Managing competing priorities is certainly something that all university students can identify with. As the semester gains momentum, with academic work, social events, extra-curricular commitments and everyday tasks such as laundry and financial management, it can feel like a lot of plates are spinning in the air! When we’re busy, especially with deadlines and placements, it can be so tempting to let some of our self-care activities drop to recoup some time for time-sensitive commitments. However, if we want to be at our best, perform at our best and stay well in the long-term, it’s wise to prioritise our self-care. This week, one of our Positive Peers share their four tips for wellbeing on placement.
As a disclaimer: I’m not a wellbeing expert, I’m a fourth year medical student who is making it up as I go along. . . but bear with me here, because in this blog I want to show you (and reassure myself!) that that’s okay, because maintaining wellbeing is something to be continually striving for and adapting in order to cope with what’s thrown at you.
When I began clinical medicine last year, being on placement myself and having conversations with friends about our experiences made me realise that although we were mostly enjoying ourselves and loved sharing anecdotes, it is also a strange and often difficult time. I became involved with Positive Peers because I wondered if anyone else felt the same way, and because I firmly believe that it makes no sense to follow a career aiming to improve other people’s wellbeing if you don’t think about how to maintain your own. As I enter my fourth year, the distance from the hospital I’m on placement at from the central London campuses means I am having to adapt how I am involved. . . welcome to this blog!
The reality is that being on placement has changed how much I can be involved in things that I love doing and has affected my wellbeing. As well as being a Positive Peer, all the other clubs, sports team, societies and events which provided such a well- needed break from medicine for me (and were a big part of what I enjoyed about university in the first three years!) are also more difficult to get to and commit to being involved with regularly. Long travel times and long days (hello, waking up at 6am, 45 minute journey and 7.45am start!), as well as the usual nasty transition back to university, learning things after a lovely lazy summer, the shortening days and cold weather have left me feeling exhausted, and really needing to focus on things I do to look after myself. Here are just a few:
1. Reading! I would love this whole blog post to be about what I’ve been reading and recommending books I love and why*… suffice to say reading is something that always makes me feel better and there’s nothing better than having a good book to look forward to finishing at home.
2. Good food cheers me up, and experimenting with new dishes and ingredients always feels like an accomplishment. Dedicating some time to cooking a meal is relaxing, as it requires your entire focus and gives you a tangible end result! Meal prep is an over-discussed phenomenon on the internet… but it cannot be denied that pulling out yummy, pre-made lunches out of the fridge is so satisfying!!
3. I never fail to be amazed how much better going for a run or a gym class makes me feel…even if finding the motivation to do it is a huge struggle, it is worth it every single time! (If you’re interested in the benefits of exercise, this is a great read: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/03/exercise-depression-disease-death-sit-less-move-more)
4. Last and most important: get things in perspective! When I’m feeling overwhelmed I find that it’s nearly always helpful to talk to someone else. I’m incredibly lucky to have an amazing group of friends; one friend in particular never fails to cheer me up over a good phone chat. I can moan a little about my day, but conclude that it’s really just “all the usual stuff”, and reassuring her that actually I’m fine made me realise I’m fine too.
Do you find any of these things helpful? What changes have placement made to you, and how have these affected your wellbeing? I would love to know whether any of this strikes a chord with you; questions, comments, thoughts and suggestions are all so welcome! Maybe one of your comments will even inspire my next blog post J
*Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: 10/10
This post was written by a Positive Peer. The Positive Peers are health students who support other health students through wellbeing initiatives. Find out more about them here!