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From Medical Intern to Parent:

My Journey to Discovering the Importance of Self-Care

By Blue ChamomilePublished about a year ago 4 min read
From Medical Intern to Parent:
Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash

As medical doctors, we always associate ourselves as the worst patients. I’ve pondered about it for quite some time during my days in medical school. Then, as I was training as an intern, I had a sudden realization that what they have said is true.

A typical day as an intern would be a daily assessment of patients, doing rounds, case discussions with medical specialists, making sure all blood works are in order, making sure all radiological requests are done, and treatment plans are in order before we end our shift. Almost 90% of my time is used to take care of others. Not to mention, medical training in my country is not only physically demanding but emotionally as well. We were given a hard talk by our superiors if things doesn’t go their way, we were insulted when things were done poorly, and constructive criticism just doesn’t exist in their context.. As a result, I lost 22 pounds in the first month, I had no time to eat, occasional 1 day of break per week, and poor mental health. I almost fell into depression. I experience what anhedonia is- the sense of emptiness, and the loss of joy, the lack of drive for activities I used to love. I talk less. I am fortunate to have my wife by my side, who was very supportive and encouraging, yet, I refused her advice for a professional consult. Luckily things get better after I have rotated out from that posting.

And then I became a parent of 2 children.

By Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Taking care of my 2 children can be tough. Especially my eldest son. He is four this year, and due to the growing phase, he throws tantrums frequently. When things do not go his way, either he doesn’t get his screen time, or he doesn’t get to have his favourite T-shirt on, and he would cry his lungs out for hours. Sometimes, he refuses to eat, bathe, or change his dirty clothes. This takes a toll on both of us. When my youngest daughter came, the feeling of jealousy that the elder brother develops makes things worst. Sometimes, we blame ourselves we couldn’t do better.

I sort of know that this anhedonia would come and haunt me again- it is like a deja vu, but I vow not to let it happen again. I began to have more me time when the kids are asleep, I began to learn to take time off from myself, and I began to read and meditate. I began to drop my kids at their babysitter for a weekend with my wife. That felt good. And little do I know that this is what is known as self-care.

Self-care is not selfish. It is our proactive behaviour of seeking overall wellness. Overall wellness here includes physical wellness and mental wellness. Many parents feel guilty about taking time off for themselves. In fact, happy parents are the recipe for happy children and a happy family. So it would not hurt to have extra time to do what you like. Being said that, it is definitely a great advantage to have a helping hand taking care of the kids while you take turns caring for yourself.

“It could be anything that floats your boat, anything that puts a smile” is what Dr. Gil Lopez once said about self-care. It is a very individualised activity and we have to find out what works for us.

You do not need to splurge for a good self-care session. Start with things that are easy and basic to human life.

By Dakota Corbin on Unsplash

Enough sleep: We spend a third of our lives in slumber. No one can deny that sleep is so important. Researchers to date have not found out the true mechanism on how sleep improves mental health but clinical research has proven that poor sleep can cause psychiatric disorders including anxiety, depression and increased rates of suicidal ideation.

Exercise: Exercise increase the production of endorphin- the feel-good stuff from the brain, for the brain. Ever heard of runner’s high? Endorphins are responsible for it. On top of that regular aerobic exercise increases heart health.

Well-balanced diet- Choose whole food as a start. With new and emerging food technologies, our shelves are filled with processed food. Processed food not only contains high salt, preservatives, and colouring, they are contributors to the obesity epidemic. A diet rich in omega 3 increases brain power in the aspect of learning, memory, and an increase blood flow to the brain.

Go for a short walk: Do you know that mindful walks have similar benefits as conventional meditation? Even better, it improves bone strength by getting outside and being exposed to the sun. It also brings fresh air to fuel the mind, and you are less likely to fall asleep.

Bubble baths, video games sessions, manicures, massages: You name it, whatever floats your boat.

When Self-care fails

Above all, we must also be reminded that sometimes, self-care fails. Some red flags that we should be aware of include:

  • If your self-care routine doesn't improve your symptoms even after several days.
  • If your symptoms are seriously impacting your ability to work, maintain relationships, or take care of yourself.
  • If you're experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

If any of these red flags apply to you, please seek professional help. If you're unsure about which type of professional to see, talk to your primary care doctor or a family medicine specialist for guidance.

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About the Creator

Blue Chamomile

Mental Health | Decluttering | Emotional wellness

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Comments (1)

  • Blue Chamomile (Author)about a year ago

    What other self-care methods do you use? comment down below

Blue ChamomileWritten by Blue Chamomile

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