It always starts small – like a ripple – before slowly welling up inside. You know what’s coming next, so you brace yourself.
They’re all just temporary feelings that will pass right?
The tachypnoea, chest pain, palpitations, vision changes, paraesthesia, depersonalization, flight of ideas, and that sense of impending doom. No amount of knowledge can prepare yourself for the wave that comes. It surges through every fibre in your body, filling every nook and cranny, relentlessly striking at every insecurity with more precision than a stressed medical student trying to cannulate a delirious dehydrated patient while trying to decide whether to call a code grey amidst a cacophony of beeping alarms. Its icy grip tightens round your chest, clinging to every breath as you struggle to maintain focus. Through ragged breaths you use every rational thought you can muster to counter your worries and overvalued ideas. And just when it seems you’re not going to make it, you do. You remember to breathe. The waters finally recede as you shut your eyes, inhale deeply and shake it off before ‘resetting’ and picking up where you left off.
Five years have passed in a flash and with the end of medical school in sight comes a barrage of different emotions: Joy, relief, sadness, dread. I would be lying if I said it was easy. “Peaks and troughs”, they said. Yet that one line cannot surmise all the obstacles one faced: Mental health issues, challenging colleagues and supervisors, social isolation, insomnia, 4-hour sleeps at night to study for the VIA, the list goes on. One that I found particularly troubling and persistent was anxiety. Here are some tips I found helpful.
Seek Help When You Can– You are never alone. Sometimes mates are good and all, but there are times when things can get too overwhelming. There are always avenues for help like Headspace and getting a mental health care plan from your GP. The student services at our clinical sites are also very understanding and always have our best interests at heart. Knowing when we are in over our head and seeking help is a good step in a positive direction. No matter how big or small your problems are, there is nothing wrong with saying you need help.
Take Time For Yourself– Never underestimate the power of taking some time to focus on you. Take a break from the books, get out there and take some time to relax. Exercise, treat yourself to brunch (not UberEats), hang out with your friends, visit a familiar haunt (or somewhere new). Remember to pace yourself and not burn out. So… Treat yo’self! J
Surround Yourself With Friends and Family – It’s easy to get caught up with work and rotations and lose contact with friends and family. Try and make it a point to spend some time with them. Grab a coffee, have brunch together, share your troubles, or just kick back and binge on Netflix. If not, drop them a call. Sometimes all we need is just for someone to talk to or laugh alongside with.
Mindfulness Works– We have all spent time savouring that tiny piece of chocolate, trying to focus on every taste bud as it slowly melted in our mouths – I wouldn’t know, I practically inhaled mine. A chocolate fondue fountain with strawberries would’ve worked better, but I digress. If you ever feel tense and unable to relax, meditation has been a great go-to for me. Taking a couple of minutes to regulate your breathing and doing a ‘body scan’ is a good way to reset and start over. If you’re like me, lacking imagination and would rather not type ‘relaxing music for stressed out medical students preparing for final year exams’ in YouTube search bars, then I would recommend the Smiling Mind app which is completely free and has several pre-set programs to select from (no, I do not have shares in the Developers’ company).
I hope these tips are useful for those who need it. Good luck for the rest of the year everyone!