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:

The 5 Hardest Things About Studying Medicine

  1. No rest for the wicked! As a medical student, you will have one of the densest timetables at your university. At Cambridge, while some friends may have 2-3 hours of lectures a week, you can easily have double that in day, not to mention the supervisions, reading, and essays that also need to be completed. You can often feel like you’re missing out on some of the social events, that most of your friends have time to do!
  2. When studying medicine, it’s too easy to feel guilty when taking time off; there’s always a new disease you could look up, another practical skill you could polish. When there’s a never-ending list of skills and knowledge you need to acquire, it can often feel like doing anything other than work is slacking. Creating a work-life balance is incredibly difficult mentally, even is you have set personal time aside.
  3. Medicine, while a science, can also be incredibly emotional. Often you are dealing with, not only sick (or even dying) patients, but their family and friends. Even outside of the hospital, often we may have lectures that may strike a chord, particularly if you are dealing with things in your personal life. Having to remain strong, in what may be an emotionally draining setting, requires a hell of a lot of resilience!
  4. Competition! While I love my medic friends, sometimes it can feel as if we are all competing against each other; for a better exam result, for a place on paper, or the attention of a consultant. This can sometimes make it hard to completely relax around these friends, and be open about times that you are struggling, or even about success!!
  5. The uncertainty: in the current, British, political climate, the future of the NHS is not very clear. As medical students, this uncertainty about what the future holds for us, and for our patients, can be a great concern. Attitudes of hospital staff, and those they treat, have been affected by the instability and disorganisation of the NHS, and lack of support by the government, and this can sometimes make it a difficult environment to work in.


However, do not let this put you off! There are plenty of reasons to love and appreciate medical school, and my top 5 will be revealed in my next blog post!

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!