6 ways to work through negative self-talk

How many of you have caught yourself engaging in negative self-talk? I’d bet money that most of us have. I think some people want to pretend that they have incredibly high self-esteem because having low self-esteem is stigmatized. It’s seen as a weakness or flaw of sorts. Well, I’m here to tell you that recognizing your negative self-talk is actually a STRENGTH that many people don’t have the humility and self-awareness to recognize.

Medical school has in many ways worsened my self-bashing. Once you get in you are surrounded by some of the most intelligent people in the world and inevitably, it is very difficult to not compare yourself to your peers. By this point, we all know comparison is not going to help you, but, nevertheless, we still do it. Early on in my medical school journey, I recognized how destructive these thoughts were because I didn’t know how to work through them. I realized how easy it was to fall into this behavior and really self-destruct. Recognizing this made me want to change the way I thought.

So, how do you banish these negative thoughts? Truth is, it is incredibly difficult to rid yourself of them completely. BUT, you can work through them and come out on the other side a more self-aware, self-loving being.

#1 Consider the 50,000 ft view. We often see things our way because we are deep into whatever it is that we are thinking about. When you are stuck in one train of thought, for example, that you aren’t smart enough to do X, we don’t often take that 50,000 ft view into account.  Challenge yourself to take a step back and look at the larger picture. How would someone else see this situation if they were looking at it from the outside in?

#2 Ask yourself, “How is this growing me?” Most times negative self-talk is destructive, but sometimes rooted somewhere deep in that talk there is a glimmer of possible positivity. For example, let’s say you are questioning your exercise habits and saying I wish I was like my classmate who trains for marathons. Ask yourself, how can I turn this negative self-talk into something more useful? The mere fact that your thinking about your exercise habits is positive! Turn that talk into action! Take a step towards your goals. If the goal is a marathon, decide to go on a short run or maybe even a walk.

#3 Call your mother. If you can’t manage to get yourself to do #1, I guarantee your mom can do it for you. Mom’s pretty much only see the good in their children, let’s be real. My mother is my biggest cheerleader and always steers me back to reality.

#4 Put yourself in the hot tub time machine. This is my attempt at humor. Fast-forward your life 10 years. Will this matter in 10 years? When I’m feeling really badly about myself, I ask myself this question. For example, I’ve beaten myself up mentally about getting questions wrong in front of attendings and looking “stupid.” In this situation, asking yourself if this will bother you in 10 years will lead you to a quick and clear answer: NO! Put things into perspective! Let things roll over your back occasionally, because in the long-run maybe these things aren’t as terrible as your current state of mind makes them out to be.

#5 Choose to accept your true flaws and not the lies you make up. How many times has your self-talk been straight up FALSE? Lots. I’ve told myself some of the meanest things that really aren’t true!! I’ve caught myself saying that I’m dumb, unhappy with my appearance and unsuccessful. In reality I’M SMART, BEAUTIFUL AND SUCCESSFUL. That’s the truth. Do I have “flaws?” Absolutely. I’ve failed exams, struggled to lose weight,  forgotten about certain relationships and gotten frustrated that I’m not better at blog photography. That is also the truth. But, I’ve gotten to a place where I can accept these things about myself. We all have flaws and that is what makes us human!

#6 Practice… because self-awareness and self-love is not easy and will take time to master. 

 

Turning my photography frustration into practice!

 

X/O A 

5 Ways to Cope with What Feels like a Huge Failure

Anyone who has been following me on my Instagram @medicineinmichigan knows that I recently had a hiccup in my third-year. I recently found out that I failed my first exam in medical school – my surgery shelf exam. I was incredibly disappointed when I saw my Christmas break crumble before me. After a few days of recuperating I’ve put together this post for anyone who is going through what feels like failure {emphasis on the feels} right now or maybe needs this in the future.

Anndddd I have no pictures for this post, so here’s another adorable picture of my puppy.

img_3665

_____________________________________________________________________________

#1 – Talk to someone you love. When I first found out this news I called my fiancee and promptly started crying to him on the phone {maybe this is dramatic — but, at the time I was really upset}. After, I talked to my mom over the phone. There’s something so comforting in hearing things from those you love. My mom’s continuous pitch is that she is so proud that I’m getting out there and at least trying something that is SO difficult. She always tells me even if I made it to the day before graduation and then quit, she would still be so proud of me for giving it my all.

#2 – Let the emotions pour out. Sad? Mad? Downright angry? Let it all out. Emotional catharsis I think can be a good thing, but with a time limit of sorts. I told myself I’d be mad/upset/pissed for one day before I re-organized. I’m a believer in the fact that sooner or later it’s all going to come out and, personally, I’d rather have my mini-meltdown sooner, rather than later.

#3 – Reach out for support. There is NO shame in needing help. I met with several academic support folks at my school and they were nothing short of amazing and understanding. I also reached out to several friends and colleagues for advice. You don’t have to do things alone. In fact, medicine is about collaboration and sometimes we all forget that when we are in test mode.

#4 – Try to change your mentality. I told myself this was unfair, that my break was ruined, etc. One of my friends in college made me a sign that read, “You can’t have a positive life with a negative mind.” Positivity isn’t always easy — it definitely doesn’t come easy to me always. I’m trying my best to reframe this “negative” event into a positive one. Although I’ll have to work hard over break, studying now might give me an advantage down the line when it comes to overlapping material and step 2. This is also an opportunity for me to really show how hard I can work and my perseverance.

#5 – Lastly, remember why you started and what the end goal is. Between the studying and gruelling hours, there are the patients. The ones that make you laugh, the ones who make you cry and the ones who make you wonder how the hell they figured out how to become super-human. Those are the people that I started for and the people that I’ll finish for.

