How to Succeed in Study

Mental Health, Tips and Advice

It’s week 11, SWOT VAC and exams are upon us and we like to think we look as cute as those little puppies do when they study! The weather is about as turbulent as we feel ourselves right now and we can’t decide what’s worse – the sun shining outside while we’re stuck reading Talley and O’Connor, or the rain and wind that so conveniently whips us just as we step outside for a well deserved break! It’s tough, we know, but don’t worry! We’ve got your back! Here are a few tips and tricks to help you get through the next few weeks:

  1.   Keep in mind the bigger picture

Take a step back and see where your stressor fits in the big picture. Sometimes not being able to memorise all the branches of the maxillary artery isn’t something worth stressing over (unless you’re a maxillofacial surgeon). Which brings us to…

  1.   Proportionality

As you’ve probably heard in Craig Hassed’s lectures, some stress is okay and in fact helps us perform. You just need to keep in mind the proportion of stress; stress more when it actually matters, but always aim for that “peak performance” area on the Hassed curve of life!

  1.   Blame

If (or perhaps when) you feel that you haven’t studied enough and that you should have studied more during the year, remember that blaming yourself, or anyone else, isn’t going to help the situation. What’s done is done, and you’re just going to make yourself feel worse and make it even harder to motivate yourself to study. The key is to keep a positive attitude, keep focused, and not just give up on studying just because you don’t think you’ll pass. Instead, do something productive and….

  1.   Plan ahead

Sometimes, just laying out what revision needs to be done in the coming weeks can help make that mountain into a mole hill. For some people that means making a list of topics you want to revisit, for some it’s drawing outa  fully fledged timetable. Make sure you stick to #1 and the bigger picture – it’s worth sacrificing an hour of studying the lumbosacral plexus (#notexaminable) for an hour of relaxing, talking to your friends, or doing something else you enjoy to help keep you balance. Which leads us to…

  1.   Keep healthy

Simple things like eating or sleeping (yes, that elusive physiological state lecturers talk about all the time!) are way more important than trying to remember every step of the Krebs cycle. In fact, getting a good night sleep instead of late-night cramming (not that you need to, since you planned ahead during step 4) will help you remember all that you’ve studied AND ensure you’re better prepared for tomorrow’s study session!

  1.    Different learning styles

Don’t be afraid to change your study techniques if they’re no longer working for your learning style. If you don’t know what learning style suits you, try finding out here: http://www.engr.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/ilsweb.html. And don’t forget, it’s not too late to try something new! Switch it up from writing out notes to maybe flashcards on Quizlet? Or practice explaining concepts to your friends in a study group, or drawing out pathways. There will be something that works best for you, and the key is to optimise YOUR understanding and YOUR learning, not sticking to some notion of what studying looks like if it isn’t working.

7. Perspective

Remember, that this is just one exam. It is not the make or break of your career. It does not reflect or define who you are. It definitely does not reflect how good a doctor you’ll be. No patient will ever care what marks you got in med school. Some of the best, most accomplished doctors out there have done poorly, possibly even failed an exam here or there. We’re all human, and so long as you’re trying your best, that’s all anyone can ask of you and you should be pretty happy with that.

When Patients Die

Being A Doctor, Food For Thought, Mental Health, Tips and Advice

Having a patient die is something that is expected to happen to all medical students and junior doctors, but how are we supposed to cope when showing emotion can often be seen as a weakness in the hospital?

Our friends over at bloodbonesandbodies examine what it’s like for medical students dealing with when patients pass away and preparing for when they will have to be , and ways we can try make it easier to cope with such a potentially disturbing, shocking experience, given the lack of education and awareness around the topic. See what they have to say over here.

Image courtesy of bloodbonesandbodies

R U OK?

Food For Thought, Mental Health, Tips and Advice

 

Ever been totally overwhelmed? Upset, angry, frustrated, annoyed? Ever wanted to scream or cry or both, but you just couldn’t? Ever felt like you couldn’t possibly keep on the way you were but you had to? Ever felt like if you just get those feelings out, you’d be ok?  Ever wished you had someone to talk to, but you were always afraid of being judged, being a burden, being a party pooper?

Of course you have. We all have. Some of us to a greater extent than others. And while it’s often a totally normal part of life, sometimes it doesn’t go away and get better. It escalates and escalates, and without realising it you’re on a downward spiral with no idea how to get yourself out. If only someone could help. Could reach out and give that you that support to pull yourself back up. If only some one asked you, “are you ok?”

