By Jay Olson, OMS-II, Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine of Midwestern University
When we hear the word “wellness,” most people, myself included, immediately think: exercising, going to the gym, and sweating. However, wellness encompasses so much more than working out our bodies. To me, wellness can be any activity that promotes a better self. AT Still’s first tenet of osteopathic medicine is, “The body is a unit; the person is a unit of body, mind, and spirit.” Therefore we must have wellness of the mind, body, and spirit in order to be our best selves.
Every year, over 400 physicians and medical students commit suicide due in part to the extreme pressure and burnout of caring for others’ lives; that is 400 too many. Although physicians are responsible for their patients’ wellness, they must remember to take time for themselves to achieve wellness of their own. This goal is the basis for OMS Day of Wellness, an event promoted by the Mental Health Awareness Task Force of AACOM’s Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents this Wednesday, February 20. Colleges of osteopathic medicine across the country are planning their own days, and in some cases whole weeks, of wellness to coincide with this effort.
My institution, the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine of Midwestern University (AZCOM), is combining new events with those already established on campus for the AZCOM Week of Wellness. Throughout the week, we will be helping remind students to take a break from their studies, focus on themselves, and do something to relax. Some of the events will include yoga, resiliency training, and piñata bashing to healthily release frustrations. In addition, we will be raising a memorial awareness flag for those that struggle in silence and filming a “What does wellness mean to you?” advocacy video. Our events are targeted at improving not only wellness of the body but also the mind and spirit. We have invited AZCOM faculty and staff to participate as well because they too must focus on their wellness, and by having faculty and staff at the events, it will help reinforce the understanding that wellness is a collaborative effort and that we should all watch out for those around us.
These wellness goals are not exclusive to those in the health care field. They apply to anyone in stressful situations. Everyone needs to remember to care for their mind, body, and spirit wellness. With the pressures of staying up-to-date on policy issues and consistently working to ensure Congress is hearing your message, the work of a grassroots advocate can be stressful. That’s why members of the ED to MED campaign must also focus on what their bodies are telling them. There is never any shame in taking a step back, unplugging from devices (yes, much easier said than done), and resetting and recharging. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in our work and our goals that we forget to tend to the other aspects of our lives.
As a second-year osteopathic medical student, I noticed that BOARD season was causing me to lose my work-life balance, which went on to affect my life as a whole. So I did what I am telling you to do. I took a step back, unplugged, and reset. If it’s hard to do that, try combining your components–walk with a pet or loved one (body and spirit), go to trivia night with coworkers or friends (mind and spirit), or my personal favorite, walk and do flashcards (body and mind). Sometimes you just have to do what it takes to stay on top of life while prioritizing your wellbeing, since you can’t promote patient wellness by sacrificing your own.
Follow @cosgp and #COSGPgoesgreen on Instragram to see what all the colleges of osteopathic medicine are doing for their OMS Days of Wellness and remember to take some time for yourself as you continue advocating for the future health care workforce.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by AACOM.