Deep Breaths

By Anonymous

2020 as it is today is definitely not what I imagined it to be on New Year’s Eve. Even as I made the same New Year’s Resolutions I always did, I knew this year was going to be different. Like everyone else, this was going to be my year! The “New Year New Me” trope definitely resonated with me. I started off pretty well, too! I was going to the gym, I made time for myself, I worked hard, and I also tried to let loose… a little. Then came COVID, and we’re back to the drawing board. All my plans for this year had to be adjusted. A little, or maybe even a lot.

I’m an international student and I haven’t seen my family since January. I had planned to go back home at the end of November, but as expected, my flight got cancelled. I knew it was going to happen and I knew that going home may not have been the most realistic and wise decision in the midst of a pandemic. However, when the cancellation was confirmed, I may not have admitted it at the time, but I was disheartened. I felt emotional, helpless and worried about when I’d be able to see my family next. 

However, I’m a firm believer that it’s all about perspective and what we do with the opportunities we get and the challenges that we face. In hindsight, I’ve grown a lot during this pandemic, I’ve learned a lot about myself and what is truly important. One of the most important things I learned, is that my health, encompassing physical, emotional and mental domains, is of utmost priority, especially during this pandemic. I also learned that I could either focus on all the problems and the negatives, or I could focus on the solutions and be more positive. 

This is definitely easier said than done. 

Some ways I dealt with all my emotions during the pandemic was by reflecting on things I am thankful for. I’m thankful for the friends I have here, I’m thankful for being in a safe country. I’m thankful for having access to food and water, living in a home that is warm and comfortable. I’m thankful that I still have the opportunity to continue my education. I’m thankful that I have more time on my hands to have long video chats with my family. 

Another thing I did was I tried to still achieve the goals I wanted to achieve, but by changing the means with which they’ll be achieved. I’ll be honest, when the gyms shut down, I was really sad. I loved the adrenaline rush from lifting weights, I was excited about strength training, and I found it to be a great mental break from studying. But I realised I could do the same thing outside the gym as well. I could go for regular morning walks/runs, play sports with my housemate at the park near my house, go bike riding, or even watch YouTube videos for at-home workouts. 

The moral of the story is, I learned that a lot of the times, it’s not what opportunities we get that are important or determine our success, but it’s also what we make of those opportunities. This may well be an opportunity for more self-growth, to attend to things we didn’t have time to attend to, and really re-centre our attention to the things that really matter to us!

Find that passion and make the most of the time we got with this Pandemic and let’s come out at survivors! And remember to get your daily water intake and vitamin D 🙂

Silver Linings

By Anonymous

The history of civilisation has taught us that even in the worst of situations, there can be silver linings. Even if small, something good can come from difficult times. Don’t get me wrong, COVID-19 has wreaked absolute havoc and devastation across the globe. I am not trying to downplay or minimise anyone’s suffering or the widespread effects of COVID-19. The health and economic impacts are enormous. With the current number of total cases globally approaching 30 million with nearly 1 million deaths, it is likely things will continue to get worse, before they get better. More lives will be lost, and it will be a long time until we are living in a post-COVID era. While we are in the midst of what will be one of the largest pandemics to go down in history, it can be hard to recognise these silver linings. It is easy to be focus on the negatives of COVID-19 and 2020.

It has been an extremely difficult and trying year for all of us, some more than others. My heart goes out to anyone who has lost a loved one to coronavirus and also to the people who are struggling right now. As a final year student, I have been privileged to be able to attend placement for the majority of the year, even though my rotations have altered from what was originally planned. Even when I left my family home for a month during my ED rotation to live in an Airbnb near the hospital, I still felt lucky to get out of the house and have some sort of routine. I really empathise for all the junior medical students who have missed out on many months of clinical placement and have had to adapt quickly to learning via zoom. I am feeling Zoom fatigue, so I cannot imagine how it must be for students studying full time from home. Below are my reflections on some silver linings to come out the unprecedented year that 2020 has been. 

I am the kind of person who prefers to be busy. I have my daily “to do” list and only feel accomplished if I have ticked everything off by the end of the day. I am sure many other medical students can reasonate with this sentiment, I think it comes with being a perfectionist. In pre-COVID times, my weekends consisted of balancing two casual retail jobs, catching up with friends, study, exercise and spending time with family. Then on the weekdays, I would attend placement during the day and almost every night I would have something on, whether it be a social or uni event or study to do. Those days feel like so long ago now, where I remember rushing around to fit as much as I possibly could into a day. The strict lockdowns and restrictions on what we can and cannot do due to COVID-19 has allowed me to slow down. Previously I would stress out if I wasn’t doing things I deemed to be “productive” or a good use of my time, but now I really enjoy a Sunday morning sleep in, time spent watching Netflix on a Saturday night or just chilling out doing nothing. It is sad to think that it had to take a pandemic to change by mindset, but I am glad that it has changed. I have given myself the okay to chill out and enjoy the simple things. I really hope these chill vibes will stick with me long term. 

