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.

Advertisements

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!