Redefining Resilience as a Medical Student

Hi all, exams are over and it has been so nice to not have the pressure of work looming over me. I can finally rest! But what does this mean…

It has been really hard figuring out what rest looks like for me. Over the last decade, mental health has become more widely spoken about and of course, with the pandemic, there seemed to be a shared understanding of struggling with a lack of purpose. We all sipped our Dalgona coffees with our banana bread, after a grueling run that our Couch to 5k app guilted us into (hey, don’t bash it until you try it!) I am so grateful that these lockdown trends are a distant memory that I can joke about, but at the time, it was really hard to be living with this constant unshakeable uncertainty.

chocolate chip banana bread made by me (and yes, it is zoomed in so you don’t see the burnt bits)

As lockdowns passed by, and Trump came and went, our lives may be feeling slightly more normal, but the importance of looking after our mental health is still as great as ever. I am not afraid to say I struggle with my mental health (though much easier to say behind a screen), but the stigma and silence around it is pervasive. This is especially true in Medicine where the traditional definition of success often looks like long working hours, relentless competition, and constant pressure, all while maintaining a smile for the patient. We are told to be resilient, and this is what makes us good doctors.

Here are some ways I hope to redefine resilience. I want to allow myself to feel all the difficult feelings. It is okay to have bad days and to need help. I want to learn to be more compassionate towards myself, to be curious about what looking after myself means, and to not feel guilty for resting. I hope to lean into my community and not isolate myself when I struggle. I want to be an open vessel and still know when to close myself before I am full to the brim. I hope to continue to speak up for adjustments I may need (without feeling guilty for taking up space). Resilience doesn’t have to mean pushing on when times are tough. It can mean stopping, taking a break, calling a friend (or a therapist), and practising self-compassion before you carry on.

So yes, exams are over… And still, I have been feeling a bit anxious and struggling to fully relax (and feeling frustrated for not being able to when I have been waiting for this for so long!) But, I am going to try and just let it be, and trying to be kind to myself. I am where I am, and there is nowhere I have to be. Apart from maybe the clinic I said I would join later this afternoon…

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