Surviving FOMOitis

By Isobel Blackwood

So, you’ve just heard that your friend Jamie has found a consultant to do a ‘quick research project on haemorrhoids’ with on the side, and that Alisha has decided to fly to Sweden to attend the World Congress on Hand Hygiene. You also found out that May is giving up her holidays to volunteer at a medical clinic on a remarkably isolated island, and that Steve has been voted in as the president of no less than three student-run societies.

And then they ask you what you’re up to…

It’s quite easy to get caught up in the rush of FOMOitis, especially as a medical student. It always seems like someone is out there doing something more impressive and more important than you. This can especially be the case if you struggle to keep up with the coursework, let alone being involved in four extracurricular activities!

Following is a small guide to help you survive the inevitable bouts of FOMOitis that you will suffer from during your medical student life.

1. You do you.

This is crucial. Honestly, you probably would have signed up for all of those things if you were truly interested in them.
What others are doing might sound exciting and evoke a bout of FOMOitis, but remember that each of these activities will require sincere effort at some point and likely will encroach on chill out/study time. It will be a lot easier to sacrifice your downtime for an activity if it involves something you are passionate about, instead of something you signed up for just ‘because everyone else was’.

2. There is a whole other world out there.

It can be hard to remember this when you are knee deep in online pathology quizzes and PBL tasks, but there is more to the world than medicine. Yes, you may not be vice-president of *insert student run society*, but you may be a standout member of your local netball team, or an expert on finding the best cronuts in Melbourne. These things also matter and can often help to provide a sense of perspective when tackling stressful parts of our degree. If you haven’t found any medical extracurricular activities that float your boat, maybe it is time to look elsewhere!

3. Do a few things well, instead of many things poorly.

Try and remember that alongside all of your extracurricular activities, there will still be lectures to listen to, placements to attend, and assignments and exams to study for. On top of this, you may even want to try and fit in some ‘normal life’ things like eating, exercising and socialising!

Yes, your friend may be on four committees, writing a paper and flying off to conferences, but do they still have time to look after themselves? Try not to spread yourself too thin, as this can sometimes result in a sub-optimal effort in your studies and extracurricular activities due to time pressure and could even lead to the dreaded burnout.

4. Bigger isn’t always better.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all go on big overseas conferences/electives/volunteering trips? It really would be, but unfortunately those things cost money, and money is yet to grow on trees. But even if you are a bit light on in the money department, there are still many opportunities to participate in something meaningful on a local level.

Melbourne is lucky enough to regularly host top-notch medical conferences that often offer student discounts, without the added costs of airfares and accommodation. Most local charities would be stoked to have your time and assistance (and have the added bonus of giving back to the community you live in). As for electives, Australia is a large and diverse country, so if you have something in mind you want to do, but aren’t able to head overseas, chances are, with a bit of research you will be able to find a similar experience without having to cross international waters.

So if it’s FOMOitis that ails you, take a step back, be reassured that Instagram is not an accurate depiction of anyone’s life, and remind yourself that hospitals spend an average of 60 seconds looking at our CVs when allocating interviews. After all, as medical students we’re all equal — we’re universally condemned to be standing in the way of people with a more significant task.

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