What Did We Really Learn at Uni?

When I graduated dental school, I should have been fresh faced, bright eyed, and full of enthusiasm and optimism about my future, instead I was jaded, exhausted, turned off from learning and in debt up to my eyeballs. Despite the fact that I needed to be earning some cash I decided to take a couple of months break before looking for work as I was so worn out after the pressures of over 5 years of intense study that is required getting a dental degree.

Its sad to look back and see myself so flat when this should have been a pinnacle of achievement, after all I had wanted to be a dentist since I was 13 years old and here I was fulfilling my dream, yet I could only feel relieved that I had made it through and that Uni was now behind me.

When I started my degree I was just 18, healthy, fit, and full of life. I would describe myself as happy-go-lucky and fairly at ease with life, I didn’t smoke, would have the occasional drink, ate well and didn’t really like coffee and generally took good care of myself. By the end of my first term at dental school, however, I was already struggling to cope with the volume of learning, the constant exams, the competitive nature of my fellow students and living away from home fending for myself while trying to manage a meagre budget. My health was starting to suffer, I was tired and stressed, eating on the run and drinking way too much coffee and alcohol, my body was breaking out in boils and I seemed to have a constant cold.

The pressure was relentless, exams every 6 weeks that you had to pass or you were gone. More learning than there seemed hours in the day and then from second year patients to see and treat which brought a whole new level of responsibility to deal with. Add to that only 6 weeks holiday a year (no luxury of long University breaks for us medical and dental students) and the never-ending battle to complete the required number of procedures before the end of 5th year so that you would be allowed to go on to take your final exams and you had a recipe for disaster.

The only way I could cope was to push myself beyond my limits, drinking excessive coffee during the day and alcohol at night to “manage” my stress levels and unwind after a tough day. Tired, I would find myself eating doughnuts at my breaks (the ladies at the dental school coffee bar would even put my doughnut supply to one side so as not run out when I came for a coffee – that’s how bad it had gotten!) and a family pack of biscuits after dinner while I did a few hours study before going the pub and drinking myself to oblivion so I could get some sleep and do it all again the next day.

If you complained about the intensity, you were told to suck it up, as if you couldn’t cope here you would never make it in the real world. And so was the attitude of the teaching staff, not really supportive or offering a way in which to better deal with the requirements of the course or come to think of it life beyond it.

It comes then as no surprise then that upon graduation many dentists and doctors continue on in the same vein, pushing themselves hard to complete their workload of patients and administrative tasks, competing with their colleagues instead of reaching out for support, advice and guidance, coping with stress and exhaustion with caffeine and alcohol and neglecting themselves and their own health. And sadly we are somehow expected to be super-human and be able to deal with all this as we have the cursory title Doctor before our names.

But what gets forgotten and overlooked is that first and foremost we are people, many of us very sensitive and deeply caring individuals, who also need support and nurturing and to be shown how we can not only deliver what we need for our patients but most crucially also for ourselves. For if we don’t truly know how to care for ourselves and maintain that happy-go-lucky fresh faced enthusiasm and love of what we do and the people we are supposedly caring for then what quality of service are we truly offering? What type of role model do we become when our words are empty, tainted by the do as I say not as I do energy that comes from delivering words that are not lived and shown by example, after-all who is going to take advice from an overweight worn out doctor, that would be like getting financial advice from a bankrupt.

Sure, there are many Universities and continuing education courses on offer now that provide teachings in self care, espousing the importance of looking after our wellbeing and whilst this is a welcome step in the right direction I can but only wonder if it goes far enough – are we simply putting a Band-Aid over a wound rather than preventing the wound from developing in the first place.

The fault here lies not in the Universities, the course curriculums, or even, that as doctors people don’t always see us as people, but that life and our education system do not equip us to know how to genuinely care for ourselves on a deeper level. A level that supports us to connect to ourselves and know who we are, to be able to value and care for ourselves naturally and lovingly so and thus live in a way that provides a quality of vitality and energy that supports us to be less affected by life.


Exercise For Health and Wellbeing


I was out on my morning walk early today. It was warm and fresh, not a breath of wind, birds singing and my dog joyfully tootling along by my side.

I love this time that I give to myself. It is time for me to be with myself and commune with nature. I feel connected and alive, at one with myself and at peace with the world.

