Medical School is an incredibly challenging and isolating experience. There are very few people who know what you are going through and even fewer who can give you incisive advice on dealing with the challenges that come with this journey. While I am in no position to give advice, as I am a struggling second year medical student myself, I feel like I have learnt a trick or two since being placed in a high-stress environment. I will tell you how self-care changed the game for me. I now feel like I can play the game instead of being played by the game.
In college, I would vomit before every exam. Talk about psychosomatic! It was debilitating and honestly kind of embarrassing that something that was so casual for everyone else felt like a completely devastating experience for me – every single time. I was told I would eventually get used to it. Desensitization from years of test taking would rip the anxiety out of me and cast it away! After eight years of school and hundreds of tests later, I still feel the nausea, but I’m not hurling up my insides any more!
The third decade of the 21st century has just kicked off. The world is more reliant on research than it ever was. With popular myths being debunked with science day in and day out and medical literature being only a few clicks away, the world is finally letting intellectual honesty prevail… or one would think so. Since information is more easily accessible than it ever has been, it only makes sense that people will be making informed decisions regarding basic healthcare, right? Surprisingly, facts beg to differ.
“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.’’
The French philosopher, Voltaire, was never more right than when he realized that humans have a very basic carnal need that can never be ignored; the need to worship. Throughout the course of history, mankind has been deeply invested in the worship of all different sorts and forms. Celestial bodies, forces of nature, a myriad of different deities and finally the Abrahamic God, to name a few. Regardless of what people believe in, the crux of the matter is that they believe. They believe in a certain anchor that is strong enough to breathe meaning into their existence and provide them with that much-needed sense of purpose.
The year is 2020 and the world has gone haywire. From the deadly coronavirus being unleashed across the globe to killer hornets flying over the US, one might think that the world must have changed forever. But even at the heart of a changed world, political correctness remains unchanged. The use of the wrong words can land one in a very precarious situation; however, refusing to address the dark side of the moon is just as heinous (if not more) a crime as risking offending someone.
Have you ever seen one of your medical student friends do a suture or delicate procedure, and simply been amazed that they had never done it before? Or maybe is there just that one friend who manages to hear all of the murmurs and crackles that you can’t? Or that one dude who could recreate every anatomical diagram in the lecture slides while you sat and struggled to put together a line diagram of the heart (and then gave up and drew either a box with four chambers or straight-up drew a cartoon-style love heart)?
Imagine a 5-year-old driving a car on an icy, sloppy, mountain…during an avalanche. Well, that was me years ago, 2 months into med school. Thinking I would pass exams with the same effort I had put into schoolwork previously, I quickly realized that I was setting myself up for failure. In the midst of an avalanche, I had to readjust and integrate hard-to-swallow truths into my life. Some of them came naturally, and some, I had to learn the hard way. Here are a few:
Sleep and Success; two words we don’t often see put together yet they essentially complete one another. Sleep promotes memory and cognition, boosts our immune system, improves our physical and mental health, helps us feel more energized, and above all helps us prosper throughout the upcoming day.
In our busy, fast-paced era, sleep tends to be overlooked in relation to all our other responsibilities. Exams coming up? Let’s pull some all-nighters to cram. A big project around the corner? Let’s work non-stop for the next few days. Howbeit, we don’t see how these actions could be detrimental to our performance and overall well-being.
When people ask you what you do, no doubt you eagerly tell them that you’re a medical student and point out your ever-growing under-eye bags to emphasize the notion. Trust me, I’m guilty of it too. Going into medicine is a sacrifice. It’s a testament of time, money, patience, relationships, and so much more. I have never been so immersed with medicine and the whole community until I entered medical school, and now sometimes I feel like I’m in this weird hole of unending medical memes, and family and friends asking undulating waves of medically-related questions whenever they see me. I’m also guilty of making medicine all that I talk about because I have engaged myself into that world and turned it into this giant identity that looms over me that I too often feel is all people think about when they look at me.