Our new environment can leave students feeling isolated from their peers while they try to maintain a healthy morale in times of great uncertainty. Discussion at a recent wellness committee meeting centered on ways to maintain presence throughout the day and perspective, as these can alter a person’s mental health on a daily basis.
Vikas Sehdev, PhD, VCOM-Carolinas Associate Professor of Pharmacology, adds, “The COVID-19 pandemic has really limited one-on-one personalized human interaction for VCOM-Carolinas students. In addition, our students (due to rigors of their training) are spending a lot more time than usual in front of screens learning and communicating with their peers and faculty. Such a scenario can easily affect one’s morale and zeal to learn, especially if you are a student who is from out of town/state. The VCOM-Carolinas Via Wellness Committee wanted to come up with something very simple, that students could do on their own, that will help them stay positive and in good spirits. Merwan’s daily practice of gratitude was one of the best ideas that we had for students to achieve the aforementioned goal. This practice allows one to be thankful and mindful of all the good things that an individual has going for them.”
Working with Dr. Sehdev; Natalie M. Fadel, PhD, Associate Professor for Psychiatry and Neuro-behavioral Sciences; and Kevin Price, Director for Institutional Technology Resources and Solutions; Faraj is creating daily reminders that students and faculty can subscribe to as a way to promote these ideals.
There are three options as of now, and Faraj would love to see everyone subscribe to them all, but any of them can prove to be positively impactful. The reminders are practice gratitude, wish three people well, and breathe.
- For the gratitude practice, please take your time with this to truly reflect and allow the feeling of gratitude to set in. I like to stop everything I am doing and think about three things for which I am grateful.
- When wishing people well, this is done internally, you are not contacting the people you choose on that day.
- When taking moments to breathe, allow yourself to be in a comfortable position, and practice mindful breathing. This can also be paired with progressive muscle relaxation. https://youtu.be/utGa6rqzs3g https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nZEdqcGVzo
- In all of these, give yourself permission to take the time to be fully present and enjoy the moment. Doing these rituals for a secondary gain in the future negates the mindfulness aspect, as it takes you to a future reward and removes you from the present moment. When meditating, a couple of sayings to keep in mind that take the pressure off "doing it right" are: "Meditating, if you're doing it, you're doing it right." "Trying to get your brain not to think is like trying to get your heart not to beat." Your brain will naturally think and wander, do not pass judgment on yourself for this. Accept your humanness and use it as a tool to bring you back to the present moment.