Ironic really as only a few years ago I used to laugh at the walkers – “call that keeping fit! You haven’t even broken into a sweat.”

Now, you see, I used to run, miles every week, come rain, shine or storm, nothing would stop me. Oh and heaven help you if you said “I saw you out jogging today”. I didn’t jog! I was a runner. Miles and miles each week I would pound the pavements, pushing myself to the edge of my anaerobic capacity, the never ending hill sessions, sprints, laps, intervals, time trails and mixed paced runs all in the name of keeping fit.

But you know what even though I could run a 10k race in a respectable 40 minute time and a half marathon or triathlon was my idea of a fun way to spend a Sunday I wasn’t really fit.

I ate poorly, mainly pasta, bread, rice, cheese and processed foods, mars bars and coffee to fuel me when I felt tired and packets of potato chips until they were coming out of my ears. I hardly touched vegetables and protein, what did I need that for I was an athlete and athletes ate carbs.

Now fortunately I never got injured, well nothing more than a sprained ankle or a few cuts a bruises from the odd times I’d fall off my bike in my own driveway. Yet I was constantly tired, moody and hungry. I weighed about 50 kg, was super lean and people who hadn’t seen me in a while thought I’d had cancer. But in my mind I was FIT.

My body however was telling me otherwise, coughs, colds, flus, aches, pains, tightness, stiffness, soreness, boils, shocking periods and PMS and insatiable hunger.

I was punishing my body and was actually malnourished.

Once I began working as a holistic dentist I made many changes to my diet and lifestyle. Nevertheless, the punishing workouts and training regimes continued. I felt less tired, didn’t get as sick as often and was sleeping better. Yet something funny was happening. I didn’t seem to be able to go as fast or as hard as I used to and I’d feel irritated rather than elevated when out on my training rides or runs.

Then one day I went for a run, I couldn’t get going, my calf muscles felt like they might snap and my heart rate was super elevated. I pushed along telling myself it would pass and then my body screamed at my so loudly I had no choice but to stop and take notice. It said “I hate running, it hurts me, treat me gently”.

Well I was dumbfounded. Yet I knew deep down this was true. I only took up running because I was overweight and back then I did hate it, I used to cry and think I was going to die as I couldn’t breathe and my heart kept skipping beats. Somehow though I overrode that, ignored my body and carried on regardless. But not this time. This time I thought “you are right, this isn’t actually doing me good”

I never ran again from that day to this. And this is where it gets fascinating.

I now workout with light weights most days, walk for an hour regularly, swim and keep myself active. My body IS fit and toned but most importantly – healthy.

I never get sick, I only need a few hours sleep and two meals a day, my body is shapely and I weigh around 48 kg. Yet I look vital, healthy and full of life, no more cancer victim physique here.

It makes me wonder then given my own experience whether to be fit we really need to run and push our body to extremes. I feel it was only a matter of time, had I not chosen to listen to my body,  before I developed chronic fatigue or some auto-immune condition from the years of battering myself in the name of being fit.

Exercise doesn’t have to hurt you just need to keep active.

What I have realised is there is a massive difference between fitness and health.

Health for me incorporates sleep, meditation, real food, gentle exercise, connection, laughter and LOVE.

What does health look like to you?

You Time

Over the holiday season make sure that you set aside some ‘You’ time to do the following…

  1. Reflect on 2013 and take note of a) what did you accomplish, b) what did you learn, c) what can you be grateful for?
  2. Review your VALUES – what matters most to you. Sometimes this can be what you would regret most if you lost it…
  3. Set goals for 2014 based on fulfilling your ‘values’ – write them down and refer to them through the year.
  4. Take some time to nurture relationships, yourself, your body and your soul.


The Benefits of Self-Love

Since my last blog I have considered the benefits of self-love that I have gained and become aware of since I have been actively more caring of myself. I felt to share them with you.

Living self-lovingly has allowed me to trust myself and listen to my feelings more. When I take time to listen to my inner voice and my heart I release I have a deep inbuilt knowing and self guidance system that can be relied on and trusted in everyday life.

As I come to know me better I can connect to myself and find that place that allows me to trust what I know. The more I take time to listen and go with my feelings the louder the communication is. This gives me sense of relief, confidence and the ability to relax knowing that I know me better than anyone else and that I can rely on myself in any situation.

