By Emily Elliot
Student Representative, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine
You have heard it all before, everything in balance. In fact, as a student of naturopathic medicine you preach it to friends and family. Yin cannot steal too much from yang or it depletes. Light must draw from dark to expand. Soy can have positive estrogen modulating effects, only in certain amounts. Get your cardio, but don’t take too much impact on your knees. Although we teach balance as one of the primary pillars of Naturopathic Medicine, it sometimes feel like an extraordinary task. After writing over 113 exams at CCNM and finishing over 107 assignments, here are my tips for managing stress as a naturopathic student.
1. Create space
Take time at the start of every semester, every week and every day to lay out your priorities. Waking up each day with priorities in mind will make sure that they never slip through the ‘to do list’. By taking the time to indulge in those things that ignite you and those people that love you, you can better attack your school work – more focused, more inspired, more efficient. If everything seems to be just a little too much, sometimes we just need to change our perspective. Where is your place of perspective – the park, the climbing gym, on the open trails? Change your vantage point daily and watch how your perspective changes too.
2. Call a friend
In days past, we were more connected. Ironically, as we have become more ‘plugged in’ in a vast sense, we’ve lost touch with our small, local communities. Not only can studying in a small group speed along studying, it offers us a sense of belonging. (Believe it or not, someone else was courageous enough to sign up for 18 exams a semester too.)
3. Let loose in your studying
Did you know that lots of musical bands have a creative process that they use to write and memorize music? They will throw jars of magenta, turquoise and yellow onto a white wall in order to ‘see their music’. Studying is also an art. Let your logistical side escape you and let loose in your studying. Take turns acting out homeopathic traits (you won’t believe how well this works!) Record yourself speaking in Chinese and play it back to yourself. Turn your physical medicine assessments into a dance, (who knew that ‘speeds test’ is the second move in the macarena?) Studying isn’t a sentence, it’s a word.
4. Reinvent the wheel
They say not to reinvent the wheel, but why not? A demanding program shouldn’t squash us but rather, it should call on our creativity. Were you in the routine of trekking 45 minutes to the gym and 45 minutes back? Did Professor. Surprise just announce that next week’s final is actually cumulative? Try youtubing ‘shoulder workouts’ or ‘squats in 5 minutes’. You will be amazed at how sore you can feel after a youtube workout. Don’t mistake quantity of workout for quality. Not motivated to do workouts at home? Post a challenge above your desk and encourage yourself to study for 45 minutes and then move for 15 minutes every hour for four hours. Reward yourself for your discipline. (One more episode of Game of Thrones?)
5. Power up
Isn’t it ironic that just as we need the most energy and nourishment we decide that we don’t have time to plan it, make it or eat it? Try cooking in batches and freezing nutrient-dense soups and stews. Ensure adequate protein by adding a scoop of Cyto-Matrix’s Provitalex Pure Whey into your morning smoothies. As exams come around and we start to give into Tim Horton’s herb and garlic bagels, our protein intake can be the first thing to go. A daily dose of Provitalex will ensure at least 22g of protein daily. Last but not least, pack small snacks to stabilize blood sugar. Almonds, carrots, hummus and apples are some easy go-tos.
6. Don’t sacrifice sleep
At the time it makes so much sense, if you don’t go to bed you have 8 more hours to get through 2 more lectures. You should definitely not go to sleep! Then the night progresses, ‘avena sativa’ sounds like a spell from Harry Potter, you have checked your Instagram 22 times and you know you’ve read the same slide over and over, but it is just not sinking in. Tried, tested and true, it is almost guaranteed that you will learn faster and smarter by sleeping, for at least a while. Give those brain waves a chance on exam day and catch some ZZZs. While zero sleep during exams is not the way to go, a little less sleep is inevitable. Try Cyto-Matrix’s Rhodiola for periods of stress and increased exertion. Not only will it improve concentration and focus but it will improve your overall energy and exam stamina
7. Get in the zone
Naturopathic medicine attracts a lot of type A personalities. Naturally, a type A personality desires to know everything there is to know about every single topic. Not only will this detriment how much you really know, it can also lead to burn out and a loss of passion in the field. Early in the game, take time to map out what you love the most. What is that topic you actively seek out and read up on? Is it hormones? Physical medicine? Adjunctive cancer care? Attracting patients into your future practice will depend on your passion and knowledge, your ability to become a sought after expert. Why not start early? Pay particular attention to what special topic feels like the easiest to learn and start honing your knowledge and skills.
8. Above all, faith
You have confirmed with all of your friends, parents friends, people at the dog park etc. that you are in fact, not going to school to become a homeopath. You have spent time in the shower perfecting your explanation of what it means to be a Naturopathic Doctor. You have silently celebrated when your grandma says, “I can’t believe it, you were right about the gout in my right toe.” Let’s face it, it is a lot of work to defend your profession. Although it is hard work, remind yourself that you have handpicked one of the greatest professions on the planet. You will change people’s lives, shape the future of healthcare and feel the honor that comes with hearing someone say ‘I feel well’. Faith is what called you here and faith is what will carry you forward into a future of fulfillment and abundance. Keep chugging along, the greatest days in your career have yet to come.