 

X/O A 

{Making it Work, Part Two}

Good afternoon lovelies. My labor day weekend has been jam-packed with festivities, but today I finally have a chance to blog! How’s everyone else’s holiday weekend? So, last September I wrote a blog post called {Making it Work} and I had  a lot of positive feedback about it. In honor of a super fun #giveaway {details at the end of this post} & the fact that it’s finally September, I’m writing part two.

For those of you who just started reading along, I’ve been in a relationship now for a little over 4 years. I met B when we both attended the University of Michigan. We’ve survived {and thrived} through college-dating, long-distance {Michigan to Florida} and the madness that medical school brings. We have lived together for about two years and recently got engaged & purchased our first home.

We are kind of losers and relatively unphotogenic.

We are kind of losers and relatively unphotogenic.

Okay, this moment was perfect. :)

Okay, this moment was perfect. 🙂

Okay, all of this sounds super exciting {and it has been}, but things weren’t always this way. Let’s get real — relationships are LOTS of hard work. Anyone who tells you differently hasn’t gotten past the honeymoon stage. Sure, most of the time loving B is easy. He’s helpful, caring and would do nearly anything for me. Other times things are stressful. He’s busy with work and I’m overwhelmed with school – inevitably, things get tough and we both are guilty of taking things out on one another. I’m telling you this because it’s important to me to show off my realistic relationship. Instagram and Facebook often showscases the “highs” of a relationship, but never the lows.

Many of my friends started off medical school already in a relationship. Others found someone along the way. Regardless of where you are right now, the same things make a relationship. The same things send a relationship down the drain. For the longest time, I always saw people in “perfect relationships” and wondered was that the goal? I’m here to truly tell you that absolutely no relationship is perfect. I’ve had so many people look at B and I and tell us how much of a “fairytale” couple we are. I often tell him about this and we laugh together, because we know that isn’t the truth. B is my best friend and I’d practically die without the man, but we are in no way perfect for each other, nor would I want it that way. Having someone to laugh with and love is amazing, but it is even more fun to have to figure out how we will navigate each part of life together. We stumble along the way and make mistakes often, but there are a few things we always stick to.

Tips to make a relationship that much bettter 

  1. Start your own traditions together. Anyone who knows me, knows how important family is to me. B and I look forward to growing our own family one day, but for the time being it’s just the two of us. We have found that starting new traditions together is a fun way to connect and have things to look forward to. One thing we started doing last year was doing an ornament exchange. We both purchased an ornament that either had a funny story behind it or reminded us of the other person. It was fun to kind of surprise him, especially when I found an ornament shaped like a game controller {he’s obsessed with gaming}. Regardless of how silly the tradition seems, having things that bring you closer as a family are wonderful for any relationship.
  2. Regroup and spend a few quality minutes together each night. For B and I this means doing our very best to hop into bed at the same time. We spend 15-30 minutes talking about whatever is on our minds. Whether it is things we are excited about or a rant about how stressful the day was, we take this time to be there for one another as a listener and support system. Other nights we don’t do any of our own talking, instead we read something interesting to one another. I’ve been reading The Five Love Languages book to him {it’s really good so far for anyone interested}.
  3. Small gestures. Everyone in this day and age is super busy, but trust me you’ve got time for a small gesture. I usually try to leave B a cute note if I leave for work earlier then him. Other times he’ll let me know he picked up my favorite food from the store and it’s in the fridge for me. When your really stressed out a simple text message of support is really meaningful too.
  4. Don’t let a tough career path EVER stop you from having the most incredible family. Anyone who tells you that you can’t have a successful, amazing relationship while in the medical field is dead wrong. It won’t be EASY. I can actually guarantee you that it will be hard work. You’ll sacrifice things, you’ll make compromises you didn’t think you could, BUT it will be worth it. If you have a negative atttitude {oh, my relationship definitely won’t work because I want to be a surgeon or I’ll have too long of hours, etc; my marraige will end in divorce} then it probably will. Having a positive outlook is essential. Why even begin a relationship if you think it’s just going to be a failure? This seems like a simple concept, but I’ve heard countless stories of people on first dates already picking out all the bad! What about the good? Again, we can all say with confidence that we aren’t perfect. How can we expect someone else to be the “perfect” match for us?

What you can do to send your relationship down the drain {these are what NOT to do} 

  1. Bring up old fights. Forgiving isn’t really forgiving when you get hammered about the same old thing over and over again. EVERYONE makes mistakes. If you wanted to be with someone perfect, you’d probably never find anyone.
  2. Compare your relationship to all of your friends. Seriously, don’t do this. I know it can be hard. We’ve reached the age when everyone is getting engaged and sometimes we are the ones left behind. Coming from someone who waited four years to get engaged, I can tell you that being engaged is really, REALLY no different from not being engaged {seriously}. Yes, I get to wear my beautiful ring, but I still love B the same. I still trust him the same as I did before. I still want a family with him like I did before. When you are in the right relationship having a ring on your finger or not having one really makes no difference {except for wedding planning stress LOL}. Know that your relationship is exactly where it is supposed to be. All good things come in time. 
  3. Interefere in previous personal relationships. I can truly say that B is one of the most popular beings I’ve ever met. From the second I met him he had TONS of friends. I’ve never been a social butterfly and have always preferred to have a small group of close friends. When I first started dating him, I often found myself jealous of the time he spent with his friends. He had tons of close girl friends who he’d known since childhood. I can admit it sometimes can be hard to trust a new boyfriend with people you don’t know. Listen up ladies and gents, you’ve got to get over it. I’ve learned to love nearly all of B’s friends and know that each one of them has had some impact on his life, and for that I love them even more. I’m always happy to see him go to parties on his own or support his friends. I can’t always make it to events because of the crazy schedule I have, but I’d never let my schedule stop him from seeing these friends. This is important. Having your own identity within in a relationship is healthy. 

