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.
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.