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

 

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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!

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.

Can Pokémon Go change the health sphere?

Fitness, Technology, Uncategorized

 

“Oh my goodness, there’s a Pikachu nearby!”

“Excuse me, if you don’t mind me asking, where did you catch that jigglypuff?”

“NOT ANOTHER SILLY ZUBAT!”

 

You’ve heard of it, you’ve seen scores of strangers playing it on the streets; perhaps you yourself are a budding Pokémon master. There’s no doubt that Pokémon Go has truly taken the world by storm, transforming the old and young alike into avid adventurers and uniting total strangers in their quest to “catch ‘em all”.

 

Naturally, some critics have accused the game of essentially ‘turning multitudes of people into walking zombies’, heads down and clutching phones in chase of imaginary creatures. But amidst stories of players walking into poles, near-misses with vehicles and even accidently discovering dead bodies, comes an enormous potential for augmented reality games – such as Pokémon Go – to positively influence gaming in a world where obesity and sedentary lifestyles are on the rise. Perhaps most interestingly, the benefits of augmented reality games don’t just cease with increasing physical activity; many players have taken to social media platforms such as Twitter to comment on the positive impact the game has had on their mental health.

 

Here are just some of the ways Pokémon Go has positively benefited the health of players:

A wholeeeeeeee heap of walking!

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Traditional videos games have long received criticism for increasing screen time and reducing physical activity in players. Pokémon Go is one of the first – and by far the most successful – games to challenge this stereotype. Players realise relatively early on that progression within the game is almost impossible without moving around – a lot. Through rewarding players who get up to move – whether it be to new physical locations to catch different Pokémon or walking a certain distance to hatch eggs (the longer the distance, the rarer the Pokémon hatched), the game proves to be an incredible motivator to encourage players to literally, get ‘out and about’.

 

My experience: I was certainly no exception to this. Within the first fortnight of downloading the app, I had walked over 71km just to catch Pokémon– (which was probably more than I had walked this entire year)! Interestingly, data from Jawbone – a wearable activity tracker – show that its average self-declared Pokémon Go user’s daily step count jumped from 6,000 to nearly 11,000 steps following the game’s release.

 

Fresh air and sunlight (in winter?!)

‘Pokémon Go is literally the only reason I decided to step out of my house and into the cold’.

It’s a statement that I’ve heard over and over again from friends and strangers alike, and words that I too can relate to. Melbourne weather, especially during winter, is notorious for being gloomy and unpredictable; for many, this is a disincentive to go out to the local park for a stroll.

Pokémon Go gives players, who may have otherwise preferred to remain rugged up indoors, a reason to step out into the real world, get some fresh air and discover new locations (and Pokémon!). There is plenty of evidence to show that breathing outdoors improves mood and health, as well as boosting vitamin D levels!

 

My experience: Since the launch of the game, I’ve observed a roughly threefold increase in the number of people at my local park (a Pokémon hotspot). It seems that players will go to any length to defend their local Pokémon gym – through rain, hail or shine.

 

Uniting friends and strangers alike – in real life

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Many popular video games have online communities, where players are able to interact with other players – such as talk, trade items and share tips – often through a pseudonym. Pokémon Go takes this to a whole new level, bringing players together in the real world, in often unexpected ways. Public locations in vicinity of Pokémon Gyms, Pokéstops and lure models are hotspots for player interactions, and interestingly, as many have discovered, Pokémon Go is an incredibly successful conversation starter. It still surprises me how small interactions with total strangers – sharing locations of where they caught their rare Pokémon or tips on Gym Battles – can lead on to fruitful conversations on just about anything and everything in life. And who knows – in a world where community division is increasingly prevalent, games like Pokémon Go might just be what we need to bring unity across people from all walks of life.

 

My experience: I was walking along the banks of the Yarra with a friend when my 10km egg finally hatched into an Onix; ecstatic, I squealed with excitement. A couple on a Pokémon date (yes this is actually a thing) ran up to us and asked us what Pokémon we had caught. Although slightly disappointed that my haul was from an egg, we proceeded to spend the next few hours chatting away about holidays and uni and life whilst taking over a few Pokémon Gyms in the vicinity. The true power (or madness) of Pokémon Go – uniting total strangers in the quest to catch imaginary monsters!

 

Improving mental health

There’s no doubt that exercise, fresh air and social interaction are part of the recipe to good mental health. Pokémon Go has been commended for being a source of motivation for many struggling with their mental health – getting players out of the house and being a bridge for interacting with friends and strangers alike – tasks which can be huge milestones for those suffering from anxiety or depression. What makes Pokémon Go so successful in this sense is the fact that the game is not presented as a tool to help treat mental illness, but rather, cultivates healthy behaviours for all players alike. Although by no means a substitute for professional treatment, the game can be the first step towards self-care and a stepping-stone towards healthier habits.

 

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that Pokémon Go has had an unprecedented effect on society – in both positive and negative ways. As technology continues to advance, games based on augmented reality such as Pokémon Go will become increasingly numerous. As for whether Pokémon Go can change the health sphere? There’s no doubt that it does encourage healthy behaviours in players, and will be a huge step forward in the battle against obesity. And unlike other gaming innovations such as the Nintendo Wii – which similarly was commended as a physical activity booster but whose popularly quickly faded – the ‘shared hallucination’ of Pokémon Go and augmented reality provides the extra dimension of face-to-face social interactions with other players, contributing to the technology’s huge success.

 

No matter what the answer is, this is undoubtedly just the beginning for augmented reality games.

 

 

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!

Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea

C&W Events, Uncategorized

Have you seen an abundance of daffodil-coloured bake sales popping up in the months of May and June? The cheery bright colours vaguely reminiscent of Emojis don’t quite seem to match the browns and reds of autumn particularly well. Ever wondered what they were for?

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The Cancer Council is an established NGO that works closely with national and international cancer organisations, as well as the Australian Government’s Cancer Australia, providing evidence-based advice to relevant parties. Playing a significant role in cancer research and funding, as well as advocating for improved cancer control policies, they have numerous fundraising initiatives, organised by the community: the Biggest Morning Tea is one such event.

The Biggest Morning Tea is an annual charity event conducted to raise funds for the Cancer Council. It can be anything from a bake sale, to a barbeque, or even a fancy ol’ tea party with top hat and all, bedecked in sunny, bright yellows of the daffodil’s petals. Bright yellow: a symbol of hope. Organised by members of the community, the Biggest Morning Tea simultaneously supports the Cancer Council whilst offering food– and who doesn’t love food?

And thus, as the “Community” and Wellbeing committee, the C&W organised our own Biggest Morning Tea on the 27th of May, 2016, plonked down right in front of 27 Rainforest/Building 15/that one tute building. Three days right before Swot Vac, a week before exams– all the better to feed hungry stomachs and brains.

The event was a success, raising $175 all towards this crucially important cause. We would like to extend a huge thank you to Baker’s Delight, who donated a massive range of bakery goods for our morning tea; and to those of you who baked for us, who helped out on the day, and who purchased food or made a donation!

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Links:

  1.  https://www.biggestmorningtea.com.au/about-the-event/
  1. http://www.cancer.org.au/about-us