I hope these insights help others. These things have helped B and I grow our relationship, but what works for me won’t work for everyone. Just keep in mind that perfection isn’t ever really the goal. I’d much rather have some ups and downs, but truly feel love to its fullest. Loving B will always be my favorite thing. He’s just too adorable not to love. <3

 

X/O A

Hello, It’s Me

I’M ALIVE! I made it to the other side of Step 1 and found out this week that I passed! Sorry for the uber long hiatus from blogging, but welcome to the new site! Super cute, right?

So, this post isn’t going to have too much medicine in it, mainly because I want to update you all on my life! Eek, there are SO many exciting things happening right now. Let’s backtrack for a hot sec.

Last time I “signed off” my old site http://amchang9.wix.com/medicineinmichigan and let you all know that I had some exciting stuff in store for when I returned. I’ve gotten almost all of my old posts moved over to my new site {in the title should have “old post”}, but will still be working on adding some tags/organizing so it’s easier to navigate {bare with me!} But, if you’re new here {or even better, a new OUWB student check all the old posts out for some killer tips. Also, if you currently follow my site- share it with your fellow pre-meds/med friends pretty please!}.

Next piece of business, I’m going to be working on a mega post for tips and tricks for Step 1. I made some mistakes along the way and I want YOU all to learn from them! This is going to take me a little time but this will be coming soon.

Okay, now on to the fun stuff. Life updates!! So, after I took Step 1 {worst time period of my life, not a joke}, I got crazy busy. I did a few short trips for weddings and went to the Kentucky bourbon trail. In between soaking up the short summer weekends that I did have, we completed three mini-courses. During the month of June, we took 1. EBM {evidence based medicine} 2. APM 5 {we got to do the M/F pelvic exams which were actually way less nerve wrecking than I anticipated} 3. Diagnostic Medicine {basically gave us an overview of some stuff at the hospital – where labs were, what kind of testing was available, etc.}. We also squeezed in ACLS & BLS training {CPR, codes, etc}.

Yeah, having no summer kind of stinks– so, you have to squeeze every once into those nights & weekends {head to the lake & soak up some rays}. During June we didn’t really have any “work” to do, so it was pretty relaxing.

IMG_2294.JPG

After these courses, I had about 6 days off and B and I jetted over to San Francisco. We went sailing on the bay, took a ride in my uncle’s convertible around town, met up with friends and spent time with family. We also hit Napa Valley for a night, which was amazing. If you are ever there prepare to #1 spend a bucket load of money {We air bnb’d and borrowed my aunt&uncle’s car, but it was still super pricey} #2 drink oodles of amazing vino {but really, who can really tell the difference between $10 bottles and $100 bottles, not me — yet!} #3 fall in love with whoever you are with, because it’s just so dang romantic there #4 go to Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ, seriously hands down amazing.

IMG_2176.JPG

On the last day of our trip, B, my baby brother {the only person not smiling in the pic above, don’t kill me J} and I headed out for a 10-mile hike in Muir Woods outside of SF. AND this is where my life totally changed. After a 5-mile hike up to a coastal overlook, my little brother ran off to “snap some photos.” After a few minutes of him disappearing we went to follow him and thru a meadow of grass was a blanket and champagne {I thought it was a parachute laying there at first and was super confused, ha!}. B got down on one knee and proposed! My sneaky little brother captured the moment perfectly. To say I’m ecstatic is an understatement.

DSC_1446.JPG DSC_1445.JPG

Doesn’t this look like it could maybeeee be a parachute from far away?!

When we got back home I started on night float with the internal medicine team at Beaumont {more on how internal medicine is in another post soon}. It’s been super fun and a very good way to start out my clinical experience. Even though working from 830PM-730AM is rough, the residents have so much time to help us figure things out since they have a smaller patient load at night. I’ve even gotten to assist with putting an A-line in {I felt pretty BA even though I was just assisting}.

To sum it all up, life is just pretty darn amazing right now. I have one more life update coming soon {hopefully in the next week or so, stay tuned}.

 

Tip of the day: Be willing to try anything during clinicals. So I saw an A-line getting put in last week at 530AM and felt pretty whoozy {lol, can you tell that I don’t want to go into anything procedural ? — maybe this will change}. It kind of freaked me out because I was like what’s going on? BODY, please don’t pass out on me. I quickly excused myself and got it together before re-entering. This week when they asked if I wanted to assist with the line in the ICU, I was a little bit hesitant {I didn’t want to embarrass myself}. But, with a little nudge from my classmate, I decided to go for it. Everything went smoothly and I learned so much from being right in the action. So, lesson learned. Try to give everything a shot, even if you aren’t totally comfortable with it. Test the waters and if at any point you are feeling off, just excuse yourself {seriously, the residents are so understanding}.

X/O A

 

 

 

 

Let The Madness Begin {Old Post}

Hi everyone! So, here I am guilty of being a bad blogger! It is so difficult to find time these days….Sorry! I hope everyone had a relaxing and fun-filled Easter. I was lucky enough to spend time in Ann Arbor with family. We had an awesome dinner and made some homemade Kahlua! B’s stepmom was sweet enough to make us Easter baskets! She made B an awesome bar-themed basket and my little brother’s came with Coronas with bunny ears! How cute is that? I’m going to have to steal that idea for next year! During my limited time off in medical school I always remember to cherish holidays because it means way more family time than normal.

Okay….I swear we don’t have a drinking problem….we just like to have fun! 😉

Updates:

  • We finished up a short behavioral science unit filled with information on developmental milestones and some more ethical based knowledge. I really enjoyed the unit and it made me super excited to work in the Peds unit in the fall.

  • We are halfway through another short unit, Psychopathology, which I have an exam for this coming Monday. Then, we enter dedicated time. For those of you who don’t know, dedicated time is a period in which I don’t have any classes and will be studying for my board examination. Each school varies on the amount of time they give students to study and when this period happens.

