By Milie Fang, OMS-2 | July 17, 2018
Before medical school, I never felt the need for self-help or self-love. Instead, what I felt was the need to constantly take on responsibilities to feel useful, important, and to have purpose. I was used to working 18-hours a day (without breaks) as a medical scribe and research aide, and had unrealistic expectations what I could handle. When I look back, I really don’t know how I made it this far in medical school.
Things are different now. I’ll spare you the details of my journey, but instead I’ll share a few tips on how I focus on the now and find joy in being in the moment when life seems a bit too overwhelming. Enjoy!
- Learn to say no. Saying no is hard for me. I made an appointment with one of my professors when I felt burnt out. She suggested I think of saying “yes” to something as an indirect way of also saying “no” to something else (i.e. my sanity, ha ha). For example, instead of attending all the awesome events and opportunities available at Marian, I limit it to only two or three. Sometimes, even that can become overwhelming, since non-school-related events inevitably come up. I have since decided to do a maximum of one nice thing for someone or attend one event per week. This is extremely difficult because I want to be there for others, or learn about topics not always deeply discussed in class, such as work-life balance and the status of the opioid epidemic. Yet, if I do not dedicate “me” time, or time to just be, I habitually put myself second and ultimately, my health and energy decline.
- Avoid multitasking as much as possible. I notice that when I eat while studying, I go into autopilot mode and don’t feel full afterwards. I feel sluggish and am not able concentrate well: Which is logically explained by increased blood flow to my gut and less to my brain. I have since committed to giving 100% of my attention to all activities with no exceptions. When I eat, I am not studying or watching television: I’m enjoying each bite slowly and admiring the texture and taste! When I am studying, I am not listening to music or checking email, etc. Even though it may seem like multitasking would be more efficient, I actually save more time because I am much more focused and thus efficient.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself. I also make schedules I can’t possibly follow (ex. completing 200 board questions in a day and review all of them). I tell myself that it’s okay to not reach those goals and that the process is what’s important. To me, the learning is more important than the grade. I remember telling my friend this past January when I was starting to slowly board study that I was just doing one question a day—just one!
Doing yoga or some kind of exercise every day, and not fretting about losing ten pounds because it doesn’t matter as long as you feel good and love yourself. Being physical is worth your while, because sitting and stressing over what you have to do does nothing but create more anguish.
Overall, practice being patient and kind with yourself. We do this well with those we love and cherish, but rarely for ourselves. I emphasize the word practice, because I don’t think we should aim for perfection, rather for attaining peace in our lives—a sense of calm in our chaotic world. To answer the question, “how can I be okay when I’m not okay,” is to be human. We accept our limitations and choose to share, rather than hide, the pain and suffering behind our disguise. This is not an invitation to hold a pity party, but an invitation to let things go and realize there’s more for you, me, and all of us in this existence when we can be our honest selves.
Milie Fang is an osteopathic medical school student of the Class of 2020 at Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Disclaimer: The essay written here is solely of my opinion and thoughts and not of my affiliations. I am not being paid or pressured to write this!