Thursday, 8 November 2012

Taking a break.

During my first week of pediatrics, I experienced things that some would conclude as symptoms of mild depression. For a few days I could not eat or sleep properly. I didn't feel sleepy or hungry, at all. My rest-and-digest system was suddenly taken over by fight-or-flight mode. All I wanted to do was being awake and keeping myself busy with studying and paperwork, as if these were the only things I was born to do. I could not think of anything other than medicine and more medicine. In the morning I didn't even feel tired despite the lack of rest the night before. I felt strangely energised. I felt like I could hold the world, and swallow it whole. Deep down though, I knew it wasn't healthy, because I wasn't happy and that I needed to get out of it as soon as possible. I knew that if I'd kept going like that, I'd eventually experience a major breakdown, either physically or mentally or both. Luckily I'm blessed with a powerful compensatory mechanism, so I managed to survive and to enjoy a proper life again.

Looking back, the one thing that had been missing from my life was... life. Before that, I almost always refused an offer to watch movies, hang out in the malls, or have a random girly chit-chat. If I didn't feel like I have time for that, then I wouldn't do it. In fact, not only did I have time for that, I needed it.

In a field as rigorous as medicine, taking a break every now and then is crucial to preserve your sanity. You'll feel this need more when you've entered the clinical portion of your medical education. The studying part is already intense, without having to take into account the system, the hierarchy. No wonder, I think, if so many excited medical students quickly turn into overworked, frustrated, depressed, angry, aggressive, even suicidal persons (and it doesn't get better as they become physicians).

A proper break must take your mind away temporarily from whatever causing your stress. It does not make you avoid the problem at hand; on the contrary, it will help you see the problem more clearly, so that you can handle it better.

A break can take any forms. Obviously, it always helps if a medical student has one or two good hobbies. I blog, I read novels, I write poems, I paint pictures, I tweet, I enjoy memes and sometimes even do the trolling myself. Recently I've been adding more social events: going to weddings, eating out, watching movies. The last two are best done on the weekends, but sometimes I challenge myself to do them spontaneously, such as directly after work with teammates who are not doing shift. I also collect religious pictures and quotes because they always help tremendously in reminding me that there's Someone in control of it all. It really puts things into perspective.

I'm looking forward to this weekend when I will have a new movie to watch with a high school friend I haven't seen in a long time, and a Holy Mass to attend. I'm also looking forward to reading the Catechism, as part of my Year of Faith project.

What do you usually do to de-stress?

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