Tips From Current D.D.S. and Dental Hygiene Students

Finding A New Balance During Uncertain Times

Posted by Jisha T. Panicker, B.D.S., M.P.H. on May 20, 2020

Striving for balance and maintaining positive mental health amidst the COVID-19 crisis can be a daunting task. The uncertainty and stress accompanying the pandemic impacts all of us and poses a threat to our mental health and well-being. As we seek certainty where it does not exist, our brain reprograms itself to protect our body by increasing our attention to risk and threat.

So, I’ve penned some healthy ways to navigate this uncertainty, anchored with quotes from Dr. Maya Angelou to help us sail smoothly in our daily lives. Dr. Angelou—a poet, author, teacher and leader—taught us through her work what it means to live and lead with your heart in every facet of life. May her words give your days a hearty dose of beauty and inspiration.

It’s important to remember that feeling stressed and overwhelmed is normal during this time. Here are few tips you can use to relax and rejuvenate.

We Are All in This Together

Try to remember that you are not alone in this situation. Break the pattern when your mind starts to spiral toward negative thoughts and make a firm plan to practice mindfulness and self-kindness. Try some “mindfulness” apps. (They are free!)

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” – Maya Angelou

Focus on the Present and Take Each Moment at a Time

Embrace and align your five senses to ground you in the present rather than being absorbed in your thoughts.

“I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.” – Maya Angelou

Filter out What You Can and Cannot Control

Try to get the most accurate information about the pandemic and the precautions you need to take from reputable sources. Making peace with what is out of your control can create mental energy for you to plan more productively for what is within your power. Categorize your worries and identify whether it is about something you can or cannot control.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou

Joy of Gratitude

Relish activities using all your senses and take time to enjoy it. Cultivate feelings of joy, gratitude and love. For example, maintain a gratitude journal and host virtual coffee, lunch or dinner “meet-ups.”

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Find the Right Balance of Structure and Flexibility

Schedule time for sleep, exercise, nutrition and basic self care. Pursuing these goals will give meaning and structure to your days and distract you from fruitless worrying. Stick to the schedule to help create the sense of “normalcy” for your mind, body and spirit. Good examples include meditation, praying or joining a Bob Ross virtual paint night.

“We need much less than we think we need.” – Maya Angelou

Get Active

Physical activity is one of the most effective ways to stay mentally healthy and to cope with worry, sadness and isolation. Try virtual fitness challenges with friends, dancing and playing games like hopscotch.

“If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” – Maya Angelou

Think Physical Distancing, not Social Distancing

Social connection, even online, can help us support each other and strengthen our mental health. Time for those virtual hugs or writing letters! Try virtual trivia nights, group Netflix screenings and social media graphics challenges.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” – Maya Angelou

Keep in mind that even the most unfavorable situations in life may contain the seeds of something positive. So, liberate yourself from the negativity. Rise up and use this time to be phenomenal!

“I work very hard, and I play very hard. I’m grateful for life. And I live it—I believe life loves the liver of it. I live it.” – Maya Angelou

About Jisha T. Panicker, B.D.S., M.P.H.:

Jisha T. Panicker, B.D.S., M.P.H.

Jisha T. Panicker, B.D.S., M.P.H.

Student, Dental Postgraduate Program—Prosthodontics

University of MichiganSchool of Dentistry


Jisha Panicker, B.D.S., M.P.H., was born in India and completed her schooling in the Sultanate of Oman. She graduated in the top 10 of her class with a Bachelor’s of Dental Surgery from Mar Baselios Dental College in India in 2010. Upon graduation, she was selected to serve as faculty in the Department of Conservative Dentistry & Endodontics at her alma mater. In 2012, she moved to Kansas where she volunteered as a dental assistant in a federally qualified health clinic. She later graduated with a Master’s in Public Health while on a scholarship from Wayne State University School of Medicine in Michigan in 2016. Dr. Panicker has worked with nonprofit organizations, such as the Henry Ford Health System and the University of Michigan Health System, where she oversaw the process of researching, adapting, implementing and evaluating evidence-based health interventions for use in low-resource settings alongside vulnerable and marginalized populations. Her research has been presented at state, national and international forums. In her career as a clinician and public health professional, she continues to advocate for oral health and its integration with other disciplines of care. Dr. Panicker is currently enrolled in the Dental Postgraduate Program in Prosthodontics at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry to learn more about complex oral rehabilitative and implant cases.