Tomorrow is R U OK? Day, a day all about remembering to reach out to each other, to support and look after each other, and not be afraid to approach someone you’re worried about. A lot of people will think “well it’s not my place, I don’t know them that well, surely someone else is a better person for the job. They probably wouldn’t want to talk to me about how they’re going, what good can I do?” Honestly? A hell of a lot.

Feeling like you belong, feeling connected and supported is half the battle won in many mental health issues. And simple, day to day things, like listening and being inclusive and noticing when someone isn’t quite themselves. And when you do notice that something is up, not being afraid to genuinely ask the person you’re worried about if they’re ok. They might not have even really realised how not ok they were until someone pulls them aside, sits them down, and expresses concern.

It’s much more than just laughing as you ask your friends if they’re ok while you’re digging in to whatever morning tea or BBQ your uni/school/workplace has put on for the event. It’s more than just going through the motions, and it’s definitely more than just one day a year. It’s taking on the responsibility of finding out if someone is need of help, and being ready to support them in getting that help. So it’s understandable that you might not feel ready to do that for someone you don’t know very well, but you can very easily bring it to the attention of someone who is better suited to approach the person.

If we can foster this idea of “togetherness”, foster a culture of caring about each other day to day, foster the idea that mental health isn’t taboo and we CAN talk about it, slowly with time it’ll become easier. Easier to ask for help, easier to recognise when someone might need help, and we might not even need events like R U OK? Day, because it won’t be a novelty anymore. It’ll be a habit.

Keeping Mental Health a Priority

Mental Health, Tips and Advice

As we head towards the pointy end of the year, mental health tends to drop down our priority lists, when really it’s most important around this time!!

Here are some ways to keep aware and keep on top of it all, with some of the support services available around Monash Uni, and an online module, “Changing Minds”, which is basically a one-hour mini Mental Health First Aid-like set up!

Check it out:

http://moodle.vle.monash.edu/course/view.php?id=26428

 

The Little Things

Food For Thought, Mental Health, Tips and Advice

You’ve just come back home from a full day of lectures and you’re dead tired. No one else seems to have noticed though – you’ve become quite good at putting up that mask. Exams are a few weeks away and you need to study, but there’s also that assignment you need to finish by the weekend. But hang on, your colleague on one of the committees you volunteer for has just asked you to do a job for them because they can’t anymore. Arghhhhh!!

Sound familiar? There’s no doubt that life as a medical student can be stressful. We’ve all been though it – travelling to and from uni/placements, doing assignments, studying for exams, keeping up with part-time jobs, not to mention the endless extracurricular activities medical students also seem to participate in.

So it’s inevitable that there will be times where everything will be a bit too much, where everything and everyone will seem to be conspiring against you. And that’s when the cracks that you’ve kept so well hidden may start showing, to the point where it can start affecting you and in turn, others as well.

So how do we stop those cracks in their tracks? Or perhaps not even allow the cracks to appear in the first place?

 

1) Step back for a moment

Take a deep breath and remove yourself from the situation for just a minute. It can be easy to vent your anger and frustration on others, but clearly, there is a reason why your committee colleague (or whoever it might be in your case) is acting the way they are. And very often it’s a good reason – they may well be in a very similar position to the one you’re in.

Taking the time to step back for a second and consider the issue from someone else’s point of view can be hard, but is so important in coming to terms with why things have turned out the way they have. You may also find the reflection to have a calming effect, allowing you to refocus and let rationality take its course.

 

2) Communicate

Now that you’re in a better frame of mind, you can go about ameliorating the situation, and it all starts with the simplest of actions – a conversation. If the issue is over a group member not doing their task in an assignment, talk to that member. If you want to just let things out, talk to a friend, family member, or anyone you can trust.

Yes, it can be incredibly difficult to speak up about your problems when everyone seems to be sailing so smoothly. Keyword there is ‘seems’ – the medical student is a very peculiar breed, and though they maintain a brave face, I can assure you that EVERYONE knows what it’s like to struggle.

This false bravado and the stigma attached to showing vulnerability in the medical profession is certainly something we must improve in order to promote a more supportive student culture, one where there doesn’t have to be an onus on a struggling individual to find the help they need all on their own.

However, the fact remains that keeping your struggles to yourself is just like putting yourself in a pressure cooker. Eventually it’ll get to a stage where it all just boils over and no one wants that to happen. So, I implore you to talk to somebody, anybody. Because there will ALWAYS be someone to listen.

 

3) Put things in perspective

Your problems are important and they are real. But in the end, understanding that whatever happens there’s still going to be a tomorrow and that there’s always light at the end of the tunnel can help appease those negative thoughts racing through your mind. For some, it’s easier said than done, and if you find that you can’t see that light no matter how hard your try, then you must seek appropriate help.

