Have trouble relaxing?

June 27, 2018

By: Ellen Pappas

“I want to be a doctor because I want to help people.” A sentence that comes out of countless medical students’ mouths looking forward to their careers as caregivers. But sometimes medical students and health care professionals forget to care about themselves, too. I have found that some of the most important ways that I can be a good student, and hopefully a successful physician one day, are to find ways to take care of myself.  

Image credit: http://www.destressmonday.org/beat-stress-progressive-muscle-relaxation/

I was exposed to something called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) during a summer course in college. My favorite way to describe PMR is as a relaxation technique for people who are bad at relaxing; all it requires is lying down and following instructions on any of the various video or audio guides available online. The session involves tensing and relaxing consecutive muscle groups and deep breathing, starting with your eyes and ending in your fingers and toes.

I love PMR because it is a fast and easy way to practice mindfulness. I will be the first to admit that I have a busy mind, and often, relaxation techniques that involve clearing my mind involve me thinking about the most recent chapter I read or an upcoming exam. With PMR, I’m too busy following the next instruction for my mind to wander.

Over the years, I have found that if I take just fifteen minutes for myself a few times a week, whether it is through PMR, watching a favorite TV show, or calling a friend, I am rejuvenated and can start the next day as a more mindful, respectful, and professional student. I’ve had the unique opportunity to share this relaxation technique with my fellow classmates by leading several sessions over the last few years. I won’t tell you to relax but …if you’re so inclined, try out my favorite PMR relaxation sequence here.

Image credit: memegenerator.net.


Ellen Pappas is a third-year medical student at Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is interested in OBGYN and women’s health. Ellen finds inspiration in relaxation techniques through her many years of dance–a healthy body goes hand in hand with a healthy mind!

Wellness Wednesday is an AMSA On Call blog series posted by the Wellness & Student Life (WSL) Action Committee. If you are interested in writing a post, contact WSL Chair at wsl.chair@amsa.org.