As the end of the semester and holidays approach, we all start to feel overwhelmed. Students feel the pressure of assignments, placements, paperwork, and the forever-looming PRAXIS exams. Practicing audiologists and speech-language pathologists—along with my clinical fellow peers—must prepare clients, patients, or student for the holidays. Whatever your setting, you’re probably cramming for exams, helping your students prepare for exams, or working to ensure that speech and social skills, hearing assistive devices, and eating issues are ready for large family gatherings.
This time of year—and any time of year—we should make our mental health a priority. However, it often gets placed on the back burner because we do so much. Having recently survived the nerve-racking life of a graduate student, I was often told to be on the lookout of signs of too much stress—but left to fix stress overload on my own.
On a personal quest for a stronger grip on my psyche, I’ve found that various techniques such as mindfulness, gratitude, taking “me” time, talking out my stress, and staying organized (somewhat) all work well. I share them with you here, so you don’t have to figure this all out on your own.
Added to our daily routines—not as another chore, but as a means of taking care of ourselves—these strategies can greatly reduce our stress.
Practice putting aside personal stress or challenges while working with clients and feel fully present. How can we provide quality treatment to clients or students and their family if we’re preoccupied? I take a minute before each session to become self-aware and focus on the intention behind my thoughts and actions. I try to quiet my mind and keep my attention on the present.
No matter what we endure, we get stronger. No matter how many difficult assignments, challenging clients, or demanding parents we face, it helps to take a few minutes each day to look around and acknowledge all the good, or bad, things that led us to where we are today. This can also be done any time of the day. You can make mental or written lists—scribble a short entry in a gratitude journal every night, for example—or a verbal expression to someone else.
Set aside “me” time
Taking time out of my day or week for activities that make me happy are wonderful stress releases. My favorites include reading books (unrelated to speech), going on walks, getting a massage, and especially talking to others. Self-care is important, especially during those final months of school when you feel overwhelmed by the urgency of classes, PRAXIS preparation, and finding clinical fellowship positions. Even 10 minutes for yourself can go a long way. And use your support system. Relying on friends and family members benefited me especially around taking the PRAXIS exam. You’re not alone and should not feel so. Talk out whatever you feel!
Make and maintain a schedule, but don’t get upset if you don’t follow it 100%. Flexibility is an important trait for SLPs. Break big tasks down into smaller projects you can check off and feel a sense of accomplishment. Keep on top of deadlines but don’t let your agenda book rule your life. This was the most important thing I’ve learned throughout my educational career.
Many other strategies can help you deal with stress as a student or a new clinician. Do research and find what works for you. No matter what method you choose, try to appreciate each moment . Learn from each interaction—positive or not—and make time for you. Take a moment, breathe … We can do this!
Lisa Marie Serrone, MS, clinical fellow at Los Ninos Services in Valhalla, New York, recently graduated from Mercy College’s communication disorders program. email@example.com