As soon-to-be doctors, we’re going to be responsible for the lives of patients whilst also juggling many other roles. It sounds scary, but by employing these simple actions, you’ll hopefully be able to avoid some sticky situations and instead create positive experiences and relationships. Because even the little things can go a long way.

Stress Less Salad

Recipes and Food, Uncategorized

The start of semester two is always a little tough. The summer holidays are depressingly far away, but at the same time, those end-of-year exams are way too close for comfort. Maybe you’ve just started university this year and you’re still navigating the transition, or maybe the thought of 10-hour lecture days after mid-year break is filling you with dread. Maybe you’ve just moved out of home, and into the scary and perplexing world of cooking and laundry and rent.

Never fear – whatever it is that’s giving you grief, this scientifically proven* stress-less salad is sure to calm and re-focus your mind and body. You might also learn a thing or two about neurotransmitters.

*based on this article (link: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20909426_2,00.html) that I read online yesterday, and also the fact that I ate this salad for lunch and I feel really good right now.

 

Ingredients

  1. Two handfuls of baby spinach

Any green leafy vegetables contain folate, which makes dopamine, a pleasure-inducing neurotransmitter. Leafy greens also contain magnesium, which has a role in regulating emotions.

  1. A small handful of blueberries

Slightly expensive for a broke med student, but packed full of antioxidants and also delicious, so treat yourself a little! You can also use dried blueberries (or cranberries) – they’re sweeter and last longer in your pantry.

  1. Half a can of mixed beans

High-protein foods such as beans contain tryptophan, which helps produce serotonin, another neurotransmitter that regulates hunger and feelings of happiness and well-being. Beans are also great for your cardiovascular health, and are an excellent source of slow-release energy.

  1. Some crushed pistachios

You only need to buy a few of these from the bulk foods section of the supermarket. Pistachios are thought to reduce acute stress by lowering blood pressure and heart rate. Take them out of their shells, wrap them in some glad wrap or a tea towel and beat them with a moderately heavy object to crush (this act in itself can be stress-relieving). Alternatively, you can use any other nut or seed.

  1. Quarter of an avocado

The good fats will satisfy your lunchtime hunger and conjure up comforting memories of holiday brunches.

  1. Dressing

You can easily whip up a vinaigrette dressing by putting 2 parts olive oil and 1 part vinegar in a bowl, plus some salt and pepper. Beat vigorously to combine (or use a salad shaker if you’re fancy).

 

Method

Toss everything together in a big bowl. Put the avocado in last so it doesn’t become squashed and coat everything in an unappetising green-brown goop.
That’s it! Enjoy!

Baked Oatmeal Cupcakes

Recipes and Food, Tips and Advice, Uncategorized

Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie, http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2013/01/08/breakfast-oatmeal-cupcakes-to-go/

Stayed up late trying to draw out those metabolism pathways? Slept through your alarm? Running so late you barely have time to get dressed and brush your teeth, let alone eat breakfast? We know the feeling! But getting a nutritious breakfast in you before those early morning lectures is super important! These are perfect to whip up on a Sunday so that your breakfast-to-go is sorted on those hectic mornings!

Time: 25 min. Makes: 24-25 cupcakes.

Ingredients

  •      5 cups rolled oats
  •      2.5 cups mashed banana (measure once mashed)
  •      1 tsp salt
  •      Sweetener of choice (sugar, honey, agave) – add to taste.
  •      2.5 cups water
  •      ¼ cup + 1 Tbsp oil (coconut, vegetable, whatever  you choose)
  •      2.5 tsp vanilla extract
  •      Optional add-ins: mini chocolate chips, cinnamon, shredded coconut, chopped walnuts or almonds, dried fruit.

Method

  •      Preheat oven to 190°C, line 25 cupcake tins
  •      In a large mixing bowl combine all dry ingredients.
  •      In a separate bowl, combine and stir all wet ingredients (including banana).
  •      Mix two bowls together, pour into cupcake liners.
  •      Bake for 20 minutes.
  •      You can eat them straight away, or freeze and reheat as needed on those busy mornings!

100 Happy Days: A Review of Sorts

Mental Health, Technology

So this was a social media craze a while back – not so relevant now, but as I reach the end of my life as a medical student and look back on the challenges and the highlights, it definitely came to mind.

For those of you who haven’t come across it, the challenge is to have #100HappyDays, in that the goal is to try and find one thing to be happy for each day for 100 consecutive days. And document it by posting about it on your preferred social media platform. You can read more about the idea here – I’m sure the founders will be able to explain it much better than I can!

