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As a healthcare professional, you probably spend long hours at work, and it goes without saying that sometimes you just need to unwind. Hobbies are a wonderful way to connect with yourself and help take your mind off the often-stressful days that you’re accustomed to. And not only do hobbies benefit us personally, certain hobbies can be a tremendous benefit to us professionally as well. From improving your memory to refining your clinical recall, check out how these five hobbies can help sharpen your skillset.
To improve dexterity, try knitting or crocheting
If you’re struggling with hard skills in your discipline, like phlebotomy, catheterization, or even sutures, increasing your manual dexterity will make a big difference. Fiber arts are a great way to improve manual dexterity, as small changes in tension or grip can drastically change the result, and it also provides the opportunity for threading small materials, like embroidery floss, through needles. The muscle memory that’s acquired through knitting or crochet is also helpful when you’re attempting to imprint a new mechanical skill. Local specialty craft stores often offer classes for beginners, and YouTube can also provide valuable tutorials to get you started. Plus, the output of knitting or crochet can become gifts, like hats, scarves, blankets or sweaters, for your friends and family.
To improve precision with pipettes, try cookie decoration with icing
Working in a lab requires steady hands and precision when having to pipette valuable materials, sometimes cells or compounds that can cost hundreds of dollars or be in limited supply from a patient-collected sample. If you want to increase your precision, try decorating cookies with Royal Icing. This is often done on a gingerbread cookie and after outlining the border, you then flood the center with a more liquid icing and use other colors to create an intricate design. There are hypnotic videos of this on YouTube and other social media platforms, and improving this skill can be a practical, and tasty, way to increase your precision at work. For an additional challenge, try building a structure, like a gingerbread house, to practice those components of engineering, delicate touch, and balance.
To improve understanding systems and seeing parts of a whole, try cooking
Tunnel-vision can affect us all, especially those in healthcare fields. We can become so focused on our role and its impact on patient care that we lose sight of ourselves as parts of the whole. To combat this cognitive block, practice cooking. Experts suggest that the process of putting together a meal, from meal planning and accounting for different preferences and tastes to shopping and preparing the meal, helps with cognitive function and seeing parts of the whole. As you advance your cooking ability, you can also begin to see the different things that happen if you swap out an ingredient, develop the instinct of determining “doneness,” or perhaps through trial and error, learn the impact of doing a step out of order. Plus, sharing the meal you prepare with others gives you a needed opportunity to socialize and unwind outside of work or your studies.
To improve memory and recall, try these games
In addition to all of the content you need to memorize to pursue a career in healthcare, it’s still important to remember the names and faces from your pool of colleagues on a unit, students rotating, and of course, patients and their families. Improving your overall cognitive function can improve memory, so you can try games from this catalogue or apps that help with cognitive function, and to focus on specific medical skills, try Interactive Physiology. Any kind of memory or recall game will sharpen your mind, so consider swapping out a memory game or app for scrolling on social media when you have a few minutes of downtime.
To improve ambidextrous hand use, try learning an instrument
If you’ve played an instrument before, even as a child, try dusting it off and seeing what you remember. All musical instruments, even simple ones like the recorder, will help with your ambidextrous hand use as well as help to improve cognitive functioning, temporal processing and orienting of attention in time, listening skills, fine motor skills, verbal memory, and general IQ. Certain instruments, like piano, guitar, and other stringed orchestral instruments have increased cognitive benefit due to the truly ambidextrous nature of the instrument, although all instrument playing has been shown to be effective at increasing neuroplasticity, even as a protective factor against cognitive decline due to aging. You may even gain a secondary benefit of combatting performance anxiety if you participate in any kind of concert or recital. If you’ve never played an instrument, keep your eyes peeled in coffee shops and on local message boards for music lessons, either at a formal school or by an independent instructor. You might even consider joining a local ensemble after you’ve been playing for a while and just imagine pulling out a guitar at your next bonfire and impressing all your friends!
While the idea of work/life balance is often a futile one, implying that there is a razor-thin edge in which your leisure is a perfect and equal counterpoint to the stress of work, it’s still important to invest in yourself outside of work as much as you put into your professional development. Having rich and fulfilling ways to spend your free time will only make you a more thoughtful and thorough healthcare professional and giving these hobbies a try may help you move into that upgraded version of yourself.