Cosmetic Meditation: Finding Peace in the Pandemonium

Medical school has taken a toll on me. I’m willing to bet it has done the same for others. If you’re one of my classmates reading this right now, there’s a good chance you can relate wholeheartedly.

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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what I find relaxing. It seems like every week someone is telling me to take time for myself. “Relax,” they say. But honestly? I’m not the best at relaxing. I am really good at procrastinating, but relaxing makes be stressed out.

I like eating a piece of chocolate on stressful days, but too much of that could quickly become bad. I like to watch a show every once in a while to wind down and make sure I don’t fixate on the day and all that happened. Going for a run, hitting the gym, or taking a barre class sometimes helps to get all my energy out so I can focus better when I sit down to study.

But all of those things are ways that help me when I have a rough day or need to shift my focus for a bit.

What really helps me to relax on a consistent daily basis?

After thinking about it for a while, I couldn’t seem to come up with a solid answer, but I was committed to finding something that consistently brought my stress levels down and made me feel more relaxed. So, I decided to start tracing out my entire day, step by step.

I have a morning ritual of sorts. I wake up and read or study in bed for an hour or two, depending on how early I woke up and whether or not I have a test coming up. Then, 30 minutes before I have to leave, I start getting ready for the day. Simple enough. In fact, my morning routine has become so second nature that I had to think about what I actually do.

I wash my face and brush my teeth. Then I do my makeup. Yes, I wear makeup in medical school. I never thought that was odd until I was informed that it was.

Distracted again from my routine recap, I recalled a time when I was studying for an upcoming exam and someone started “randomly” talking to me. She began explaining how she always wore makeup, did her hair, and got her nails done… until she got to Yakima. She informed me that in her undergrad years, if she wore makeup she was often perceived as dumb. She went on to say how she did not want to be considered dumb anymore and, thus, had stopped wearing makeup all together.

I wasn’t sure how I became a part of this discussion. It seemed like it had nothing to do with me. Was this nothing more than a random conversation? Then she asked me if PNWU was like that? “Do you get judged for wearing makeup?” she asked.

Before she’d brought it up, I had never even considered the idea. To be honest, it began to feel like she was redirecting the unjust judgment she’d received at me. I haven’t forgotten her question.  

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Did she think I wasn’t smart enough to be here? Did I not reflect her preconceived vision of a medical student? She went on to explain how it took too long to get ready; that busy students did not have time for that. Maybe that was true for her. Maybe it’s true for others. But, that doesn’t mean it’s universally true.

My 30 minutes in the morning — where I do not have to study; where I get to be artistic — are the most relaxing moments of my day.

In those 30 minutes I don’t worry about anything except making sure I don’t forget to do everything bilaterally. Oddly enough, those 30 minutes serve as my meditation.

I get to think about what my goals are for the day and set my expectations. These 30 minutes to myself are all I get before I have to go to lecture and study.

30 minutes of peace and quiet.

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That’s all I want, and it is what I need to be a successful, pleasant medical student. 

Rebecca Bolla

Osteopathic Medical Student - 2nd Year (OMS II)

Student Government Association Executive Treasurer, Vice President of Prevention and Lifestyle, YVIPEC PNWU Student Committee Representative, SAAO National Liaison, Family Medicine Secretary

Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences

Rebecca Bolla