I have been a Doctor for 7 months now and what a wild ride it has been. There have been times where this job has made me feel euphoric and there have been times where I have transformed into a crying hermit in my bed. But most importantly, I wouldn’t change it for the world (albeit considering it a few times). If I had to use three words to describe my time so far it’d be gratitude, persistence, and adaptability. The WAMSS Mental Health Team have provided some prompts to get me going so I’ve chosen two.
1. Overcoming the tendency to compare ourselves to others. Disclaimer: I have by no means nailed this. Comparison to others is something we all do and always will do – and in some ways it has gotten us to where we are today. Without those around us to challenge us, we would have less drive for self-improvement. HOWEVER, comparison to others can also be a deadly trap. Something I have learned over the past few years is that it’s perfectly okay to compare yourself to others if it’s not detrimental to the way you feel about yourself. I have found that I not only compare myself to others in the Medicine but also in my personal life. I sometimes find myself asking: Why am I not already gunning for specialty training like my colleagues? Why am I not also first author on a paper? In fact, why haven’t I done any research at all? Why am I still single when half of my friends are married with children? Why am I still spending money on rent when others have saved a home deposit and bought a house?? The answer is because that’s not what’s right for me! We live in a society where everything is accessible to us. We are fortunate enough to have a tertiary education, we live in an incredible country, we can travel the world, we can choose to get married, or not, we can choose to have children, or not. These are all things generations before us didn’t have, but extra options also come with extra challenges. If we have all these options, how do we know if we are on the right track? And how do we stop worrying that we are doing isn’t as good as Bert, Jackie or Boris? I don’t have the answer, but what I do know is that 1. your happiness is of utmost importance and different to the happiness of others 2. We are all destined for a different path in life and 3. Your life = your choice.
2. Mindfulness. This doesn’t have to be sitting in a quiet room going “ommmmmm” with your legs crossed and sage burning in the corner*. My version of mindfulness is anything that grounds me and brings my brain back to normal rhythm. Student life (as well as Doctor life) is a whirlwind of endless jobs, multitasking, interacting with others, and ticking things from the list. And we are supposed to do this all while eating well, exercising, seeing family etc. A lot for one human don’t you think? While it’s all possible to achieve, it is so important that we take our “brain breaks” to remember who we are, where we are and how we are. For me, a pivotal part of my grounding routine is taking a coffee and lunch break every single day (with friends if possible). Another mindfulness technique I utilise (which is actually advice from my Dad) is finding a way to transition into home life after work/study. The idea of this is to bring your brain and body away from the “work” and into the “home”. For my Dad, this is listening to playlist of his favourite songs called ‘TRANSITION’. For me, this is either a 20-minute workout at home, a scroll on Tik Tok, or a shower/bath (temperature is season dependent). My last two pieces of advice and probably my two favourites: Invest in non-medical friends and do ‘The Sunday Reset’. While the clinical debrief is innately an important aspect of your job, I believe it is your non-doctor friends and family that keep you grounded. There are aspects of our jobs that are by no means normal, but when surrounding ourselves with other healthcare workers, can become normalised. For example, losing a patient after 40 minutes of CPR. Healthcare workers will offer support however this is also a part of their job and something they too will have experienced. Non-healthcare workers will be shocked that your day-to-day paid job involves something so emotionally heavy. This will remind you that these kinds of experiences are not ones you should allow to become a “normal” part of your job – it’s grounding. Finally, The Sunday Reset – arguably my favourite and most mindful part of the week. I believe that if you don’t start the week grounded, you can’t continue the week grounded. Every Sunday I clean the house, clear my emails, plan my meals, and organise my week’s events. Once this is done, I light a candle and read a book/watch Netflix before bed. The Beth Western Mindfulness 101.
*No judgement if you are a sage burner who says “ommmmmm”