Enjoying the Journey: How One Simple Choice Reduced My Anxiety and Brightened My Horizons

As I emerged from the campus building, a gentle breeze whisked the smell of anatomy lab from my formaldehyde-laden scrubs to my nostrils. Roughly twelve hours had passed since I had last been outside and I was drained.

I could feel the exhaustion throughout my whole being. My eyelids were heavy. My body felt weak. My brain had consumed enough information for one day. Honestly, I felt like it had consumed enough information for a year. But I didn’t have time to focus on that! I couldn’t! I had more to accomplish!

I needed to rush home, check my mail, take a speedy shower, cook a quick meal, send a couple of rapid texts to my loved ones (to reassure them that I was, indeed, still alive), prepare my lunch for the next day… the to-do list felt endless!

And what was waiting for me when I finally checked off every item? When I finished all of this juggling and rushing around?

Studying.

Four exams and numerous quizzes were staring at me from the following week. I had to prepare.

Medical school has a way of keeping you continuously busy while making you feel exponentially behind. They call it “drinking from a firehose.” I won’t be thirsty anytime soon.

Medical school has a way of keeping you continuously busy while making you constantly feel exponentially behind. They call it “drinking from a firehose.” I won’t be thirsty anytime soon.

Completing all things while in medical school, to be put quite frank, is impossible. However, as a medical student, I attempt to. I am advised to sustain a healthy lifestyle, continue nourishing my relationships, participate in extracurricular activities, maintain good grades, be happy and, if all else fails, always reach out for help. Pacific Northwest University, the medical school I attend, offers many resources to help me be successful in these tasks. I’m achieving all I can. I mean, I practically eat, sleep, and live medical school. There isn’t any more I could do, right?

Like a thief in the night, depression slowly creeps up on you.

One day, everything is fine. The next, you can’t get out of bed.

The excitement you once felt for the activities you used to enjoy wanes. Your motivation fades. Nothing in life seems worthwhile. You try to force yourself to get up and be active, but all you want to do is lie in bed. The pressures you handled before seem unbearable.

This is not the life you wanted; the life you dreamed of. This isn’t what they told you would happen when you signed up to train for the most rewarding job in the world. But, here you are; this is how you feel.

And you’re not alone.

Roughly 21% of all medical students suffer from depression. Many components contribute to these statistics, but a main factor is not taking the time to personally care for our well-being on this beautiful journey.

Why aren’t we doing this?

Are our type-A personalities so driven that we can’t force ourselves to take a few minutes daily to do something that will benefit us later? Are we so consumed with our tasks that we forget that we matter, too? 

The mindful habits we create will not only assist us now, but will also be beneficial to our future patients’ health and success. You can’t pour from an empty cup. We have a tendency to forget that.

The first part of getting help is understanding the problem. Then, the necessary steps toward becoming fulfilled and productive student-doctors can be taken. The mindful habits we create will not only assist us now, but will also be beneficial to our future patients’ health and success. You can’t pour from an empty cup. We have a tendency to forget that. 

Mental Health America offers ten proven tools to help you feel stronger and more hopeful, which include physical activity, adequate sleep, peer connection and creating joy and satisfaction.

Life is ever-so-rewarding. We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to what happens to us. If you feel like life is getting you down, reach out! Find a classmate, a loved one, a counselor or someone you trust. Someone is always willing to listen.

Your life matters.

You matter.

Accepting that fact, however, often takes a conscious effort.

As I emerged from my twelve hour day in the campus building -- my clothes still clinging to the scent of formaldehyde -- I stepped off the curb and made the choice to not let anxiety creep into my mind. Instead, I decided to appreciate the moment given to me.

I gazed across the western sky as the sun set on the Yakima horizon. I admired the wisped clouds through the paint-brushed palette of the skyline and released my mind. As I slowly walked home, I focused on the brisk air reaching the depths of my lungs with each inhalation. I took my time as I prepared my meal and opted for a bubbly soak instead of a hurried shower. Instead of a short text, I called my loved ones and expressed my gratitude for their support. I studied, but didn’t complete all the schoolwork I had wanted to.

I knew that I would not be able to do this every day, but as I snuggled into bed and closed my eyes, my mind and body thanked me. I know my future-self and future patients did, too. 

As I emerged from my twelve hour day in the campus building -- my clothes still clinging to the scent of formaldehyde -- I stepped off the curb and made the choice to not let anxiety creep into my mind. Instead, I decided to appreciate the moment given to me.

I gazed across the western sky as the sun set on the Yakima horizon. I admired the wisped clouds through the paint-brushed palette of the skyline and released my mind. As I slowly walked home, I focused on the brisk air reaching the depths of my lungs with each inhalation. I took my time as I prepared my meal and opted for a bubbly soak instead of a hurried shower. Instead of a short text, I called my loved ones and expressed my gratitude for their support. I studied, but didn’t complete all the schoolwork I had wanted to. 

I knew that I would not be able to do this every day, but as I snuggled into bed and closed my eyes, my mind and body thanked me. I know my future-self and future patients did, too. 


PNWU Note: Any student struggling with depression or seeking counseling is encourage to schedule for a confidential on-campus counseling appointment with Taylor Klein, MS Mental Health Counselor, Paul Schneider, PhD Clinical Psychologist or Joy Staley, PhD Clinical Psychologist. Drs. Schneider and Staley, and Taylor Klein are available to meet with students up to two consecutive times to support them in their immediate need. If more assistance is needed they will refer students to a more long-term solution.