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.

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Blue Week is here!

C&W Events, Mental Health, Uncategorized

As the end of the year creeps up on us, stress runs high for medical students – exams beckon, and some of us prepare for internship, thrust into the real world of being doctors. Now more than ever, it’s important to keep our mental health in line, and that’s why we have a fantastic Blue Week lined up here at C&W!

I’m sure you’ve all heard that this year we are supporting Berry Street and Lifeline, which are names that may have been dropped in conversation passing by, but what exactly is our money going towards?

Established in 1877, Berry Street is Victoria’s largest independent child and family services organisation. They are committed to making sure that all children are nurtured growing up, can feel safe and work towards a bright future. They focus on strengthening family relationships, and help victims of trauma and abuse in their recovery. Last year, Berry Street helped around 16,000 disadvantaged and vulnerable children, young people and families in Victoria through donations and support that we hope to contribute to this year at C&W.

Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Somewhere in Australia there is a new call to Lifeline’s crisis line (13 11 14) every minute. Calls are about suicidal thoughts or attempts, personal crises, anxiety, depression, abuse, trauma and other self-help issues. Lifeline is a national charity that relies on community support.

With that background, we encourage you all to attend our Blue Week events so we can provide support for these worthy organisations, whilst all coming together and taking care of our own mental health. The activities are well under way with our BBQ at the Clayton campus complete and Comedy Night tonight! The rest of the week is set to be a blast, so head to the MUMUS Community & Wellbeing Facebook page and check out our Cocktail Night, Sh’Bam class and Enhancing Mental Health for Medical Students talk. See you all there!

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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.

Confessions of A Slightly Off-Her- Rocker Medical Student

Mental Health, Uncategorized

Hi, my name’s Elaine and I’m a third year medical student. First off, let me just say that this isn’t going to be one of those slick and shiny pieces about how important mental health is, with well-organised paragraphs and possibly wanky language. This article is just me saying something I’ve wanted to say for a while, in a very informal way.

Medical students have crappy mental health. That’s pretty much the size of it. We all know from our first year HEP lectures that 28% of final year medical students are burnt out by mid-year*. It rarely ever seems like 28%. Most of the time, we can’t tell when our peers are struggling. This stems from two factors: we don’t want to tell our friends when we’re struggling, and we don’t really want to hear about how our friends are struggling.

We’ve all heard the age old adage about how showing your weaknesses and being vulnerable actually make you stronger. I’m sure we all encourage others around us to do so, but we don’t do so ourselves. Instead, we suppress our stressed out state, along with our insecurities and quirks, for fear that our future colleagues will see us as weak and fragile, or weird.

I can remember countless times when I’ve been asked how I’m going, and my thought process went along the lines of: ‘I could tell them about how I’ve had a crap week, but they may judge me for not being able to cope with my problems. All my problems probably seem insignificant to other people anyways! Plus, what if I have to work with them in the future, or they tell other people in their group? I’ll just say I’m going alright. That’s the safest bet.’ I fear that my friends will view me as incapable and incompetent, especially since it’s so easy to forget that not everyone in medicine is perfect. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way every once in a while.

I’ve also mentioned that we don’t really want to hear about when our friends aren’t doing fine. I don’t mean to say that we’re all monsters who couldn’t care less about the wellbeing of our friends, but it becomes much harder to want to know more about how your friend Dean is behind on study and he’s got a long shift at work tomorrow plus the fact that his girlfriend is going crazy and his mum keeps nagging him about his family dinner, in addition to the fact that he got told off today by a consultant for not knowing something that he really should know but doesn’t because he’s behind on his study (phew), when you’re experiencing a similarly stressful situation. Many of us would much rather not have to deal with someone else’s stress in addition to our own.

You may be wondering what the point of this article is, seeing as how I haven’t yet told you anything you don’t already know. I wrote this to show those who feel like everyone around them is perfect, or has unachievably high standards, that that isn’t true. I believe we all know that, but there are times when it becomes difficult to remember. So here I am, putting my hand up and admitting that I am far from perfect, even though I seem mostly put together on the outside. I have anxiety and self-esteem issues, and these affect my relationships with those around me as well as my academic performance. But despite all this, I know that I am still a completely capable medical student and that I have the capacity to go on and become a great doctor. So I guess the gist of it is, no matter how lowly or flawed you feel sometimes, you have the same capacity too.

* I actually trawled through my first year HEP notes to check this so it’s legitimate.