Fostering Resilience and Well-Being Among Pre-Health Students

Fostering Resilience and Well-Being Among Pre-Health Students

Leigh A. Frame, Kirsti Dyer, Cynthia A. Powell, Donnell Dawson, Alison Warren, Patrick G. Corr, Mandy Siglin
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-5969-0.ch007
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The well-being (health and wellness) of the pre-health student directly contributes to their short-term academic success and their long-term professional and personal aspirations. The pre-health advisor has a role to play in fostering an environment in which the pre-health student can thrive, including supporting their well-being. This chapter addresses major contributing factors: stress management and mental clarity can be accomplished in many ways, e.g., mindfulness meditation. Cognition is dependent upon immune function, which is generally supported by a diverse, plant-rich diet. Physical activity (exercise and natural movement) supports mental health and cognition and are often limited in the pre-health student as well as healthcare professionals without intentional incorporation. Restorative sleep allows for healing and repair throughout the body (including the brain) as well as memory integration; simple steps can improve sleep quality and quantity. Ultimately, the pre-health advisor should utilize cross-campus partnerships to promote a culture of well-being.
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Resilience And Well-Being

One of the most effective tools for managing stress is resilience, or the ability to withstand, adapt, or recover quickly from difficult conditions (Google Docs Dictionary, n.d.; Mayo Clinic Staff, 2020). Simply, resilience is the internal drive that allows us to keep moving during stressful challenging times; it keeps us going, physically and mentally. Resilience is what prevents us from crawling into a deep, dark hole and never going out again when faced with stressful or distressing challenges (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2020). This is crucial for the pre-health student now and throughout their career, as they are at high risk for absenteeism, dissatisfaction, distress, and burnout (Brand et al., 2017; O’Connor et al., 2018; Rodrigues et al., 2018; Woo et al., 2020).

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress.” Resilience lets us adapt well to everyday challenges, stressful situations, and difficult circumstances (APA, 2012, para. 4) and protects us from anxiety and depression (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2020). Being resilient allows us to keep functioning in the face of stress and adversity and enables us to bounce back. We have all learned how to become more resilient and adjust to life’s ever-changing circumstances since the COVID-19 pandemic. Resilient factors, like reaching out to others for support and having coping strategies to respond to upsetting events, may reduce the likelihood of someone developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in response to a traumatic event (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2020).

Well-being is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as, “a positive outcome that is meaningful for people and for many sectors of society, because it tells us that people perceive that their lives are going well” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d., para. 1). Well-being integrates mental health (mind) with physical health (body), resulting in a more complete approach to disease prevention and health promotion that also takes into consideration high life satisfaction, a sense of meaning or purpose, and the ability to manage stress.

Panter-Brick and Leckman have offered a different definition linking resilience with well-being, “resilience is a process to harness resources to sustain well-being” (Southwick et al., 2014, p. 4). Their definition underscores that resilience is an active process of coping with stress, challenges, and adversity; it is a skill that can be learned, not an inherent personality trait (APA, 2012). Thus, the pre-health student will need to be taught the skill of resilience; this is where the pre-health advisor comes into play.

If we can get the pre-health student to view stress and hardships as challenges instead of threats, we help them become more resilient. Increasing internal resilience can improve energy, work performance, and life satisfaction while decreasing anxiety and depression—all crucial for the success of the pre-health student (Davis, 2018). Resilience is a skill incorporating various healthy coping strategies that can be learned, practiced, and honed by the pre-health student under the mentorship of the pre-health advisor.

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