This isn’t necessarily a post aimed at doctoral-level students or those in a physical therapy program. This is aimed at everyone because we all get bogged down by life and neglect the things that bring us true joy. I hardly engaged in my hobbies during the first term of physical therapy school. Part of that was trying to figure out just how much work I actually needed to put into doing well and part of that was also undiagnosed ADHD. The second term I did better, mostly incorporating some reading and Netflix, but I knew I was still neglecting a lot of other things that I love to do. Exercise comes to mind. I was seriously neglecting that. Studying wore me down so much that I didn’t have any energy for a workout when it came time for a break. I also wanted to get back into painting, but having been away from it for several years, I figured it’d be a learning curve that I wouldn’t have any energy for, so I figured it’d be better to wait until the break to get back into it. I also love gaming and mountain biking–and believe it or not, challenging games utilize a lot of mental energy that studying drains. As for mountain biking, my favorite trails are about 40 minutes away, so it’s a battle figuring out if I have any time for it or not.
But it is now my third term, and I am determined to make these hobbies more of a priority. I am on my fourth week of consistent workouts. This is the first week of the term, and I have already done two workouts this week. Tomorrow I plan to do an abdominal workout that totals 24 minutes. My plan is to workout as soon as I get up in order to prevent studying from sapping all of my energy. I will prioritize intensity over duration, using a combination of Fitness Blender on YouTube and other videos I find. Working out also gives me a burst of energy, as does regularly drinking water thanks to a hydration jug I purchased., so I have started a new painting. It’s really just an exercise in gradients and brushwork, but the point is that I started one; I always finish whatever I start. Unfortunately I’ll have to abandon it for the weekend since I’ll be at school for labs. I am also a gamer and am playing Xenoblade Chronicles 1 with the intention of beating it this term.
My hobbies are important to me because 1) they are just plain fun, and 2) they are my way to recharge. Painting provides me a creative outlet that I desperately need, a way to create since it’s hard to find the energy to write a novel (writing a novel isn’t exactly a hobby, not when I’ll be making money from this trilogy). Gaming is really just fun but also allows me to exercise that spatial visual part of my brain. I credit video games for my spatial visualization ability or just my spatial ability in general. The problem solving involved in a lot of the games may be why math was so much easier when I took pre-calculus about two years ago–it’s that sticktuitivism. And I exercise specifically for my health. When I’m of the age where I have to get bone density tests done, I want my numbers to exceed the average. I want to avoid the common age-related pitfalls that can be mitigated with physical activity.
I write all of this out to emphasize the importance of making your hobbies important in your own life. It is hard to do that, especially if you work a job that drains everything within you or if you’re a parent who spends much of the day caring for a child or several children on top of doing all the housework and other minutiae of parenthood. Even so, self-care is important. I absolutely consider hobbies part of that self-care. Self-care doesn’t always have to be doing the hard stuff like making sure you get your laundry done or that dentist appointment scheduled. Self-care can include the things that fill your empty cup.
I’m not going to tell you that if these hobbies are important, you’ll make time. Not everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. It’s also unfair to place that expectation on top of anyone. All I’m advising is that you take time, however long you need, to assess how you can fit a hobby into your day, a week, or even a month. It took me almost eight months to figure out how to make my mental health a priority.
I wanted to start prioritizing my hobbies because as someone experienced in the realm of troubled mental health, I want to feel my best. I want to avoid those dark places. I want to avoid burning out. I want to avoid questioning why I’m in physical therapy school if all it does is render my life joyless. Basically, I want a full cup so that I can give it my all in grad school, so that I can actually enjoy what I’m learning. Mental work, in my opinion, is so much tougher than physical work. At least with physical work, I may be physically drained, but I have mental energy and I can easily recover that physical energy by stopping the physical activity. With mental energy, I have nothing left, including physical energy. I can only recover through sleep.
When I went mountain biking two weekends ago, I was floored by how much I missed it. Even though the ride was murderous near the end because of some of the climbing and my lack of cardiovascular endurance, the tired I felt was beautiful. It was energizing. I went home, took a bath, and felt like I could do so much more due to that ride. So find your mountain biking. Find the thing that refreshes your spring.
Just spend time looking at your day and reviewing how you can fit in at least one fun activity. You don’t need to spend an entire hour on it. You can commit even 20 minutes to it. It’s understandable if you genuinely can’t find any time, but I can’t emphasize enough the importance of trying. No one wants to feel haggard or burnt out. It is so easy to neglect yourself when you are constantly on the ground running. It’s so easy to forget that you are your own person.