  • I’m excited for this weekend because one of my friends is coming into town for a bachelorette party! She is from CA and I’m looking forward to celebrating with her.

  • B and I are still going strong with our at home workout program. I’m starting to feel a lot stronger and can finally do pushups (ha!). If anyone wants info on the program, let me know!

  • I presented my capstone research for the first time and got my OSCE out of the way! Both were stressful, but challenging in a good way.

Okay, so why did I title this post, “Let the Madness Begin”…..Well, it’s no secret that board exams are coming up, which is a stressful time during any medical student’s career. Although my Step 1 study schedule looks like total madness, I’m ready to embrace it. I probably won’t get many other times in my life (if any), in which I can fully dedicate my time to something. One of our academic counselors at school said something that really resonated with me. She told all of my classmates to turn off their phones during study time, close down the laptop, etc. Obviously, this is to get rid of distractions during study time, but she told us to give ourselves permission to be fully available to studying. This is important. How often do we allow ourselves to be free of other commitments without feeling guilty? I constantly find myself needing to check in on things. How are things at home? Do my siblings need anything? How are my friends from college doing? So, to fully clear my head I’ve decided to give myself permission to go on a hiatus from blogging, from checking up on things, and from other commitments. Selfish? Maybe, but it is well-deserved and much needed.

Because I may not be blogging for an extended period of time, I wanted to give you some things to look forward to for my return. And in the meantime, I will still be on my Instagram if you are curious as to what I’m up to! Follow me @aleahmch 🙂

What can you look forward to on Medicine in Michigan?

  • New blogging interface – I plan on moving from Wix because I’d like to get on an interface that allows me to do more! Any suggestions? Comment below!

  • I’m going to be taking an online photography class once I’m done with boards. So, that means better photos on my blog! Yay!

  • I’ll be writing up an intense study plan/guide for all of my favorite M1’s to plan for board studying. Then, you can see my excel sheet that shows all the madness.

  • Get ready for a peak into my daily life during rotations! This will help all of you get an idea of what M3/M4 year is like!

Last little thing from me….Many of my close friends know that things have been stressful for me lately. I wanted to encourage everyone to #1 know your worth and #2 stay true to yourself. Don’t let petty things run your life, and furthermore, don’t let petty people run your life. I say this because I know it is difficult to not listen to what other people are saying, but in reality, the people who ATTEMPT to bring you down are insecure and won’t get far in life. You aren’t always going to please everyone, but you weren’t put on Earth to do that (thank goodness!). You control your own happiness, not anyone else and you were put here to get a shot at being truly happy. Work towards that and the rest will fall in place.

Give & Take {Old Post}

 Hi everyone & happy international women’s day! Is it just me or did I never know about all of these special “holidays” when I was younger? Regardless, this is one of my new favorite holidays. Today I got a chance to reflect on some of the people who inspire me the most! I’ve got so many close friends and family members who help teach me the ropes and remind me what is important in life.

On that note I wanted to do a few quick updates and chat briefly about what I’m deeming the “give and take” of second year.

 Updates:

  • We finished MSK yesterday! Yay for being done with the last large organ system. We only have behavioral and psych to go! I was feeling a little bit nervous about this exam due to the large amount of material, but I ended up doing better than I expected!

  • I’ll be presenting my current progress on my research project next week! I’m excited to share what I’ve been working so hard on and get one presentation under my belt. My research focused on the pre-medical students at Oakland University and their perceptions on applying to medical school. I was able to create three workshops all geared towards different aspects of applying to medical school and administered a short survey gauging their perceptions before and after each workshop.

  • I recently purchased the Fit Bit Blaze to help me track my fitness progress and keep on track with all of my BBG workouts. I’m super obsessed with this device. Just wearing it is actually a huge motivator throughout the day to keep moving and meet my daily goals! B and I were lucky enough to go on a few evening walks this week because the weather has been so beautiful!

  • I’ve got a busy month ahead of me studying, but I’m excited that I have a few fun things coming up. Some of our friends are coming to town to visit while on the way back from their vacation road trip and another one of my friends has her bachelorette party coming up! Who said med students can’t have fun?

“Give and take”

 So, this past weekend I was studying at my local Starbucks and ran into an upperclassman. We got to chatting and I was telling him how sometimes I feel like I may not study as much as some of my classmates or could probably do better on exams if I put a little bit more effort in (don’t get me wrong, I definitely have to work my butt off to do well). But, I feel like I for sure could study more if I wanted to. Key word: wanted to.

Okay, so what’s the point of me telling you this? Second-year (for me) has been much easier than first. I’ve gotten into my groove, know how to study and consistently do well on my exams. I’ve had much more time to do things I enjoy like exercising, cooking and spending time with friends. The upperclassman said something to me that really resonated. He explained that as long as I was happy with my performance, that nothing else really mattered. Simple, right?

Well, not with most medical students! Many of us (including myself) tend to beat ourselves up when we think we could have done better. Sometimes I do incredibly well, but always have this feeling, “oh, I could have done more,” is something I often hear. Throughout the course of second year I’ve really learned to accept where I am at academically and just cherish the time I am able to dedicate towards other things. This is what I mean by give and take. This year I’ve learned to give up some of my studying time, settle for a great grade (rather than out of this world), and take that time to do other things. I know everyone may not be in the same position as I, but I strongly encourage those who are to not beat themselves up about it! Consider yourselves lucky. You can pass your courses (not an easy feat in medical school) and still have a life.

Remember that balance is essential to a happy life. Let me repeat that, balance is essential to a happy life. How do I know this? Last year I was doing way better than I ever thought I would in my courses, I mean really excelling. Was I the happiest person? Nope. I didn’t give myself the time I needed and I definitely paid for that in the long-term. By the time we got close to breaks I was literally dying for a break, begging for things to just stop and slow-down. This is a caution to not let yourself burn out. You don’t need to wait until a designated break to give yourself a break that you fully deserve! Furthermore, don’t spend the time you use to relax overthinking, “should I be taking a break?” or “am I slacking off?” EMBRACE IT!

