How to deal with stress, when you’re already anxious.

It’s a little ironic that I’m writing this now; it’s the penultimate night before my exams, and I’m desperately seeking something to distract me from my impending assessments. But I felt that, given the relationship I have with exam terms, and the toll they routinely take on my mental health, I’d speak a little bit about what I’ve learnt over time.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s the importance of your support structures. My family, friends, and boyfriend, are all aware of my exam related anxiety, which makes it so much easier for me to reach out to them when I’m stressed. From little things, like popping your favourite treats in the post, to even sitting by on FaceTime, to keep you company, and help you relax as you revise, the impact of my support system is beyond words.

I also think it’s important to be honest with those around you. There’s no shame in admitting that certain situations trigger your anxiety, so long as your clear that you’ll do you’re best to continue to work despite this. Relating to my situation specifically, telling my college that I was suffering during exam term, improved my situation tremendously; they put me in contact with a college counsellor for me to see if things were too difficult, and arranged for me to sit my exams in a smaller room separate to the large exam hall.

Now, the steps above rely little on the people around us, but it’s also important to be proactive yourself in managing your stress. It took me a very long time to realise that my anxiety, and mental health in general, were things I’d have to continuously work on. Particularly when you’re surround by people for whom ‘normal’ stress reactions require absolutely no effort, it can feel odd to take the time out to work on things that come so naturally to others; but this will make all the difference when those stressful times come. Practice mindfulness, see therapist or counsellor, take up jogging or a sport, find SOMETHING that can take you out of those awful panic-filled moments.

I hope these tips were useful, I think I’ll be doing a YouTube video on this in the future, as it is something I get a lot of questions on. Please share in the comments, if you have any tips for managing anxiety, you never know who you may help!

Medical School Interview Advice: How I Got Into Cambridge

This is a new video on some tips and tricks, that I feel helped me do well when interviewing for medical school at Cambridge University, such as:

  1. Practice, practice, practice: Interviews are very odd environments to be in, particularly after happening most of your life sat in classrooms, absorbing information. This may the first time you are asked to really debate and explain your idea s and understanding of different topics. Practising this with teachers, or other doctors, can help you formulate your own style of effectively putting across information
  2. It’s good to keep an eye on any healthcare or NHS related news, as it’s not unlikely that you may be asked about these. Bear in mind that some things may not seem specifically healthcare related, but can still be topical, e.g Brexit .

For more tips, watch the video below:

Is It Possible to Separate Medicine and Your Personal Life?

Medicine is weird in the sense that everything you learn is easily applicable to real life. Particularly with the modern day focus on ‘lifestyle’ diseases, a lot of what we learn is about how to advise others on living healthily and safely.  This can put medical professionals themselves under a lot of pressure. After all, how can we preach to others about the ‘right’ way to live, if we do not abide by those rules ourselves?

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I remember distinctly the first meeting I had with my Director of Studies, on my FIRST day at university. It was clearly explained that, while university is a great place to explore and experiment, as a medical student, I simply could not operate in the same parameters as the students around me. This is because, given the nature of my degree, and future career, the sort of mistakes my friends could easily move past, could, essentially, ruin my life.

Now this was fairly easy to ignore initially. The first few years of my degree were not different to any others; lectures and essays, with little contact with patients, or education on clinical medicine. Safe to say, I had a similar undergraduate experience to other students, had a lot of fun, made a lot of mistakes, and luckily never got into too much trouble.

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However, things changed once I started the clinical part of my degree. It was a little harder to have a guilt-free, alcohol-filled night, and then return to clinics on Monday, and advise others to abstain. I struggled to turn a blind eye to my friends’ cigarette or drug use, when I had endless teaching on just how damaging this was to their health. How could I preach about the benefits of exercise and healthy diet, when I was in such poor shape myself?

This is still something I struggle with. I am not perfect, and certainly never will be. I make active efforts to live my life in the healthiest way possible, but often fall short of the mark. And of course, when it come to my friends and family, sanctimonious lecturing on just how ‘unhealthy’ they are, probably wont go down very well. But is turning a blind eye, and accepting that my habits will never mirror my advice, the way forward?

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Is this something you’ve struggled with? How have you coped? Please let me in know, in the comments below!

