

This point may seem to run counter to my previous one, but it will all make sense in the end (just like neuroscience except for the sense-making part). There are many opportunities to get involved with things outside of the main curriculum. You can run for a position as class officer, you can be a part of the puppy program, you can join a student interest group. You can go to conferences (quite handy since some of them are required, anyways) and get to know practicing PTs. All of these things are important. Getting involved in more than just schoolwork can remind you of why you started PT school in the first place.

The way I stay involved with my classmates is through Ultimate Frisbee. If there’s a pickup game going on after class, I’m there. I get to interact and stay engaged with my classmates outside of the lab or lecture hall; it’s great. I enjoy the exercise, competition, and group aspect of the whole thing. But all of those other things I listed before? I do exactly NONE of those things because I’m antisocial and don’t like new situations. Now, that may sound like the ramblings of an angry old man who wasn’t hugged enough as a child, but it is actually a larger part of my point. I have time to play a pick-up game of Ultimate Frisbee and enjoy a drink at the brewery afterwards. I don’t have time to attend the fellowship meeting after class, play frisbee, participate in the puppy program, volunteer to pass out flyers at commencement, and also do well on my finals.

You may be thinking, “I can do all of those things and still be successful!”

Is it possible to do? From a strictly physical standpoint, sure. If you want to end up like this:

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The point is not that all of these things are impossible. But, you will be drained by the end of each semester—just in time for finals.

3. Keep Perspective

This is, I believe, the most important point. I put it last to weed out the unworthy people who get scared of words milling about in groupings of greater than 140 characters. Now that they are gone, we can discuss the most important tool we possess to avoid burnout.

Perspective goes both directions in time. It’s important to remember the future we are working towards as practicing clinicians, but it is also important to see where we came from. If I were not in PT school I would still be plugging away at my old job with little satisfaction and a feeling that there is something more I could be doing. Anytime I feel a little down on myself, I think about how stressed I was beforehand; this serves as great motivation for the present. If you’re one of those young folks and have not had a previous career, then your perspective should be forward. Most people in life will never have the opportunity to work in such a fulfilling field as physical therapy or even get into PT school! When we zoom out from our studies, case assignments, skill checks, and lab practicals, we can see just how great we really have things.

You may be thinking, “I know this is important! But how do I actually accomplish this?” My most important tool for keeping perspective is to prioritize time for myself. Whenever a day is available, I will try to get outside and hike. Or bike. Or camp. Really, anything outside will do. Even when it’s just a weekend and there are exams on Monday, I will take a long bike ride to a coffee shop to study. That way I get to study with the addition of sunshine and exercise thrown in. If you hate all of these things for some unfathomable reason, there’s still hope for you. Maybe you like going to the movies or reading books. That’s great. Make time to do those things because if you do, you will be more successful.

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Making time for myself on a hike to Handies Park

 

For me, outdoor activities allow me to see the wider world and keep perspective on how insignificant many of the major stressors in my life really are. Regis’ DPT program is very good at pushing you to the edge and then pulling back just in time. But what happens when you feel like you’re going over the edge? What happens when you feel you’re on the road to burnout? Do you have the tools to pull back from the bleary-eyed, emotionally drained abyss? If you can pace yourself and get involved (but not too much) and keep perspective, you will be better equipped to avoid burnout. Remember, life doesn’t get easier once we are done with school, but this experience will prepare us to handle the difficulties that come our way.

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Here’s me, fellow student David Cummins, and more friends after tackling another one of life’s difficulties