I can say NO without feeling bad or guilty about it – saying no to others is a yes to me. I no longer see people, do things or go to events if I don’t feel like it. It’s not about being harsh or letting people down by changing my mind at the last-minute but about prioritising and not over committing myself. It’s about being realistic about how much I can take on and deal with at the time. It’s about assessing where I am at physically and emotionally and putting those needs first. I find this way I can do things more joyfully and be more present when I am with people as I’m not feeling obligated, resentful or distracted by other pressures or desires.

I am more discerning of my friendships and relationships. As I have learnt to take responsibility for my life and my own needs, certain friendships have fallen away naturally. I noticed these friendships were often unhealthy, very co-dependant or built on foundations of mutual likes and not on really knowing the other person openly and intimately.

If a relationship is willing to evolve and grow deeper then so the friendship has blossomed and become healthier. This has been tricky at times, with people who have seen me become more of who I am, only wanting the old friend who used to feed and fuel their neediness and them mine at the time.

As I have developed a more self-loving approach to me this is reflected in my relationships and the people around me.

I am more mindful of how I am with myself. I am increasingly conscious of my self talk, my moods, how I am with my body – whether I push too hard, take on too much or am rough with myself physically or verbally. I am able to be aware of when I am overly self-critical or even self bashing and can catch it before it escalates, stop and assess why I am being so hard on myself. This way I am less negative, more honest and appreciative of myself and in return of others. On top of this I feel healthier, happier, more confident and more me than ever before.

A relationship is NOT the answer to my insecurities. So often we seek validation of self-worth and level of attractiveness through relationships. It’s crazy to believe that if a person doesn’t like me, there must be something wrong with me. I no longer allow others judgements or feelings about me to be my barometer that measures my self-worth. My self-worth comes from me knowing that I am love and loving myself unconditionally to the best of my ability.

I have stopped valuing everyone’s opinion more than my own. I am no longer confused, seeking others opinions and going around in circles self-doubting and second guessing myself. Being more loving has allowed me to do what feels right for me. We all need support and help from others, that is healthy – but it is not healthy when we start to become dependent on others advice at the expense of our own inner voice. By allowing myself a moment, 5 minutes of silence to close my eyes, breathe gently, connect to myself and sink into my body, the answers I was looking for come – because they were there the whole time.

I love my own company. I have learnt to value time to myself and relish the quiet moments where I can meditate, snooze, read, go for a walk or soak in the bath. These moments are where magic lies waiting for me, surprising me with sparks of inspiration, where my loving ways love me back.

Give yourself this gift. The gift of learning to love yourself and who knows what is lying inside of you for you to discover….?

Self-Love The Greatest Love of All

Self-love appears to be tainted with negative connotations. The idea of loving yourself is loaded with preconceptions that you think you are better than another, that you are selfish, self centred and have an inflated ego. Is that really true or do we only feel that way because we lack self-love in our lives and when we see another being loving it reminds us that we are not?

How often do you hear people say: “You need to love yourself.” “If you loved yourself, you wouldn’t have let that happen.” “You can’t love another until you love yourself .” “The key to happiness and success starts with loving yourself.” Etc….? A million times I bet. You only have to watch an episode of Oprah and you will notice this theme come up over and over again.

But what is loving yourself? Is it really a selfish act, one where you think you’re better than another or is it something that is normal, caring and beneficial to who you are, your health and your state of being? Is it something that can be of benefit to you and to others?

I looked up the definition of self- love and this is what I found:
1. the instinct by which one’s actions are directed to the promotion of one’s own welfare or well-being, regard for love or love of one’s self, especially an excessive regard for one’s own advantage.
2. conceit; vanity, excessive pride
3. narcissism

bighead, complacency, conceit, conceitedness, ego, egotism, pomposity, pompousness, pride, pridefulness, self-admiration, self-assumption, self-conceit, self-congratulation, self-esteem, self-glory, self-importance, self-opinion, self-satisfaction, smugness, swelled head, swellheadedness, vaingloriousness, vainglory, vainness, vanity

humbleness, humility, modesty

Wow! Ouch! That doesn’t seem like a positive thing at all – no wonder we have an issue with loving ourselves if thats what we have been taught to think!