Stress Management {Old Post}

Stress management is a vital part of success within medical school (and really for anyone who is super busy). There are many good and bad ways to manage stress. I’ve seen classmates truly crack under the pressure that medical school puts on them, on top of all of the other life responsibilities they have. We have had several sessions on relaxation techniques, which taught us benefits of meditation, guided imagery and yoga. Although these are great options, sometimes I feel like I don’t even have enough time to learn how to do these things then make more time to do them. It almost stresses me out more, ha!

 With my neuro two examination finally out of the way, I’ve had a little time to reflect on how stressed I’ve felt recently. I thought this would be a good time to compile a list of some of the stress management techniques that have really worked for me over the past year and a half of medical school. I think its important to realize medical school is a whole different beast that requires some creative thinking to master. Again, these are things that worked for me, but its important to figure out what works for YOU. Hopefully these tips are a little bit different than the ordinary, “eat healthy, sleep and exercise” advice we get for stress relief.

Things you can do WHILE you study:

1. Scents. For me awakening my senses is very relaxing. I think we can all agree there is a certain sigh of relief when we light our favorite sugar cookie candle during the holiday season. Use scent therapy while you are studying! It is something that literally takes two seconds that can put you in a better mood or make you more relaxed.  One thing I’m excited to try out is aromatherapy! My mom got some scents and is sending me a few. 🙂

2. Make a cup of tea. I recommend Hi-Caf teas for study time because they have the same amount of caffeine (if not more) in comparison to coffee. You can get them at Whole Foods or online! If you aren’t studying and need a relaxing cup, my recommendations are green, mint or chamomile for bed time.

3. Try a face mask. Okay, don’t do this in the library because you will scare everyone, but at home this is awesome. I started using theTony Moly sheet masks (they are reasonably priced on Amazon too). You will literally look like a serial killer, but they all smell amazing and my skin feels awesome after. They even have one that has red wine in it, which is definitely my kind of beauty therapy.

Things to do when you’ve hit your limit and need a short break:

1. Take a walk with a friend. Even if its just for five minutes, this will help reduce your level of stress.

2. Have a dance party. I used to do this all the time during my first year! Its bound to end in a few laughs.

3. Write down or say aloud one good thing that happened today or one thing you are happy about. B always asks me this when I have a bad day. I come home angry and he just stops me and says, “Aleah, what is one good thing that happened today?” It may take me a few minutes to get on board and think positively, but this always helps keep things in perspective. Even if your day has gone totally wrong, there is always one thing we can find to be happy about.

4. Remind yourself of how far you’ve come. Pull up your favorite photo from your white coat ceremony or college graduation. YOU have accomplished a lot more than many people in this world. Give yourself credit for working so, so hard to get to wherever you are today. Success doesn’t come easily and it doesn’t come quickly.

5. Connect with someone via touch. I know that probably sounds weird, but it is a huge stress relief to just be touched. Hug your best friend or trade massages with a significant other.

 Things to do to get organized and inevitably lower stress for later:

1. Create realistic goals. If you make a list of 20 things to get in one day it probably won’t happen. It’s better to make a few goals for each day. I like to split mine up into study goals and life goals. By life goals I mean things that need to get done for me to be a productive human being (aka pick up the dry cleaning, grocery shop or clean the bathroom). Its a lot easier to relax when you know those things are completed.

2. Prep the night before. Before I go to sleep I always double check my schedule for the next day. I make sure if I need to dress up or have my white coat I set those things out so I don’t forget. I also make sure to have my lunch ready to go and coffee timer set for the AM. This leads to less scrambling in the morning and a smoother day all together.

3. Anticipate stress. If you have an exam coming up prepare for your stress to hit an all-time high. If you can prep meals in advance, plan a reward for post-exam time or pencil in a phone call with an old friend to help you de-stress do it. For me I have the Step 1 exam coming up and I’ve already put money aside and penciled in a few manicures and a massage because I know I’ll need some relaxation time.

4. Take steps to fix your worries. For example, one of my friends has had trouble eating healthy and cooking while in medical school. So, she took steps to fix her problem. She started ordering healthy food from Blue Apron. This service delivers all the ingredients you need for healthy meals to your doorstep and gives you step by step instructions to prepare your meal. For me, I’ve had a lot of trouble getting to the gym. So, I found a home workout plan that is a lot more manageable for me.

Little things you can embed into your life:

1. Remember when I mentioned scents? I buy Method brand hand soap (pomegranate and vanilla chai being my favorites) and put these in my bathroom and kitchen. I always get a little energy boost when I wash my hands because these scents are seriously amazing. Leaving little mood boosters around really helps me, even if they are as simple as hand soap.

2. In general, I like to tackle the hardest tasks first. They are the ones that are weighing on me the most. Once I get these big things done, I can be more productive, rather than ruminating on this huge thing that I’m anxious about.

3. Focus on what you do know and what you are good at. It’s so easy to participate in self-judgment, and never truly tell yourself that you have kicked butt so far. When studying for exams remember you know A LOT. Focus on what you know and don’t sweat the small stuff. I remember being really nervous for my first organ systems exam and my little brother told me, “You’ve studied hard and you know all of the material. The exam is just the time to spit it back out and brag.”

4. Learn to say no. Are you so stressed that you have trouble sleeping? Then don’t tell your friend you can help plan their birthday party or take on more responsibility in one of your clubs. You DON’T need to do everything. It’s not the end of the world and they will find someone else. It’s really hard to say no, but its vital to listen to what your body is telling you and back off when needed.

