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!

Work Experience For Medical School?! What You Actually Need To Know!

Hello hello!

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I get a lot of questions about the sort of work experience that is necessary to help build a successful medical school application. There are a variety of different ways that you can prove a commitment to medicine and science, and the development of characteristics necessary to make a good doctor. Below are a few ideas that I think could help you with this, and certainly helped with my application!

1. Hospital work: This is fairly obvious, but it is important to try and get some sort of shadowing experience in a hospital. Particularly because, when applying for a degree that can last up to 6 years, it’s important to prove to yourself, and to the universities you’re are applying to, that you understand what you are committing to. During your time in a hospital, try to get some exposure to as many different specialities as possible, so you can get some idea of the variety within medicine.

2. Volunteering: Volunteering at somewhere like an old people’s home, or a hospice, is a great way of demonstrating you possess the empathy and selflessness needed to be a good doctor. These are great places to gain experience, as you are often given a lot more responsibility, and there is more scope for long term involvement; I volunteered at a local home for two years.

3. Tutoring/mentoring: Leadership, reliability and a passion for education, are characteristics expected of a doctor, and can be displayed by taking it upon yourself to teach younger students. It’s a great way of showing your commitment to helping others, and ability to undertake responsibility, while making a little money as well!

4. Research: When applying to a university that offers an intercalated medical degree, it’s important to show a dedication to science. A great way of doing this, is to get involved with some research. You can do this by contacting professors, or researchers, at local universities, involved in areas you are interested in. I shadowed a PhD student, working in cognitive neuroscience, over one on my summer holidays, and really enjoyed the experience.

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This may seem like a long list, but do not worry if you feel like you can’t manage everything! So long as you feel that your extra-curricular activities show that you are developing the skills and characteristics that will help you be a good doctor, you’re on the right track!

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!

Frequently Asked Questions!

Hi Guys, This video is collection of a few of the questions that I get asked regularly, about being a medical student, at the University of Cambridge. I thought it would be more efficient to answer them in one go, instead of sending the same reply individually. Hopefully this is useful, if there are any questions I’ve missed out, post them below!

My Favourite Places In Cambridge

In this video, I take you around my favorite places in Cambridge; the places I go to when I want to wind down, and forget about all of the work I have to do!

  1. St John’s College: This is the college I am at! I’ve never quite gotten over how beautiful it is, and I’ve been here for almost 5 years.
  2. The market: I’ve always loved the market, particularly the food stalls. In a city as small as Cambridge, I’m very luck to have access to fresh food, and produce, from all over the world. My favorites are the falafel stand and, of course, the Nigerian food stall.
  3. The Botanic Gardens are just so stunning. Even in the winter, there is still such a bright mixture of different plants, flowers and trees. I’m always amazed at the ability of the gardeners here to grow such diverse and tropical plants, in England, of all places.
  4. The Fitzwilliam Museum is one of my favourite places to just wander, and waste a few hours. They also hold great events, such as ‘Love After Dark’, where you can spend the evening amongst amazing works of art.

I hope you found this video fun, and got an insight into the world of Cambridge, outside of lecture theaters. Let me know if you’ve been to visit, and the different places that you loved!

Coping With Disappointment and Failure | My Experience As A Cambridge Medical Student

Hi Guys,

This video is about how I’ve dealt with failure and disappointment. These are inevitable events in life, especially if you chose to study a competitive subject, like medicine. Learning to bounce back from failure, and continue to progress, is incredibly important, hopefully this video can help you!

Please excuse the lighting, I’m still working on it!

If you have any questions, please comment below, and I’ll get back to you, as soon as possible!

Instagram: Instagram.com/chidera_ota
Twitter: @OtaChidera

How To Manage Stress And Anxiety | My Experience As A Medical Student

Hi guys! In the video below, I discuss some of the ways than I recognise, and manage, stress in my life. As a medical student, stress is a huge part of our degree, however it can really impact our wellbeing, as shown by the huge proportion of mental illnesses amongst medical student.

Hopefully this video can give you some insight into how I deal with this, and maybe you as well! Enjoy!

Be sure to post your tips, along with any questions and comments, below!