The other thing I noticed is that people think self-love and self-esteem are the same thing and are interchangeable. But I beg to differ. Someone can think a lot of themselves and have high self esteem but still be very self abusive and uncaring of their body. Which certainly isn’t self-loving. Just look at people like celebrities, the very wealthy/successful for example who think they are it yet treat themselves very poorly.

Self-love is now a very popular term that gets tossed around in day to day conversation, thanks to TV shows like Oprah, yet the idea of someone saying they love themselves carries a lot of stigma. I feel we need to break down the negativity associated with being self-loving and get real with what self- love truly is.

Self-love is important to living well and being well. It influences who you choose as friends, for a partner, how you are at work, how you cope with the problems in your life, what you eat and drink and how you care for yourself and what you will or will not allow in your life.

What is self-love, then? Is it something you can buy like new clothes? Can you get it by reading a self help book or something inspirational? Or, does it come from a new relationship, new job, moving house, a new hobby? The answer to all of these questions is No! These things may make you feel good and are certainly satisfying but you can’t get self-love through others or outside things. Self-love is not simply a state of feeling good it is an action. It is the little things that you do to care for yourself on a daily basis.

Self-love actually begins with saying NO. No to the things, actions and behaviours that do not truly support you or your body. It begins with saying no to things that are not loving, gentle or caring for your body. It starts with saying no to pushing yourself too hard, taking on too much and putting everyone else’s needs before your own.

Self-love is about choosing things that work for you and your body physically, mentally and emotionally. Self-love is about making choices that allow you to develop a deeper level of self appreciation so that you can give your body the care and attention that it deserves.

By committing to being gentle with yourself, you develop a consistency in how your are from your actions, self-talk, relationships, diet and exercise that come together to form a way that you live that helps to foster your self-love. Self-love is about committing to yourself and not compromising who you are, treating yourself with respect and expecting nothing less in return.

As you become more self-loving, the easier it is as the love and care you have in and for your body starts to grow. Living self-lovingly means you naturally become more accepting and appreciative, compassionate and understanding of self and others.

Over the last decade I would freely say that I have become a more self-loving person. This means that yes I do put my self first but it does NOT mean I think I am better than you or anyone else for that matter. It simply means that I care for myself, that I care for myself deeply.

I have seen some wonderful changes in my health and wellbeing, relationships and work since introducing self-love into my life. And would say that these changes have made me more loving and caring of others.

Loving yourself is a win-win for all. It provides you with a state of wellbeing and inner contentment, a confidence and peace of mind that is not easily swayed by outside events and opinions. It enables you to make healthier choices and the best decisions in all areas of your life from your diet and exercise to intimate relationships to your finances. It allows you to be more genuinely loving towards others and to be of greater service to the world at large. Ultimately, the more you love yourself, the more everything and everyone you encounter benefits.

Simply put self-love is a prerequisite to loving others. Your relationships are only as strong as the foundation of your self-love. Let go any belief you may hold that loving yourself is selfish or egotistical and replace it with the truth that your very essence is love, that unconditional self-love is your natural way of living . You cannot experience true love without first loving yourself. And when you can say that you know this for a fact you will have discovered the truth that self-love truly is the greatest love of all.

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Siddhartha Gautama Buddha

Reflecting On The Year So Far

Sorry to sound cliched but wow has the time gone fast! It seems only a couple of weeks ago that it was Christmas and we were talking about our resolutions for the New Year. Then all of sudden Easter has been and gone and we are a third of the way through the allotted 12 months of 2013 and those resolutions have often long since been forgotten.

Recently I had the pleasure of spending time with many of my friends from overseas on a retreat when one lady asked me how my wishes for the year were going. This made me stop and reflect that now was a good time to reassess and refine my choices.

So I took the time to return to my list and make some observations:

Tone my body and build some muscles backbeen gently working out at home and having more protein, my body is feeling stronger and leaner. There is quite a way to go yet but I am in not hurry as there is no need to push or drive my body to be or look at certain way.

Join a gym and perhaps go more than oncenot happened yet as I could feel my body was not ready for such exertion and actually needed recuperating and rebuilding after a very intense period of my life.

Spend more quality time with my familybig tick in this box, we schedule family weekends in our diary now and do not plan anything else for these days, in fact we fit our social life around these dates rather than trying to squeeze a free weekend in between everything else. Family weekends do not involve rushing here, there and everywhere but taking time to share meals, cook together, go for walks, chat, play, watch DVDs and enjoy one another’s company.

