06 Aug MY WELLBEING STORY: YEAR 2
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)
Second year is filled with a range of challenges- from striking a balance between uni and life to worrying about clinical years ahead. Here are some stories from our second years.
It can be challenging trying not to get overwhelmed by the amount of content we need to learn! As a medical student, it can be difficult discerning between what is high-yield for exams, what is clinically relevant, and what is important for PBLs. Thus, it is not uncommon for many, including myself, to attempt to grasp everything without the best understanding! Being overwhelmed by content also puts me in the mindset of trying to check off ‘to do lists’ instead of thinking about things clinically. Given that we are going to be in hospitals next year, that can be a bit worrying. While this is something that I anticipated, it still negatively impacts my mood. I notice myself feeling very unmotivated to begin new cases and getting drawn into negative thinking patterns where I don’t feel confident in concepts I’ve learned. I find it really helpful to actively discuss concepts with friends, which helps me gain a less details focused, holistic understanding of what we are learning. It also creates a positive space where we can discuss our doubts and motivate each other. Doing this has helped me cut old habits of cramming, and instead, has made me more open to engaging in discussions and asking people questions which is fabulous for my learning.
I struggle with expressing my own thoughts and ideas especially during PBL and similar settings. I lack confidence in my clinical reasoning and whenever I think I might know an answer to something a voice in my head tells me ‘you’re stating the obvious– everyone knows that already’. I am often silenced by my own voice. This is something that I have experienced throughout my life as I have always disliked voicing my opinions to a crowd. If I do try and contribute, my body tenses, and I speak too quickly and too softly. The changes in my body worsen my performance and my mind becomes preoccupied. Luckily for me, my issues don’t extend beyond the classroom. I don’t ruminate over my mistakes for long. I find that if I try to prepare well for PBL report backs and do it well, it makes me more confident for the session and I am much more likely to actively participate. I’ve also started exercising more regularly this year and I feel that my stress levels are significantly lower than last year! In fact, I don’t feel one hundred percent on days I skip my routine exercise and exercising has made me feel healthier in general.
During this very early stage of my journey in medicine, I have started to understand the necessity of self-care. However, the difficulty with self-care is becoming confident in determining when you need it and how to fit in to our schedules. I believe it’s necessary to determine what activities are non-negotiable, self-care practices such as exercise, hobbies, family time etc. When we force ourselves to put self-care first, the rest will start to fall into place, you will start becoming more efficient with other things in order to fit self-care in. I acknowledge it’s easier said than done, but take baby steps, you will make mistakes but be kind to yourself and you will eventually get there. I think we are fortunate to be amidst a cultural shift where self-care has become more prevalent and encouraged. However, I did not anticipate how difficult it is to apply it in our lives, especially as busy medical students. We are students who have only made it into medicine with an immense amount of sacrifice, so knowing when we need to stop can be difficult to determine. Just like how you have your vital signs in medicine, you should start to think about vital signs for your own mental state. For me, one of my big warning signs is my mood; I notice that it really slips when problems are manifesting. It’s important to be honest with yourselves, and as ‘DP’ as this sounds, really reflecting on what is going for you is something I find helpful. As soon as I start to articulate what I think is going on, I am able to feel like I have regained so much control. From there, you can deal with the stressors by either rescheduling things, letting the appropriate people know etc. Talking to a friend who will listen to you is also just as helpful if not more helpful to allow you to actualise that process. I encourage you to think – what is causing my current state? Can I do anything about it? If the answer is no – ensure you are keeping up with your self care. My final bit of advice for managing your mental wellbeing is not being afraid to turn to our health allies (make use of our knowledge of IPL!). For me, going to a psychologist by referral was one of the best choices I made in my first year, as I felt it really helped me set up these practices bit by bit. If you develop good mental wellbeing habits now, I have no doubts it will do wonders in the clinical years where further stressors are placed upon us.
I’ve struggled with keeping up with all the anatomy content this year. It’s been especially tricky trying to balance family and hanging out with friends while staying on top of med school, especially since I have a very big and social family (I’m married so not only do I have my big family, but his too!). I did know we would be doing a lot of anatomy in second year but I just didn’t expect the sheer volume of it and how quickly we have to grasp it all! I’m also a person that feels guilty for not being there for family and friends so I knew learning to say no was going to be a big issue for me. I started noticing towards the end of last year that when I start getting overwhelmed, I end up in a constant bad mood and would get stressed by littlest things. It would also take a toll on my relationship with my husband as he was the one I was snapping at more easily. I also noticed I would be more likely to sacrifice doing things I liked, but especially exercise and playing sports with friends and just generally eating unhealthier and in turn this made me feel sluggish. It helped that I recognised anatomy was a weaker point in my studies last year and so I started the year off by doing the anatomy modules before lectures and this really helped me actually consolidate my knowledge in lecture and in the labs. However, as the semester has gone on it has been getting harder to do pre readings/modules and I have noticed that it has definitely affected my studies as I don’t feel as prepared. I’m very fortunate that I have found an amazing bunch of friends that are very supportive. We all have different strengths and weaknesses and so we are always getting together to go over things and help each other. These guys are honestly my lifesavers! Additionally, one of the biggest things that really got me refreshed and ready for the new year was having time in the holidays where I didn’t do anything med school related and no big social events! So for me that was going overseas with my husband and literally lying by the pool every day! It’s amazing what a little timeout can do for your mental health! My relationships with everyone this year are stronger and I am also generally a lot happier this year as I’m learning to say no. I am now prioritising my time and doing things I want to do (i.e. exercise, chill out at home). It has made me more organised with uni and I’m not having to stay up till midnight to finish work – YAY! My relationship with my husband is stronger than ever and we are getting to spend more time together as well.
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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