01 Aug MY WELLBEING STORY: YEAR 1
This Blue Week, we asked people at different stages in their medical career to share their personal Wellbeing Stories unique to the current context of their medical careers. Through various stages of medicine, we all face our own unique challenges and although it may sometimes feel like we are all alone or the only one struggling, this is often the furthest thing from the truth. Each of us has a Wellbeing Story that describes the challenges we face and how we approach them. Sharing these stories creates a community that is positive, understanding and supportive as we work together to create a healthier environment for health professionals. As you navigate your own challenges, we hope these stories encourage you and empower you to talk and share with others.
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- Eve De Silva (Griffith University School of Medicine)
First year is a daunting year, one filled with difficult transitions and, often, weighty personal expectations. Here are some stories from first year students.
After spending the last year working, traveling and binge-watching random Netflix shows that I didn’t even like, going back to uni has definitely been a big change. Even though I thought I knew how to handle it, time management in med school proved to be a huge ordeal for me. I had an inkling that this might be a problem since I barely time managed during undergrad. During the first month of starting I noticed my life had become pretty unstable. I slept around 5 hours a night, started making regular mistakes at work I’d never usually make, barely finished my LOs, completely stopped exercising, and my room was an absolute mess. I felt super unhealthy, anxious, and I knew I had to change things, but just didn’t know where to start. I started by cutting back on some things and opening up to the people closest to me. I spoke to my managers to reduce my shifts. I made sure I slept and dedicated times to do other things. Never thought I’d say this but the mindfulness we learned helped immensely with my anxiety. Now, I feel much better than I did before. My focus has improved, and I’ve learned to just take it easy. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t do your LOs one week or need to take time off for yourself. You are important!
The biggest struggle for me has been the change from being in an area where I have expert knowledge and am confident in my abilities, compared to medicine where I know next to nothing and am at the bottom of the ladder again. It has been daunting, particularly as an older student and I have questioned at times whether I can do this. I knew that this adjustment would be a struggle, but I did not anticipate how much I would need to change my study habits to fit with the amount of content and new style of learning. I started to feel overwhelmed and was comparing myself to the medical science students who have so much knowledge and understanding already! This fed into some negative self-talk about my ability to do medicine, which I verbalised (a lot) to my partner. He helped me to recognise that this was similar to what I went through at the start of my PhD, where I was comparing myself to the postdocs and looking at completed theses and thinking, “how will I ever know this much?!”. Talking about this really helped me to reframe what I am going through in medicine as something that I have overcome before. For now, I am trying to stay focused on the immediate learning needs, rather than being overwhelmed by the big picture. Making sure I keep up with the content (as best I can!) and being comfortable with the fact that I can’t know everything at this stage, nor am I expected to. It is definitely supported by a lot of non-medical activities (time with family and friends, hobbies, Netflix…) to keep me balanced.
At this point in my medical journey, my struggle would be the uncertainty of if you’re going to make it. The feeling that you are getting out of your depth, knowing it will only get harder and not knowing how long you can go on for. Asking yourself whether you even have the right to feel that way? I suppose we’re never fully prepared for what medical school would be like. I never knew how hard it would be; to be stretched to what you’re mentally and emotionally capable of and to feel the pressure of who you’re destined to become in a not too distant future. The hours are long and thankless and are endured without any reward in sight. Despite how chaotic life can be, I’ve found that it helps to take a step back and appreciate the things you enjoy whether that’s going for a run or a coffee with your best friend. Anything that that brings you into the present and takes your mind off what’s ahead. I think, in the end, we can only put one foot in front of the other. So, when all seems hopeless, I’m reminded of a stranded Tom Hanks in Castaway, “so now I know what I have to do. I have to keep breathing. And tomorrow the sun will rise, and who knows what the tide will bring.”
I think that learning to become a medical student has been my struggle going into this year. While doing a health-related undergraduate degree has certainly given me prior knowledge I’m grateful for, the sheer volume of content and the way it is taught has been a struggle to manage. I certainly didn’t come in not expecting this, but expectations are never as raw as reality. I think I also came in with the wrong expectations about how to study. Trying to complete all LOs without super notes, prepare well for comms skills, attend every lecture in person and learn every week’s content thoroughly slowly but surely became too much. Instead of compromising on my studying I would compromise on my exercise and family time. I noticed that I was becoming very stubborn and my temper would become very short, especially with those closest to me – it was like I was no longer in control of my emotions or my words. After talking to my peers and getting to know some second years better, it helped me realise that we all face similar struggles and my studying technique was unrealistic. I didn’t have to be so hard on myself. I still try and complete my LOs myself but will use supernotes when I’m struggling to understand; I’ll skip an afternoon lecture and watch it later if I feel really tired; and sometimes I’ll skim a comms reading instead of doing an intense read. I prioritised my sleep and my exercise and found that really helped too. I’ve realised life is about balance and listening to yourself and prioritising your own happiness is so important to making the most out of it.
If you would like to talk to someone about the content of these stories, please message Yasha Makkoth (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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