4 Tips for Taking Care of Yourself in Pharmacy School

MAY 11, 2016
Throughout pharmacy school, we’re taught how to take care of our patients, and yet we tend to fail to take care of ourselves.
 
Taking care of yourself in school is something you won’t regret later. Unfortunately, I learned that a bit too late. So, for anyone entering or currently enrolled in pharmacy school, I’d like to pass along a few tips I’ve learned throughout my years of pharmacy schooling.

1. Prepare Healthy Meals for the Week Ahead
Even in pharmacy school, the freshman 15 isn’t a myth. In the past few years, I’ve actually exceeded it.
 
My peers and I found ourselves taking the easy way out by hitting a fast food drive-thru before an exam instead of actually cooking a meal. This unhealthy habit not only depletes your finances, but also takes a toll on your body.
 
Poor food choices can contribute to weight gain, bad skin, and also increase your risk for multiple diseases. Greasy, fatty foods contain too much trans-fat, saturated fat, and/or cholesterol, which are linked to poor heart health, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, depression, and cardiac arrest. Meanwhile, a 2014 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a high-quality diet was associated with better mental health.
 
My advice is to pick a day each week to prepare healthy meals for the week ahead. Grill up some chicken and prepare a pot of grain so that you have the base ingredients available for your daily meals. Instead of going out to a restaurant with your peers, invite them over for a home-cooked meal and take turns. This becomes fun and makes cooking less of a chore.   

2. Cut Back on Blended Coffee
You know the feeling when you’re trying to stay awake and just want blended coffee, but you overlook the fact that a Venti Frappuccino from Starbucks is about 500 calories. I repeatedly made the poor decision to chug down 3 or 4 Frappuccinos the night before an exam.
 
To cut back, I turned to caffeine pills that usually contain 200 mg of caffeine, which is about the same amount found in 1 cup of coffee. Caffeine pills can help improve mental alertness and are non-habit-forming. If you love blended coffee so much that isn’t an option, then there are other alternatives, such as low-fat creamers or ordering off of the light menu.

3. Get Enough Sleep
I spent my whole first year of pharmacy school staying up late starting a day or 2 before an exam without getting even an hour of sleep. Sure, I got through the material and ended up doing well on exams, but when I began to get more sleep in my second year, my grades got even better.
 
A study conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that students who get more regular and predictable sleep perform better academically than those who have an irregular sleep schedule. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a minimum of 6 hours of sleep a night in order to function. If you follow this advice, you’ll not only feel more refreshed, but your grades might also improve.

4. Make the Effort to Exercise
One of the most common nonpharmacological treatments we’re taught again and again during pharmacotherapeutics class is exercise.
 
I used to come home after an exam, fall asleep, and then spend the whole night watching television with a bag of chips in hand. Now, I use my television time wisely by jumping on an exercise bike or treadmill.
 
Physical activity reduces your risk of developing chronic diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Exercise also improves your overall quality of life, which is beneficial while enduring the stress of pharmacy school.

Bottom line: remember to take care of yourself. Although it’s important to get good grades, you shouldn’t let yourself deteriorate in the process.
 
Pharmacy school is a difficult but rewarding journey. We have to continually keep ourselves updated on current practice, but we must also practice what we preach. If you take all of this advice, I guarantee you won’t regret it. 


Shelby Leheny, Pharm D, B.S
Shelby Leheny, Pharm D, B.S
Shelby Leheny received her Doctor of Pharmacy Degree from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) and her Bachelor's of Science degree at the University of Pittsburgh. She is a pharmacist at CVS.
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