Like all things on the Internet, it had its supporters and it had its haters.

A lot of people really got into it and loved sharing their special moments with everyone and seeing other people’s’. They connected with the idea of taking time out to just appreciate something and let that appreciation improve their mood.

Others, like this guy, weren’t so keen. And I see his point. It does have a lot of potential to be attention-seeking, quite “narcissistic” and contribute to this fake image of success that gets promoted on social media and eventually makes people feel like they’re not having as much fun as everyone else. Which is bad, it puts people in a bad place and is no good!

So how does it balance out? Is it a good idea or isn’t it?

I’m in no position to declare #100HappyDays a good or bad thing. What I can do, though, is talk about my experience with it. #100HappyDays featured around the middle of my meddie-life, when I was finding things quite difficult and very much wanting to just pack up, call it a day and go home. It wasn’t so much the ‘busy-ness’ of life that the 100 Happy Days website talks about, as much as the monotonous, grey situation that it was. I think that’s the best way to describe it. Life was a bit grey (it did not help that Melbourne in winter is literally grey as well!), and 100 Happy Days was very, well, yellow. Refreshing and bright.

Now, Delegato is quite right in his Thought Catalog piece – a lot of the posts I made were very boring! I remember posting about what I thought was a cute teapot at a café (it was white with a crack in it?), or beating my personal best on a run by about a minute (which was probably due to error on my phone’s GPS) or eating things which were very plain and boring (I’m sorry, but yoghurt, blueberries and a TimTam chucked into a bowl is NOT worth a photo!)

But it helped. I sound like a parrot, but honestly, taking time out to think about something that made you smile, to document it, to be able to look back on it in the future when you’re feeling glum – it inexplicably did put me in a better mood.

One of the criticisms of the concept is that it’s all a bit fake and temporary. A bandaid solution, Day 101 we’re back to unhappy. But I don’t think it has to be that way. I think it’s about making happy a habit. The default. It’s 100% ok to not be happy! To get upset and angry and disappointed and all the million combinations of those emotions. It’s healthy and necessary even! But slowly moving your baseline up from neutral to slightly positive helps you cope with those nasty lows, and helps you enjoy an average day much more than you would have otherwise. Plus, actively seeking out things that make you happy means you’re actively seeking out things that are good for you – people, places, experiences that put you in a better mood and frame of mind. It’s not about having a picture-perfect life, but about finding and actively incorporating happiness in the day-to-day. When that becomes a habit – and 100 days is a long time, plenty of time to start forming a new habit! – I think you definitely develop some tools and skills to help you get that point.

I mean, it’s not for everyone, I have a few friends who started but then found it seemed a bit pointless and that they didn’t need it or it wasn’t working for them.  But for anyone even remotely interested, I would 10/10 recommend giving it a go. If nothing, it’s fun and the camera on your phone certainly gets a good workout!

Get a GP 2.0 – Why YOU should get a GP!

Mental Health, Tips and Advice

https://www.facebook.com/events/1556074678029345/

In a profession where we spend our lives looking after people, it’s ironic that we don’t pay enough attention to our own health. Perhaps the most important step you can take to maintaining good health is getting yourself a GP. Why?

1. Your GP is your insurance policy

Unfortunately we don’t get to choose when we get sick. It’s not really something you can schedule on your Google Calendar with a starting and finishing time. Illness is unpredictable and strikes when you least expect it. Or worse, it creeps up on you and by the time you realise you are unwell, damage has been done to your academic performance and your personal life. Being connected with a GP when you’re well is your insurance policy, it ensures you have somebody who understands you and knows your history when you become unwell.

2. Doctors and medical students are not great at looking after themselves

It is well established that doctors and medical students have higher rates of mental illness and suicide than the average population. While the reasons for this are not necessarily clear, we can postulate our Type A personalities, combined with a high stress working and studying environment, along with some lack of self-care sprinkled on top provide a deadly recipe. We work hard, play hard and don’t sleep much in the process, or eat, or exercise. If there is somebody well-placed to counsel and guide you towards better self-care, it is not your mother, it is not your bodybuilding housemate, and it is certainly not Ashy Bynes on Instagram. A GP can provide you with objective advice away from personal judgements of family or friends, and guide you towards making positive steps to staying healthy. If you need some counselling or psychotherapy, your GP can write you a Mental Health Care Plan, a document that provides you with ten Medicare-funded visits to a psychologist per year.

