How can dental hygiene students have it all? It isn’t easy, but as Dimensions Brand Ambassador Yvette Reibel, RDH, BA, BSDH, MSDH, explains there is a way to balance school and professional and personal life, and not burn out.
One thing with trying to have it all is that we will always have to create some sort of balance. As new commitments and obligations are added to our lives, we will need to assess if we can add just one more thing and how we will keep all our balls in the air without dropping them.
Some of us are parents, caregivers, students, employees, friends, or family members. Regardless of your personal circumstances, we all walk a fine line of trying to balance it all. Some of us have a carefully crafted routine to keep all commitments met. But what happens when this carefully designed system stops working or fails? As a mom, educator, researcher, and doctoral student, I have made some observations on how to maintain a balance between these different hats that we wear. I would like to share with you some of my recommendations to keep our commitments and obligations met while being a student and how to use these skills moving forward.
LET GO OF PERFECTION
When I started my master’s degree, I was a wife, parent, daughter, friend, and practicing dental hygienist. In the first few weeks of school, I struggled with things not turning out the way I expected. I quickly realized that my expectations were unrealistic. Frustration started to build as I began this new journey of going back to school with adult commitments. I did not reassess my expectations and time commitments prior to graduate school and I quickly realized that my expectations were unattainable by thinking they will be perfect. I imagined my homework would be done, my children would be happy, I would not be tired for date night and work, and my volunteer projects would plan themselves. These unrealistic expectations hindered my journey as a wife, parent, dental hygienist, and student. The need for new expectations was evident. I started to understand that I would need to reprioritize tasks and my expectations to be successful in returning to school. My ideas about perfectionism put my goals out of reach and unattainable. These unattainable expectations can be destructive if this habit of perfectionism is not challenged.
Some may feel stressed with the idea of unplugging from our email, schoolwork, professional work, or social media. But it has been shown that this is an important skill to develop. Setting guidelines on when you will “unplug” is a good start. During this time, it is important to substitute other activities that bring you pleasure, joy, or relaxation. Balancing all the commitments that come with being a student requires time for rest and relaxation. There are times during the semester that it is hard to carve out time to recharge, but it is difficult to be productive and fulfill our obligations when we are not recharged and feeling our best. We need to think about treating ourselves the way we would treat others.
LEARN TO SAY NO
Many times when we are asked to start a new project or club, join a recreational sports team, be a chaperone on a child’s field trip, or work extra hours, we want to make other people happy and say “yes” without examining how this will affect other commitments. From my experience, I knew that I could not add just one more book fair shift, but I ended up saying “yes” because I wanted to make others happy. In a leadership seminar several years ago, I heard the best advice regarding this: learn the art of saying “no.” The reason it is called an art is because it takes time, effort, and practice to do. It may never get easy to say “no,” but with practice, we realize the importance of this skill to our overall well-being. By saying “no” we are not stating the request is not valid or important, but it is not the right fit for us right now. If saying “no” is difficult for you, instead say “I will check my current commitments and let you know if it will work with my schedule.” This will give you time to truly assess if you have time for the requested commitment and if it will add value to your personal goals.
MAKE A LIST
Staying organized and prioritizing are essential to manage time and your commitments. One way of doing this is to create a list. This list keeps us on task for the day or week. It is a visual representation of the items that need importance and serves as a way to prioritize our tasks and commitments. Without making a list, tasks might be forgotten or remembered at the last minute. These unpleasant surprises increase stress and decrease our time for ourselves and other commitments. When creating a list, it allows us to think about priority and what items need to be completed first. However, we need to also understand that these lists should not be used to chastise ourselves if they are not accomplished.
Regardless of your role, personal story, or journey that you are on now, you will always have a need to balance all these compartments of your life. This balancing will need to be reassessed from time to time. But most importantly, remember to be kind to yourself. We are all doing the best that we can at this moment in time.