5. Appreciate (and make use of) the time you do have to yourself that is built in stress free time. For me there are only two times during the day that I can guarantee I can’t do anything else but focus on that task. So, I count them as blessings. You may laugh, but these two times are my commute to school and during my shower. If I have to commute anyways and I can’t really do anything else in the car, I take that time to not think about school and instead listen to an awesome playlist of music. When I shower I make sure I take some time to clear my mind and also use scent therapy (my shampoo has eucalyptus in it, it’s amazing).

6. Be OK with being a beginner. One of my favorite quotes goes like this, “Allow yourself to be a beginner. No one starts off being excellent.” Dale Partridge nailed it. You can strive to get an A on that exam, but remember that we all need to start somewhere. There will always be room for improvement, and that’s a good thing. I remember I did OK on my first organ system exam and kind of beat myself up for it afterwards. Looking back, I realize that I shouldn’t have been so hard on myself. This was something new that I had to master and now I have, after hard work and dedication.

 Hopefully, this list gives you some new ideas! Stress really isn’t going away for any of us, but we can learn to manage it better and be a little more positive. This is going to be a life long process for me, but I’m happy I’ve taken a lot of steps in the right direction.

In other news, I got my track for my third year! Time is seriously flying!! I’m almost half way to getting my MD. Getting my track assignment basically means I know the order I will rotate through which department and who I will be doing it with. Our school does a lottery and I happened to get lucky and get my top pick! My schedule is as follows:

Internal medicine (8 weeks)

Pediatrics (8 weeks)

Surgery (8 weeks)

Capstone (1 week)

Family Medicine (6 weeks)

Psychiatry (6 weeks)

OB/GYN (6 weeks)

Capstone (1 week)

Ophthalmology (1 week)

Neurology (4 weeks)

I’m super excited (and nervous) for third year. It will be a huge change from being in the classroom, but I’m sure it will be very rewarding.

On Happiness {Old Post}

Medical students are FULL of imperfections. Doctors are FULL of imperfections. I follow quite a few other medical bloggers, and sometimes it seems like they have the perfect lives. They have glamorous clothes, their hair looks super cute and life seems to be just going perfectly.

Some days medical school is just awful, other days it is truly the biggest blessing in my life. The good days are the ones that we post photos on Instagram or tell our friends about. The bad ones, not so much. I wrote a post a while back on staying sane, and this one is about a similar topic. How can we stay truly happy through medical school?

Medical school is an incredibly grueling time and I’ve seen countless friends become depressed. It’s easy to brush them off and say, “Oh, this is a blessing to be in medical school. You should be grateful!” It’s a lot harder to work through things with them and realize that it’s NORMAL to have really crappy days and even weeks in medical school.

Personally, I remember first semester of my M1 year being so down sometimes. I would cry to B and think of giving up. Medical school seemed awful, studying all the time and basically having no time to do things that made me happy seemed not worth it. Even though M2 year has been significantly better, I still have my days where I wonder am I giving up my happiness to pursue this career?

I’m here to tell you that studying and grueling hours obviously is not going to end when you graduate medical school. So, instead of quitting or giving up, I learned how to be happy in medical school. Yes, I said LEARN. Here are a few things that I think are important on your journey:

Enjoy the day to day.

I used to always think of things in a very segmented fashion. I was going to take my MCAT and graduate college to get to medical school. I’m going to go to medical school to get to residency, and so on. Even though having goals is great, this kind of thinking can make you forget your day to day happiness. You’ll always be fighting for that goal, instead of being happy about where you are. If you are pre-med give yourself a pat on the back. I know it’s really, really tough, but you are doing it! Right now, you are doing it! Enjoy being in undergrad, making (some) mistakes, and having less responsibility. I’m trying to be present in my day to day routine more often. Instead of seeing these four years as something I have to “get through,” I’m trying to really soak it all in. My goal is just to be a sponge and learn as much as I can. I’m even trying to be positive this year about winter and enjoy the cold weather (this is actually proving to be very difficult). So, my point is don’t see things as a means to an end, that’ll only make you unhappy and unsatisfied. Rather, enjoy the journey. Take pictures with friends, laugh, make new connections, fail and triumph.

Take care of yourself.

I’ve said this before in my staying sane post…but really, take care of yourself. This doesn’t have to mean just exercise and good nutrition. As conceited as this may sound, for me, I want to feel beautiful every day. Sometimes buying the sweater I’ve been dying to get my hands on or putting on extra mascara is what makes me feel beautiful. Other times it’s cooking an awesome meal and laughing with B that makes me feel beautiful. Sometimes it’s going on a walk by myself and taking horrible quality iphone pictures of fall trees. I used to feel bad that I’d want to shop or spend money on myself, like it was irresponsible or something. The more I got to thinking about it, I just said screw that! If getting something new for yourself or treating yourself to a massage is what is going to make you feel good, then do it! Moral of the story is just give yourself what you need, whatever that is.

Remember why you started.

When I feel really down, I try to remember why I started this whole journey. When I say this I mean sure you can ponder in your room, but don’t ponder too long. Get out there! Go volunteer or go shadow in a clinic. Especially during first and second year where you have little patient interaction, it’s important to remember what you wanted from this whole thing. Seeing patients or interacting with others in the community always reenergizes me and helps me put things into perspective.

 Don’t forget that medical school isn’t it.

I know some people say they were born for medicine, or that this is their life. Maybe some of those people do truly exist. I was put here to pursue my own happiness. Medical school and medicine does make me happy and makes me feel very fulfilled. But, I also care about a whole lot of other things. My relationship with my boyfriend makes me so incredibly happy. My family and support system makes me smile. Being able to read a book in a warm home makes me thankful. Even writing this blog makes life worth living. Medical school is important, but it can’t be the only thing you draw meaning from. If you can remember that life outside of the classroom exists and is important, you will always have something to draw happiness from.

 Don’t expect happiness, work for it.