Become a better boss, lead by example and mentor morehave shown improvement in this area with more staff training and taking time to support my team where they need it rather than trying to micromanage and control the way they work. I want to bring out their skills, let them shine and have input to the way we work.

Say what I’m feeling rather than expecting people to read my mindexpressing and communicating what is there to be said at the time it needs to be said rather than bottling it up and getting frustrated. This process becomes easier and more natural the more I allow it. I may not always get it right but at least I know that and can learn from my mistakes. It is actually very freeing to say what I’m feeling and I notice the more I do it the more others are open to hearing what I have to say and how they feel comfortable to express themselves as well.

Nurture myselfthis is now something I apply in everything I do, from my posture to the clothes I wear, how I prepare for my day, my meals, hot baths with Epsom salts and lavender, learning to start from love and put that love into all that I do; rather than doing things so then I can stop and be love once they are completed. There is always room to go deeper with this.

Work on eating only when I am truly hungrynow this has been interesting as in hindsight I am going to re imprint this one to be “feel when I need to eat and what is needed to support my body”. I have realised that sometimes I don’t feel hungry and therefore I didn’t eat. But had I felt what was needed then I would have seen that my body was actually very depleted and in need of rebuilding and thus I needed to be eating more and more simply. I had fallen in a to a mentality that if my tummy wasn’t grumbling I didn’t need to eat when in reality my body needed more support to withstand the pressures I had been working and living under. So now I am having more protein, supporting my body with additional minerals and supplements and drinking much more water.

Be deeply caring of myself and othersthis falls under a similar umbrella to being nurturing but with being caring comes a deeper understanding and clarity about myself and other people

Work smarterthis has been interesting, by managing my time wisely, nurturing and caring for myself I have more energy and focus which allows me to work in a rhythm with my body. In this way I understand what is a priority and what can wait instead of trying to get it all done in one go.

Do more writing if you have been following this blog it may appear that I have been doing less writing, however I have been writing copious amounts for my dental blog, talks and other projects which I felt needed my attention

Start podcastsI bought a microphone and have some ideas but haven’t actually got this off the ground yet – that’s fine there are 7 more months left in this year!

Relax, take things slower, pause for breath and savour the momenta very important part of developing a rhythm with myself has been to stop and smell the roses and boy oh boy they smell sweet! I find when I am in the moment my body and breathing naturally relax and find their own rhythm leaving me feeling full of energy and ready for the next thing that comes my way.

Make new connections and cherish the ones I already haveI have deeply enjoyed sharing more time with friends and family and building new relationships. By meeting new people I get to learn about myself, deal with any issues that come up and evolve as a human being.

Accept myself for who I am despite my faults and flawslovely to see that I am beautiful, precious and gorgeous and actually very amazing – and so are you!

Marvel at the amazingness of the untapped potential that lies deep inside us all just waiting to burst out.magic is all around us we simply have to take the time to acknowledge it, appreciate it and let the magic that is within us come out.

Have lots of fun along the way! – haven’t laughed so much in ages, playfulness and silliness is quite contagious.

How have your New Years resolutions played out and what have you learnt about yourself along the way? I would love to hear about it.

Dr Rachel Hall Speaks

Dr. Rachel Hall, BChD

Dr. Rachel Hall, BChD 17th February 2013 (55 mins)

To play the interview, Dr Rachel Hall

To download the interview click this link, Dr Rachel Hall Interview

Rachel’s dental practice is located in Kenmore, a suburb of Brisbane. In this interview we find out how to care for our teeth from gentle brushing techniques to our diet. We also discuss the more controversial dental topics like amalgam removal, fluoride and root canals. As the principal of her dental practice, we also get a glimpse into her role as a business owner, including how and why she is going green in her office. To find out more about her practice in Brisbane, check out her website at Evolve Dental.

Rachel is also an active writer so you can find out more about her and her philosophy at her personal blog Musing from a Student of Life.

Dr. Hall has contributed numerous articles on dental health and general well being on the eEzines website. Just put her name in the search box on this site.

And for you food lovers check out her recipes on the Heal Yourself with Food blog. All the recipes on this site are yummy but to find Rachel’s, put her name in the search field.