June: Resilience amidst adversity

Saying that medical education is not easy is an understatement. 

But the pandemic has created unique and unanticipated challenges and stresses. Among those, loss of loved ones, concerns for the safety of one’s family members, and financial concerns amidst an unemployment crisis are at the top of the list. Then add to this the usual stressors of being a medical student– expectations of superb performance against a backdrop of cut-throat classmates; a scarcity of time for self-reflection and self-care; and social isolation during urgent quarantines are synergistically encroaching on student stamina.ife.

What can we do to fortify ourselves against these many compounding stressors?

One word we may often hear during medical training is “resilience.” We know that it’s useful to have. We know the more we have of it the better. Yet how do we achieve it? Is resilience something that can be taught? According to The American Psychological Association, it can! To paraphrase, the steps involved include the following:

1) Building connections with empathetic others

2) Fostering wellness: spend more time walking, running, meditating or praying; remember that your wellness is your foundation, and everything else is just icing on the cake

3) Finding purpose: we all are here for a reason, dig down deep, journal often, and find that passionate purpose that drives us towards success even in the midst of incredible adversity

4) Embracing healthy thoughts: our mind is like a computer; if our inputs are always negative, we will program our brains to expect only negative results. Try to find gratitude and positivity even in the smallest simplest things. We often lose sight of the fact that sitting down to a healthy meal with a loved one, or simply going for a walk, are gifts of which many others are deprived.

5) Seeking help: this is key: we are often taught that asking for help reveals weakness. In reality, the knowledge and wisdom needed to identify a need for assistance are an essential strength.

To end, as future physicians, we can perhaps learn much from those who have suffered greatly. 

Throughout our professional years, we will encounter many, many victims of trauma, regardless of whether we are keen enough or compassionate enough to recognize them. If you need a little boost in your own journey towards resilience, take a moment to watch this TEDx talk by a trauma survivor.

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