Connection Through Disconnection

Written by: Madeline Carney

Madeline is MU ASDA's Health and Wellness Co-Chair. Continue reading below to see how you can stay mindful during busy times!

How are you feeling in this moment? Do you feel stressed? Is your brain yearning for a break from constant stimulation? Tired of the go-go go lifestyle we all have? So am I.  Let’s take a deep breath together.

With what little free time we have in dental school, I did not think it was possible to lead a mindful life until I decided to take a new approach.  To me, mindfulness refers to being in tune with your surroundings, body, breath, and emotions.  For the past two years, I have been searching to find joy, peace, and happiness in the craziness of dental school.  By taking breaks, practicing gratitude, and disconnecting from technology, I have begun to incorporate mindfulness into my everyday life.

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TAKING BREAKS

Every Monday around 11 am in Pres Res, my stomach would start rumbling and I felt stressed, frustrated, and hangry. My friend Pat Berg, who sat across the bench from me would notice that around this time I would sigh really loudly! When other people can sense your “hanger”, you know it’s a problem! I began giving myself about a 4 minute break every day in lab around 9:30am to get a drink of water, eat a snack, and take a few deep breaths (refreshing without a mask over your face!)

I began to notice that both my temperament and my work significantly improved.  I now swear by my 4 minute morning snack break to stay sane in lab! These days, occasionally if I have forgotten to take my break, Pat will catch me sighing loudly and whisper “Madeline did you take your snack break today?!” Be mindful of your mood and make small tweaks (even just 4 minutes) to improve your happiness and stress levels.  Give yourself a break, you are doing the best you can.

PRACTICING GRATITUDE

When searching for a new planner, many that I found had 2 full pages of goals, tasks to accomplish, and things to work on EVERY SINGLE DAY. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I then found one with a small area to write one thing I am grateful for and one word of what I need to focus on for the day.  To me, one of the biggest parts of mindfulness is taking a moment to assess my mood at any given time.  This practice of writing one word for my day helps me gauge my mood and figure out what I need more of in my life.  For some reason the words “peace, calm, and focus” tend to keep coming up… Dental school might have something to do with that!

Additionally, many studies show that the happiest people practice gratitude in their everyday lives. In the midst of a difficult exam week, it may seem hard to find things to be grateful for.  An easy place to start is to think of a good friend or person you look up to.  Think of the reasons why you are grateful for them, and tell them! Even in a dark place, it will bring you joy to make another person happy and feel appreciated. 

The simple practice of gratitude and can help us snap back into reality when we get consumed in the hardships we face in dental school.  I am hoping that you find peace in your heart today and feel grateful for good health and the opportunity to interact with the amazing people in the Marquette Community.  Celebrate what is going right in your life right now, rather than what is going wrong.

DISCONNECTING

I am constantly finding myself checking my phone, texting, answering emails, and browsing social media. I attempt to multitask while studying, being with friends, walking, or working out.  I noticed that the more I checked my phone, I was becoming addicted and distracted from enjoying the small moments in life.  It made me feel stressed and tired to constantly compare my life to others on social media.  I remember sitting in the dungeons of Raynor taking a study break from Microbio to answer texts and found myself on social media looking at friends traveling the world and looking MUCH happier than me.  What was intended to be a 5 minute mental break from school turned into an hour or more of being sucked into technology.  After these types of study breaks, my brain actually felt more tired from the bombardment of overstimulation.

I decided to challenge myself by leaving my phone at home while I studied.  I found that I felt  freer and happier and would walk, stretch, or talk to friends as my breaks.   I have also made an effort to disconnect from technology while with friends.  Even if my phone is on the table, I will feel somewhat compelled to check it.  I have noticed that completely putting it away has helped me give my undivided attention to my friends and let them know my focus is 100% on them. I challenge you to put your phone away when you are studying, walking, and with friends!

We will feel much happier by disconnecting from technology in the small ways we can control.  I forgot how wonderful it is to let my thoughts wander while enjoying a cup of hot tea, listen to the wind and the birds chirping, or smile at people on the street as I am walking instead of stressfully keeping up with messages.  

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Finding joy in dental school can be extremely hard at times.  It is not realistic for us to have hours on end to meditate, journal, or do yoga. By focusing on the small things that we do have control over, like giving ourselves breaks, controlling our thoughts to be ones of gratitude instead of pessimism, and disconnecting from technology, we can become more present, mindful, and at peace.  YOU. ARE. LOVED.

Namaste