Listen

By Tracy Nguyen

We have all learnt the importance of listening in medicine, as it is one of the core skills required to build rapport and ensure optimal communication between doctors and patients. It is universally known that poor listening can lead to ineffective communication and subsequently unintentional medical errors. Ironically, while we all try our best to listen to our patients in our everyday practice, not all of us make an effort to listen and be kind to ourselves the way we do to our patients, and to other people.  

But why do we need to listen to ourselves?

We listen to others to obtain information so that we can understand and empathise; because we can’t assume what they think and how they feel otherwise. By that logic, shouldn’t we have the ability to understand exactly what we want personally and how we feel? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. We are not that good at understanding ourselves. If we pay more attention to our inner voice, there would be times where we realise how highly self-critical we are, especially when we notice a flaw in ourselves. By deeply listening to ourselves, we can recognise how many times a day we can often beat ourselves up over even a small mistake we have made during the day. We’d be able to notice how unforgiving we are to ourselves, the way we would never be to others. By mindfully listening to ourselves, we’d notice how we are actually feeling at the moment, whether that be tired after a long busy day, stressed and anxious about the upcoming exams or just feeling really down and isolated in these really difficult and uncertain times.

Thus, from today onwards, not only should we practice actively listening to our patients and friends, we should also learn to be a good listener to ourselves. Make an effort to look out for that inner voice inside our head and try to replace that harsh voice with a kinder, softer one. The thought of practicing mindfulness and listening to our inner voice everyday may seem difficult but personally, I’ve personally found it a useful tool and habit for whenever I’m stressed, guilty or disappointed at myself.

Deep listening may simply mean carefully paying attention to how we are feeling without making any judgements and putting that feeling into words or writing it down on a piece of paper. Imagine we are actually listening to another person and be mindful of the way we treat ourselves – is this how we would normally treat others? During times of emotional distress, ask ourselves what we actually need in order to be calm and to ease that emotional burden in our mind.

I usually find a short tea break from study or a call to my mom or a close friend helpful at the end of a long tiring day, especially during this COVID period with a higher level of stress and uncertainty. And most importantly, no matter what happens, do not forget to always be patient (even if we all hope to be a doctor 😊 ), understanding and kind, because we need to know how to listen and love ourselves first before we can do that to anyone else. 

Coping with Exams During COVID

By Nicholas Wilkes

With exams on the horizon, many of us may be feeling overwhelmed with how much work we still need to do and how little time there is to do it with all the other personal and professional responsibilities in our day to day lives. When feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it can be tough to know where to even get started on work. Instead, it’s easy to find ourselves lamenting that we didn’t start earlier or spent too much time studying something “low yield” that may not come up on the exam. 

Many of us may normally rely on calling friends or studying with friends in the library in order to provide support during stressful times, and to structure our days, however for many of us now it’s hard to keep those habits when you may not be able to see them in person. Keeping all this in mind, it has never been more important to remember to take care of yourself and maintain those connections, albeit in the form of a Zoom call study session instead of an in-person study session in Matheson.

While everyone has their own ways to study, not forgetting to have a healthy routine and separating work from personal time is important to stay on top of things and feel more satisfied with the work you have done. Setting a designated study area (ideally out of your bedroom) with fixed working hours (as if you were going to hospital or university) with breaks where you can exercise, cook something new or just call friends and family to vent about a long week can help to prevent feeling too overwhelmed and carrying over that stress from working to your down time.

There may be no one-size-fits-all solution that can be condensed into a wellness article, and we may all have different problems or concerns, whether that be worrying about whether you’ll ever examine a newborn and experience all that med school can offer whilst being off placement, or spending 40+ hours a week on placement wondering if your Z score will handle less revision time than your peers. However, keep in mind that we are all in these uncertain times together and no matter your situation, finding the time to take care of yourself has never been more important. Whether it be from a friend, parent or GP/counsellor, make sure you’re reaching out if you need help.

Below are some academic resources and study tools which will hopefully make your life easier:

Phone counselling service @ Monash

Call 1300 788 336 [1300 STUDENT]

Telephone counselling open 24 hours.

  • From Malaysia: 1800 818 356 (toll free)
  • From Italy: 800 791 847 (toll free)
  • From elsewhere: Students +61 2 8295 2917 | Staff +61 2 8295 2292

More information can be found here.

Or contact MUMUS Community and Wellbeing

You will never be successful if you have a mental illness

By Molly Maxwell

‘You will never be successful if you have a mental illness’. 

This was a lie that I had unknowingly been telling myself for the 5 years.

After a significant battle with mental illness in year 12, the trajectory of my life felt like it had changed forever, and I felt like I had made it out of school by the skin of my teeth. So I started on my daunting journey of leaving my depressive episode behind. In the years following, I was able to recover and put my past behind me. I felt well enough to pursue a science degree in the hopes that I could maybe…possibly… probably not, but maybe… get into medical school one day. I worked hard to relearn how to function and focus and learn and in December of 2019 my dream was realised when my frantic refreshing of the application portal yielded a successful result.

I immediately started bawling my eyes out, not because I was happy or relieved but because in that moment I had finally proved to everyone around me and myself that I was not a failure and that I was normal and that I was no longer the sad teenager who would never amount to anything.

But BOY  could I not have been more wrong. It took the first year of medical school and the wondrous quandaries that a global pandemic presents to show me that this was not at all the case.

Throughout the last 5 years, I put so much pressure on myself to remove my identity from that of the depressed teenager that I failed to let myself actually address the mental challenges that I continued to face. Looking back now, the obviousness of how my mental illness affected me is almost comedic, but my desire to be normal and my “high-functioning” outer shell prevented others and myself from noticing just how much I was struggling. In early lockdown, I began to spend hours each day ruminating on anxious thoughts that consumed me and once again took away my ability to focus, and learn, and care about almost anything; thoughts that couldn’t be brushed off as uni stress or friendship issues anymore.

Over the years, issues like this had occasionally seeped out. Times of high stress and traumatic events would cause my brain to overflow where I felt like I desperately needed help, but every time I could never follow through. This was all because subconsciously, I had believed that if I couldn’t get into medicine without help, I didn’t deserve to be there at all.

As I sat in isolation, I realised that not only was my mental illness becoming all-consuming but my inability to treat the problems that I was having for fear of never making it as a doctor may actually make me unwell enough to fail medical school and ironically, not become a doctor. So finally, I got help. I relinquished my internalised stigma towards mental health and medication and for the first time in my living memory I finally experienced not having every thought and action derived from some part of my illness. It was not easy but it was worth it and my only regret was that I hadn’t done it sooner.

I write this in the hopes that someone, maybe you, will read this and take this as a sign that you do DESERVE help. That help will not make you less successful or whole or talented or any number of the wonderful things that you likely are. Treat yourself how you would treat the ones you love the most and together we can begin to change the stigma of mental health in medicine.

Phone counselling service @ Monash

Call 1300 788 336 [1300 STUDENT]

Telephone counselling open 24 hours.

  • From Malaysia: 1800 818 356 (toll free)
  • From Italy: 800 791 847 (toll free)
  • From elsewhere: Students +61 2 8295 2917 | Staff +61 2 8295 2292

More information can be found here.

Or contact MUMUS Community and Wellbeing