3. Self-medicating is BAD

While having a best mate’s parent or an older sibling who is a doctor means you can get your script for the contraceptive pill or some codeine for when your migraine hits without seeing a doctor, there are many reasons to avoid asking your doctor friends for favours. This practice puts the prescribing doctor at medico-legal risk, and it is not a responsible way for you to look after your own health. Most medications require some level of follow-up with a doctor. Further, it does not matter how much knowledge you have, even the most experienced doctors can make fatal mistakes when trying to self-manage and medicate. Stories of opioid or benzodiazepine abuse amongst doctors are far too common. Being well-connected with a GP means you have somebody who can manage your medications appropriately and safely, without putting yourself or others at risk.

4. Your parents or close friends can’t be your GP

One of the many perks of having a GP is having somebody who will listen non-judgementally to you as you share your embarrassing ailments. While I applaud anybody who can openly discuss their sexual life with their own parents, there is no way I would ever feel comfortable or want to put my parents through such agony, even if they were doctors. There are many other times when your parents, close friends or family members are not well-placed to listen to your personal health information. For the benefit of objectivity, medico-legal responsibilities as well as your privacy, it is absolutely essential to have somebody who is not a family member be your doctor.

So how do you find a GP who you trust?

1. Visit a GP from a long time ago who you liked.

Some of us are not well-connected with a long-term GP but rather see whoever can treat us at the nearest convenience. While I would highly recommend having ongoing contact with a single GP, GP-hopping is useful if you are testing out different GPs’ styles and practices. If there was one you struck upon who was particularly good, why not book in to see them again when you next need to see a doctor?

2. Immunisations

If you are a first year student, you have the perfect opportunity to see a doctor: you might need advice on what immunisations you need to get as you start your journey in medicine. This is your shot to get to know a GP. Alternatively, it is flu shot season, take the opportunity!

3. Check yourself

Chances are, if you are a young person over the age of 18 it is more likely than not that you have been sexually active (though it is perfectly ok if you have not!). The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends that people between the age of 15 and 30 should have a yearly chlamydia screen, and depending on your sexual practices it may be in your interests to be checked for other sexually transmitted infections. There is nothing like the relief of a negative result, and the most common STIs easily treated with a short course of antibiotics. If you plan to encourage your patients to get themselves checked, you better practise what you preach.

4. Certificates of absence

Flu season is well and truly on its way – you fall ill, you might need a certificate of absence to hand to the university. Use the opportunity to get to know a new GP if you are looking for one, or return to one who you’ve been to previously.

So where do I find a GP?

Sometimes, admittedly, finances are a barrier for students. There are many GPs who are happy to bulk bill medical students as an extension of the doctor-doctor professional courtesy, but some may not. Lucky for you, MUMUS has prepared a list of bulk-billing services for medical students across Victoria. In most urban areas there are clinics with GPs who bulk bill every patient, and universities often run bulk billing clinics for students. In rural areas, while it is best not to see your own supervising GP, they may be able to connect you with someone who might be able to bulk bill you.

Happy GP hunting!

Overnight Oatmeal

Recipes and Food

Often the mornings are a bit of a rush and breakfast can often be missed, even though we all know that having a healthy, nutritious breakfast is important to have an energetic and bright start to the day. Overnight oatmeal is a super easy way to prepare breakfast in advance so that when the morning comes and time is pressing, you can just grab a delicious, fast, homemade meal and head out the door.  This basic oatmeal recipe can be spiced up in 5 different ways, shown below – 1 for each day of the week, and is a great way to start your day on a positive and tasty note!

Thanks http://thedomesticgeek.com/archives/441 for this recipe!

For the basic oatmeal:

1/3 cup rolled oats

1 tbsp chia seeds

¼ cup Greek yogurt

¼ – ½ cup almond milk (soy, hemp, rice or dairy work too)

Carrot Cake

¼ cup carrot, shredded

1 tbsp maple syrup

2 tbsp pecan, chopped (optional)

¼ tsp cinnamon

Blueberry Lemon

1 tbsp blueberry jam

½ tsp lemon rind

¼ tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup blueberry

Chocolate Strawberry

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp cocoa powder

1 tbsp chocolate, shavings

¼ cup strawberries, hulled and sliced

Banana Nut

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp natural nut butter

2 tbsp walnuts, chopped (optional)

½ banana, sliced

Pina Colada

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp coconut, shredded

1 tbsp almonds, slivered

¼ cup pineapple, diced

Combine all of the ingredients in a mason jar.

Add less milk or more milk based on how thick you prefer your oatmeal.

Shake well and refrigerate overnight.

Enjoy it cold, straight from the fridge or heat it up for a healthy, hot breakfast!