Hey guys! My name is Ro and I’m so excited to be your Community and Wellbeing Officer for 2021. As medical students, our lives often revolve around helping other people out; whether these are our patients, colleagues, friends or families. This often leaves very little time to nurture our own mental health and wellbeing, and we can quickly become burnt out and at an increased susceptibility to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. As a result, it is super important to constantly check in with ourselves and our peers. If I was asked to summarise med-school in a phrase, I would say it’s like one big juggling-act! We’re always either juggling study, friends, relationships, college, our social lives, hobbies, family, health, fitness, leadership roles, part-time jobs… the list goes on! It truly is all about balance, and this means learning to prioritize.
Here are some tips on learning to maintain a healthy work-life balance:
Getting those z’s in is crucial in maintaining concentration, keeping your mood stable and allowing your body time to process and recover after a big day… they say we should be sleeping for 7-9 hours a day, which is much better spent in bed and not in building 46!! If you’re having a tough day and everything’s feeling difficult, why not reset with a 20 minute nap? We all need our beauty sleep a. Keep in mind, however, that both difficulty falling asleep and excess sleeping can be a sign of mental illness, so if you have concerns about your sleeping habits this might be worthwhile mentioning to your friendly GP.
Don’t forget to eat! Although some people (including me!) can’t understand how one could ‘forget a meal’, it certainly is a regular occurrence as people race from college to the med school to make that gnarly 8am lecture. A good tip is bringing healthy snacks with you to uni – this could even be a banana or a bag of nuts! A happy belly will help you focus during class and fight the dreaded ‘hanger’. Make sure you’re getting in all your food groups, and try and avoid simple sugars where you can!
Whether it’s running, cycling, yoga, walking or Bollywood dancing, getting your blood pumping is super important for a healthy brain, mind and heart. If you’re nodding off halfway through a study sesh, why not break it up with a quick workout? Even better, why not use exercise as an excuse to catch up with a mate? – going for a walk on the strand with a friend will get both the blood and dopamine pumping, hitting two birds with one stone!
Commonly believed to be the best part of med school, the friends you make at JCU will be beside you for the highs and the lows… many of the people you sit beside on your first day of med school will be friends for life! If you develop a strong and loving group of mates early on, you’ll not only look back on your med school years as being a ripper of a time, but you’ll have a sturdy support base for when things get tough. In the same breath, the social aspect of med school can become overwhelming at times (especially if you have college events to balance too), and so learning how to say ‘no’ and prioritise self-care is a lesson best learned early on! A good balance of socialising, studying and most importantly self-care is the recipe to success. a. If you’re like me and you’ve moved away from home for med school, don’t forget to keep in touch with your fam and friends! Your previous support network is just as important as the new one you’ll develop in med school, and facetime and phone calls can help bridge the distance. Be proud of where you’ve come from, and don’t forget the people that have helped you get here today J In saying this, balancing keeping touch with your support crew can become difficult, particularly as exams approach. The best way to tackle this is identifying how much contact is best for YOU, and always allowing for YOU time.
Many of you guys will be talented pianists, runners, gymnasts, horse-riders, artists and singers… so why stop now?? Your hobbies form a part of who you are, and continuing your fave activities will not only be good for your mental health, but will contribute to a well-rounded professional identity. There’s always time for YOU in med school, and whilst study becomes more important in exam time, the best doctors are real people with real interests. Check out the extensive list of clubs on offer both in the med school and the wider JCU community! There’s truly something for everyone.
A regular GP
Having a go-to GP cannot be understated, and building a relationship with them before times get tough will make the tough times far easier. Doctors were once were in our shoes, and are well-aware of the challenges we face as med students… in fact, many of the docs at JCU health are JCU grads! Find more info here: https://www.jcuhealth.com.au/
Keep an eye on yourself and your mates – medicine is a team sport; we’re all in this together. As a result, we all have a responsibility to look out for ourselves and our mates. If you’re worried about yourself or a friend, never be afraid to ask ‘RUOK?’. If the answer is ‘no’, encourage them to follow up with their GP or the med school, or call for help if they are at an acute risk. Signs of mental illness in yourself and others include:
a. Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
b. Regular unhappiness or irritability
c. Loss of interest in things you usually enjoy
d. Not coming to class
e. Making jokes about suicide
f. Signs of self-harm
g. Loss of appetite or significant weight gain
h. Frequent fretting or worrying
i. Withdrawing from family or friends
j. Drinking more alcohol than usual, or using illicit drugs
k. Decreasing academic performance
l. Significant personality change
m. Physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive issues, nausea, muscle tension, loss of energy
There’s a quote that says ‘before you can give someone a hand up, you’ve got to get up there first’. How on earth are we supposed to help people in our careers if we’ve got nothing left to give? The key trick to surviving med school is making sure we make the trip. Take time for YOU amongst all the craziness, and don’t forget to breath – there’s always time to breath.