Being on placement, I have seen the impact that COVID-19 has had on healthcare workers, from nurses and allied health staff to doctors and administration staff. We are somewhat protected as medical students not being frontline workers. It is well known that there are ingrained cultural issues in medicine that have slowly been improving over the years. Another silver lining to come out of COVID-19, is the ending of presenteeism in medicine, as in – not showing up to work when you are sick. Previously, there was a culture of always showing up no matter what, to push through that sniffle or cough. But now, showing up to work unwell is very much unacceptable and looked down upon. Let’s hope that COVID-19 is the end to presenteeism for good. This will have two-fold benefits, including preventing the spread of an infectious disease to vulnerable patients and other healthcare workers, as well as focusing on the well-being of the healthcare worker, to ensure that they rest when sick and take the time off work they require. 

While Victoria has been hit hard and we have been in one of the toughest lockdowns in the world, things are starting to look more positive with case numbers going down on a daily basis. If you’re reading this, please make sure you take some time to do something good for yourself this week. It may be a nice walk along the beach or a virtual catch up with a friend; enjoy the little things. Look after yourselves during this time and think about your silver linings and learnings from 2020. Focus on these, and hopefully that will help to brighten your day. We can and we will, get through this together. 

If you’re struggling please reach out to a friend or family member, a university service (see more information listed below) or a mental health service such as Beyond Blue (1300 224 636) or Lifeline on (13 11 14).  Sending everyone lots of love, stay safe and stay well.

Dr Philippa Corby (Student Support): e: philippa.corby@monash.edu
Dr Matthew Thong (International Student Welfare): e: matthew.thong@monash.edu
Jodie Vickers (Student Services and Support): e: Jodie.vickers@monash.edu
24 hour counselling support services (free, confidential)
In Australia: 1300 STUDENT (1300 788 336)
Overseas: +61 2 8295 2917
For university health services: https://www.monash.edu/health/mental-health/resources/emergency-after-hours-contacts
Support from those who have experience dealing with medical students and doctors specifically: https://www.drs4drs.com.au/


R U OK DAY 2020: 10 Ways to Check In On Friends While Social Distancing

By Natasha Rasaratnam

2020 has been a year of unexpected challenges. The way we live has had to change including the way we connect and keep in touch. Whilst physically apart, it’s harder to check in on friends and that’s why R U OK day this year is more important than ever. It’s a reminder to look out for friends especially during these isolating times. 

It can be difficult to start the conversation, but sometimes it’s the comfort and knowledge that someone is willing to listen that might be the nudge someone needs to open up and seek help. After all, a conversation can change a life. For more information about how to start a conversation, click here

In the spirit of checking in on our friends this R U OK Day, here are 10 ways to stay connected whilst apart: 

Write a letter 

Although this year has called for an increased use of technology, sometimes a return to old-fashioned roots can be the refreshing change that we all need. A handwritten letter is a touching thought and the surprise of receiving something in the mail, could be the ‘pick me up’ a friend may need. 

Netflix party 

This Google Chrome extension has single-handedly entertained many late-night catchups with friends. It also has a chat function so that you can discuss your favourite shows or movies as you watch them simultaneously together. You can download the extension here.

Online games 

These games are great for keeping in touch with multiple friends and are most effective with at least 4 people. Here are some links to kick-start your games night:

Collaborate on a Spotify playlist 

Similar to the mixtapes that we could gift our friends with our favourite songs, Spotify playlists can also be a thoughtful way of staying connected through a mutual love of music. You can create a playlist full of recommendations or meaningful songs as a sentimental gift. 

Start a book club

A bit old-fashioned, I know, but reading together can be both a healing and motivating experience. Pick a book, read through it together or by yourself and then come together to discuss. You can even make it a little fancy over a virtual afternoon tea!

Start a craft together

It can be difficult to start something new alone, so why not do it with a friend. It can range from knitting to painting to gardening. Set a goal, video call through the process, and share your final product. Maybe you can even exchange your work once lockdown is over. 

Virtual gym

Stay active together! It can be difficult to stick to a new exercise routine by yourself. Getting a virtual gym buddy might just be the motivation we all need. 

You can try a 2 week challenge, or workout to your favourite songs.

Livestream baking session

After exercising, you probably would have worked up an appetite. Treat yourself with a fun baking session. Find a recipe, share it, and bake together over a video call. The best thing is at the end, you will both have a delicious treat to feast on.

Here are some baking blogs to kickstart your sugar high:

Send a care package 

A personalised care package can be just the ‘pick me up’ a friend is looking for. It doesn’t have to be anything too fancy but some chocolate, tea and a book can go a long way. There are a lot of websites with different care packages that are quite expensive. A personalised care package is not only cheaper but a lot more meaningful.

Check out suggestions of what to include here.

Dinner dates 

It seems like it’ll be a while till we can all enjoy a meal out together so why not have a virtual dinner date. It’s not the same experience but why not make it extra-special by surprising your friend with UberEats!

Hopefully the above suggestions will bring some fun and healing to your day! These activities might also be a good time to check in on friends and ask the question “R U OK?”. In these uncertain times, remember to look out for each other and take care of yourself!