There is nothing wrong with being unhappy sometimes. It is a normal emotion. So is anger, sadness, being so mad you want to punch a pillow, and laughing so hard you think you’re actually going to die. Allow yourself to have all of the emotions and be okay with experiencing them. We are emotional creatures, and I’d say it’s a lot weirder to be constantly happy than to experience all emotions. That being said, happiness isn’t just going to be there waiting for you at your front door. We all have challenges, regardless of where we are in life. Some days happiness will be easy, like the day you honor a class or the day that you have the best hair day ever without even trying. Other days you are going to have to constantly remind yourself that life is good and that you DESERVE happiness, no matter how badly you screwed up.

Ask for help if you need it.

This whole life thing really isn’t the easiest. It’s okay to need and ask for help. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called on friends or family to get through the struggle. Sometimes it feels like you aren’t winning at anything. Your relationship is failing or non-existant, you just did awful on an exam and on top of that your best friend is mad at you. Don’t feel like you have to go through everything alone. Even though at times it may feel like a lonely journey, we are all going through similar struggles. We may try to hide them, but in reality we all have our own issues. If you don’t feel comfortable seeking the advice of a friend or classmate, find help within the administration of your school or even from a therapist. Wouldn’t you rather get back up on your feet than spiral into something worse?

In my life…

I delivered a baby this week! Just kidding, only an iBaby, but it was really fun! I also had my OSCE yesterday, hoping I passed! I made a few mistakes, but I’m hoping they don’t hurt me too much. Today is also my birthday! I’m starting to feel pretty old — the big 24 😉

Well, look out for an upcoming post on advice on how to make big decisions (where to go to college, medical school, etc). Have a great week everyone!

Making It Work {Old Post}

As promised, I will be writing about my personal tips on how to stay happy in your relationship during medical school (and before). My boyfriend and I met while we were both attending the University of Michigan for undergrad. We had mutual friends and met through them my sophomore year (his junior year). I had invited him to an event and we really hit it off. After dating for a year he graduated and actually moved to Florida for a job. Luckily, after a year of doing long-distance he moved back to Michigan before I started medical school.

We settled into a small apartment about 15 minutes from my school. I’m happy I moved to school a few months before we actually started up because I had plenty of time to organize and make the space my own. I’m a strong believer in the need to be comfortable in your own home in order to be happy. Some places just don’t feel like home and until they do you can’t ever really be at peace. My first year was a complete whirlwind. Not only did I have to learn how to succeed in medical school, but I also had to learn how to live with my boyfriend.

 First and foremost, I am very lucky that my boyfriend is incredibly compassionate, forgiving and flexible. If you are going to be in medicine you truly need a partner that is very patient. There are going to be a lot of bumps along the way, but if you’ve found the right person, it won’t be anything you can’t handle. Below are some tips from my own personal experience:

1. Tell your partner what you need, don’t keep them guessing. I made this mistake at first believing that B could read my mind. When I finally learned, I just told him exactly what I needed. One of the big things I asked for was support during the week prior to my exams. I needed him to basically take care of me and the place (cook, clean, pack lunches, do laundry). Luckily, he has always been willing to help out around the house. By asking him to do these things for me I can concentrate on my studies that week. As a “trade” during non-exam weeks I try to do more of the household chores and cooking.

 2. Talk about your dreams and goals. Once your partner is on the same page as you about long-term goals they will have a better understanding of why you put in the work on a day to day basis. I’ve told B my future goals of becoming an amazing family doc, writing a book, and teaching one day. Listen to your partner’s goals too. I’ve noticed some people aren’t as laser focused as medical students are. I’ve always known what I wanted and that’s just been the way it’s been. My partner isn’t as certain about his future, so it’s always a good thing to explore their goals and dreams. Let them know that it’s okay not to know (we future docs are just very, very focused).

 3. Use your partner as a standardized patient. I’m not joking. Prior to my OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination) I asked B to be my patient. I took his vitals, practiced a pulmonary exam on him and attempted to take a history. Although he got annoyed at times of me percussing his posterior thorax, we still had alot fun. Learning doesn’t always have to be lonely.

4. Try not to get upset when they do things without you. I tend to feel left out when B hangs out with all of our friends, while I’m stuck at home studying. Although this is one of the downsides about being in medical school, you have to remember that your partner deserves to do everything and anything that makes them happy. Even though I’m missing out, I always ask B for updates on what he’s doing with friends and for lots of pictures! It makes me happy to see him happy.

5. Carve out alone time. I tend to jam pack my schedule with meetings, events and get togethers when I’m not studying. Don’t forget that your partner needs attention too. This is one especially important thing when you live together. Even though you are sharing space, it doesn’t mean you are spending time together. For example, many nights I’m studying in my study room, while B is playing video games. Plan nights that the two of you can have dedicated time together. This could be a wine and movie night or dancing in the living room to sappy songs.

 6. Don’t compare where you are at in your relationship to everyone else on the internet. I swear I see an engagement notice popping up in my feed every other day. My friends are having babies and buying houses! Medical students will undoubtedly take an alternative route. Some of my classmates are married, but most I would say don’t have that in the cards due to mounting student debt. It’s great to talk about your future including marriage, kids, and where you want to live. Just remember that you are putting in the time now to be happy for the rest of your life. I’d much rather postpone my marriage a few years than sit in a desk job that I absolutely hate.

7. Celebrate their accomplishments. As a medical student, I guarantee you are doing awesome things and learning about some of the most incredible things. Don’t forget that your partner is most likely reaching their goals too. Make them dinner when they get a new job or treat them to a massage when they finish a presentation at work.

8. Tell them when you love something that they do. One thing I love that B does is he always leaves me notes on my white board to come home to. Sometimes they are silly and sometimes they are just plain cute. It always puts me in a good mood to come home to that. Showing appreciation is a hugely important part of a successful relationship.

