Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Seven Ways I Survived My First Quarter of Dental School

The first quarter of dental school is tough. Defined by snipping and sifting through fascia in anatomy lab, learning how to wax a pretty cusp of Carabelli and mastering the nooks and crannies of the PP Fossa, fall quarter at UCSF is notorious for its difficulty. It was a high altitude marathon with many steep peaks. And yet, somehow, we all made it through. Here are some lessons I learned along the way...
Hit the reset button. Let yourself breathe and take a step away from school. Whether it was going home for Thanksgiving break, cooking dinner with friends or visiting an art museum on a rainy day, I made a promise to myself to set aside my waxing kit and histology slides to be 100% present during my time off. Taking a moment away from work helps us recharge and we are then ready to hit the books with a fresh mind and revitalized motivation. 
Keep your home cozy and neat. After a long day at school, nothing feels better than coming back home. The smell of a burning candle. A room lined with leafy plants, their vines cascading down the sides of my bookshelf. Trinkets from my friends and framed photos of our memories together welcome me in. Twinkling lights radiate a soft glow. Surround yourself with things that bring you joy. A cozy, clutter-free home helps me unwind and maintain focus when I need it the most. 
Stay in touch with loved ones. Dental school can become quite the bubble. Don't lose touch with the outside world. Grabbing dinner with, writing letters to or even just FaceTiming friends and family has helped me maintain perspective and keep in mind that there is life beyond UCSF. 
Go outside. The student lifestyle is a sedentary one. Though not physically strenuous, such a way of life can really wear on us. Take the time to go outside and get some fresh air. A trip to the beach to watch the sunset, a walk through Golden Gate Park or a weekend hike in Marin...outdoor adventures have a way of reinvigorating us like nothing else. 
Sleep. Sleep solves everything. No longer do I have that youthful energy that got me through those all-nighters in undergrad. After hours of studying and feeling the burn out, sleep is the answer to all of life's problems. Some good shut-eye helps us synthesize the information that we have learned. We can awaken with a new outlook on a topic we were studying the night before and perform with heightened awareness throughout the day. 
Celebrate your victories. After our first anatomy practical, my lab partners and I treated ourselves to a celebratory brunch. We ditched our scrubs in our lockers, dressed up, and stuffed ourselves with avocado, house potatoes, bacon and omelets galore. We are going to make it a tradition. 
Remind yourself that you don’t have to do it all. As much as I love making my endless to-do lists, sometimes I need to remind myself that I just can’t do it all. Learn when to say “no.” Only get involved in the extracurricular activities that you love. It is so easy to compare yourself to the amazing peers that surround you, and think that you are not doing enough. But you are enough. Always remember that.


Special thanks to my friends Sammi and Michael for the first two photos in this piece.