The Importance of Humility

One thing that has become increasingly evident, in my time in medical school, is that I cannot survive this career if I continue to view myself as a self-sufficient island. When I started university, I came from a position of very rarely needing help, as I’m sure many medical students do. We’re often top of our class, used to puzzling out our problems by ourselves, and usually giving advice and help to others. While this success is useful for our confidence, and, of course, our success, it also feeds another, less positive part of our being, our ego. And as my mother always says, ‘Pride comes before a fall’.

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This was lesson I learned he hard way when I started university. From almost my first day at Cambridge, my journey good only be described as one thing; a struggle. Even now, in my final year, six of six, this is the still the most apt way to describe my time here. However, this is not unique. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a medical student who will describe their time at university as ‘easy’. Unfortunately, you may need to press quite hard for this information; despite medical students often struggling with the stress and pressure of their degree, we can often still remain tight lipped about how hard we find things.

However, keeping silent about our struggles can be dangerous, for us and for out patients. I’ve discussed a little before about why it’s so important, for our mental health and well being, to be open when we find things difficult. But it’s almost more important to be honest about when we feel unsure about things relating to our patients. While admitting that you aren’t’ sure about a patient’s diagnosis, or management, may hurt your ego, attempting to save your pride can be fatal. This is why humility, and the ability to ask for help, are some the most important characteristics a doctor can have.

Even now, I still have to fight the desire to smile and nod numbly, when a doctor mentions a disease or drug I’ve never heard of. But getting used to saying ‘Actually, I don’t know’ is good for me, and great for my patients.

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Let me know if this is something you’ve struggled with, or if you have any tips you have for getting over it.

Outfit:

Jacket – Primark (Similar)

Turtle-neck – Zara (Similar)

Check trousers- Mango (Sold Out)

Bag – Chanel

Trainers – Adidas

 

Promises To Myself, For My Final Year Of Medicine


This Monday I start my final year of medicine. My last year of SIX. At the beginning of each year I like to set aside some time to think about my goals for the months ahead, and this is all the more important as I enter the final stage of my education.

Firstly, my focus is going to be on my mental health. Medicine has always, and will always, be stressful, and it’s important that I really learn to deal with that, before I leave the safe space that is Cambridge, and enter the scary reality of the NHS.

I also desperately need to focus on my physical health and fitness. It’s very easy to use my workload and many commitments as an excuse for not getting to the gym, or eating out instead of making a healthy meal, and things will only get worse when my work hours increase. It’s important for me to create a routine where health and fitness are a steady part of my routine, before my foundation year starts.

However, my primary focus is going to be on ensuring that I am the best junior doctor I can be. Quite frankly, the idea of being let loose in a hospital is terrifying. I still don’t feel ready to diagnose and treat patients on my own, and, in reality, I wont be alone; I’ll always be working as part of team. But, I want to make sure that I’m an asset, as opposed to dead weight. I’m going to target most of my energy towards improving my clinical knowledge and reasoning, so I can best serve my patients when I FINALLY get that title.


What are your goals and targets for the upcoming academic year?

Staying Motivated, When You Feel Like You’re Falling Behind

So, as many of you may know, I’m in the middle of my exams, hence my noticeable absence from social media and my blog.

One of the parts I’ve really struggled with,  is motivation. I’m in my fifth year now, and though I’m near the end of my degree, I often feel a little like I’m stagnating. Most of my friends have graduated, and are fully in the swing of ‘adult life’: graduate jobs, apartments, and lives that no longer revolve around studying and exams.

Not only this, but, as a result of starting my blog, I’ve begun to spend more time on social media, and if there is ever a medium that will make you feel like your life is inadequate, social media is the one!

With time, I’ve developed a few patterns of thought, to help me deal with the feeling of being ‘left behind’; hopefully they can help you!

  1. Visualise you end goal: it’s always important to remember why it is that you’re doing, what you’re doing. It’s very easy to look at where you are now, and forget that it’s a part of a greater journey, so take the time to really think about how all of your hard work, will be worth it in the end
  2. Appreciate small goals: often when you’re surrounded by people making huge leaps, you can ignore the little achievements that you make your self. It’s important to realise when you allow others to skew your perspective, and take a moment to reset.
  3. Have a social media purge: limiting the amount of time you can spend obsessing about everyone else’s life, can often be very healthy! And when you do use social media, remember that what you see are the highlights, and not the whole picture.
  4. Plan: writing down my short, and long, term goals, is a great way of reminding you that you ARE working towards something, and highlighting your achievements. Ticking things of lists always makes me feel accomplished!

Hopefully these tips help you, the way they have helped me! I hope you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out my others, and comment below with any tips you have.