9. Never go to bed mad. This is one of my rules of thumb. Every couple fights and when they do people tend to blow up on each other and walk away. I’m all for taking a “time out” and cooling down, but I never go to bed mad. I think this is something that inevitably leads to a topic being pushed down and buried, only to resurface later. If and when B and I fight we always try to talk things out and go to bed on a positive note.

10. Let them grow. The worst relationships I’ve seen are the ones in which one person holds another person back from their true potential. I’m blessed to have someone who always supports my career aspirations and allows me to truly be exactly who I want to be. I never feel tied down and I’d never want to make him feel that way either. Even though you are in a relationship it’s important to have some separate hobbies, goals and friends. Let each other be individuals as well as a cohesive unit.

11. Lastly, support each other but also know when to call each other out. Some couples live by a “back me up no matter what” motto and I definitely don’t. I would much rather have B tell me when I’m wrong so I can learn from my mistakes and grow as a person, than for him to just follow what I do and say no matter what. Accepting and understanding why you can (sometimes) be wrong is a large part of blossoming as an adult. Make each other better and celebrate your differences in opinion, rather than being carbon copies of each other.

Now, on to the turkey drop. What is it? So, the turkey drop is what medical students call Thanksgiving break. Often, people who came into school in relationships and are long-distance will go home and will break up. Hence the name, turkey drop. Okay, so I know breaking up is very hard emotionally, but just try to remember that it’s better now than later. If you and your partner can’t make it through the first few months of medical school you probably won’t make it through board studying, residency, babies and lots of other life things. Attempt to see it as a blessing in disguise. Trust me, there are plenty of other people out there. If you are taking a break up poorly, remember to reach out to your classmates and upper classman. Chances are they are going through similar things. Above all remember that you are in medical school, which automatically makes you bad ass. Don’t waiver on your dreams just because of a failed relationship. Use it as a learning experience on how to choose your next significant other.

Well, back to studying renal for me! We have our final exam on Tuesday!

Relationships {Old Post}

There are many different types of relationships you will be confronted within as a pre-medical and medical student. You will have to decide how to establish good relationships with professors and mentors. You’ll make steps to keep friendships alive while you are busier than ever. You’ll have to stay in touch with your family and figure out how to juggle having a significant other. Each of these relationships requires a different approach to be successful.

 Professors/Mentors

The biggest piece of advice I can give on fostering good relationships with this group of people is to always stay professional. A great relationship with someone who is higher than you on the totem pole can be ruined by one unprofessional act. An unprofessional act could be any of the following: showing up late, not attending things deemed mandatory, wearing unprofessional clothes, swearing in front of professors, talking negatively about others, lying or cheating. The last two seem pretty obvious, yet I’ve still heard them happening at the level of medical school. The first few are a little less obvious but just as important. I always remind myself that I’m in a professional school now and anything I do can compromise my future. I also remind myself that I wouldn’t want a doctor who shows up late, wears scandalous clothing or lies. If you do that you will never screw up. Keep in mind becoming a professional person is a work in progress. People will understand if you make a few (small) mistakes on the way because we all have to start as beginners. Other things to do while building a relationship with a mentor or professor are:

  • Send professional e-mails and follow-up in a timely matter

  • Send thank-you notes when appropriate

  • Visit office hours

  • Send a personal congratulatory note when you hear of an accomplishment he or she made

  • On a day to day basis to say hello and see how this person is doing

Friends

Choose them wisely. I’ll be the first to admit to having some not so good relationships with friends over the years. I think what I’ve learned from this is that you must surround yourself by people who are genuinely happy for you and have the same values as you do. I’ve had a number of friends who can’t be happy for me or won’t allow me to do my own thing. These types of friends are not the ones you want or need. I can’t stress how important this is. In medical school, you will have limited time and you need friends that will understand this. Of course, most other medical students will, but your friends who have careers need to also. I have several friends who are more than understanding of my limited time. They bend over backward to see me or help me out because they know that’s what I need at this point in my life. These are the people that will get you through the tough days.

Once you’ve found these amazing people make sure you put time and effort into developing these friendships. This can be small things like making a personal phone call for someone’s birthday or sending a cute card in the mail. This could be following up and making sure your friend who just started grad school had a great first week. This could also be dropping everything when you have a friend whose suffering. One other note on friends, in medical school you have a lot less classmates than in undergrad. I go to school with about 100 students in my year. Even if you don’t love someone’s personality or demeanor in your class, make sure to keep it professional. You could be colleagues one day and the last thing you want to do is have a poor relationship with them. If the person chooses to be unprofessional, at least you tried on your end.

Family

Thank goodness for them. I’ve leaned on my family countless times for support during my first year of medical school. Be sure to make time for them even when you are busy. I’ve had several instances when my parents wanted to visit at “inconvenient” times for me, but I made it work. Since I knew time would be limited as medical school continued, I made it a point to spend a large chunk of my summer between M1 & M2 year with my family. I visited my mom’s house several times and got to spend more time with my brothers. I went on a vacation with my mom and hosted my brother at my place for 2 months while he took summer classes. I also spent a few weekends with my dad. This may not seem like much, but it really does make a difference. I constantly talk to my family on the phone or via texting so I never feel too far away from them. I’ve had several friends just during my first year of school have truly devastating things happen to them in the realm of family. It’s incredibly difficult to go through a personal or family crisis during medical school, so my two cents is to spend as much time with the people you love as you can.

Significant Other

Okay, so I’m going to leave everyone on kind of a cliff hanger on this one. I realized that I really need an entire post to talk about how to successfully manage a personal relationship before and during medical school. I’ll give you tips on how to make it, but also how to survive the turkey drop (if you have to). So, stay tuned on this one. For now, I’ll tell you all that I currently live with my boyfriend of three years and am happier than ever!

Mom and Dad at the white coat ceremony!