“Take medicine they said, it’ll be rewarding they said. Then why is it that all I want to do is quit? Why is it that all I want to do is die?”

As an 18-year-old, I feel like we are very unequipped to make important decisions. We are relatively sheltered before that. It does not help that we are naïve, innocent and all we want to do is take a rewarding profession, take up a course that’ll make our parents proud. Medicine is a field that is said to be filled with adventures, even today. TV shows like Grey’s anatomy and House create an image of satisfaction, adrenaline and drama around this profession, and which Indian student not want drama in their life? What the shows, and aunties and sometimes even parents fail to tell you is the psychological strain your profession will put you under. They don’t  tell you the demanding study and work hours, they don’t tell you the stress and anxiety, don’t tell you the self-esteem issues and the sleepless nights, the extreme competition- something you’ve never faced before, after all we all were the toppers of our schools, the stars in our society.

A study conducted on medical students of Bhubaneshwar cited that more than half of the respondents were affected by depression (51.3%), anxiety (66.9%) and stress (53%) [1]. And this is just one of the many that have published similar results. And come to think of it, why wont a medical student have anxiety and depression or any form of mental illness? They are very young when most of them have to move out of their shelters and live in a hostel with 3 or more strangers. Suddenly, overnight the student must learn to change age old mannerisms, make new friends, interact with seniors, sometimes even get bullied. And not only that, they also must face with an exponential increase in the workload, they have to adapt to new food, new climate, new everything. It doesn’t help that sometimes professors are demanding or that they tell you to overcome your stress and come ahead of your classmates. The thing is everyone acknowledges the stress that a medical student goes through, but very few are willing to do anything about it. “if we could do it, so can you” is the basic lecture that goes around.

Despite being in the 21st century the fact remains that metal illness is still a taboo. Not only is it frowned upon, but the student himself sees it as a sign of weakness. The student tries to push the illness further away not realizing that it’s just getting that much more serious. Backing out of an exam, taking a few days off for your mental health is seen as a sign of weakness, a sign of cowardice and a sign of defeat.

My point of nearly 500 words is this, you are not alone. We all have faced it and continue to face it. Sometimes it is okay to take a step back and unplug from the surrounding to heal. Going back home because you miss your parents isn’t a sign of running away, its just what it is, you are missing your parents. Seeking help or accepting that you are stressed isn’t a sign of defeat, it’s the first step on the road to recovery. Deciding to go out on a trek or painting or going to the movies after a hectic week isn’t dodging your responsibilities, its simply unwinding ad rewarding yourself for a job well done. So, this month and on, lets all take a deep breath in, and let out our frustrations and worries.

Some tips to face anxiety or depression:

  1. Accept that you are anxious or depressed, acceptance is always the first step.
  2. Don’t ruminate on things that were said and done. Know that it happened in the past, and nothing you say or do now is going to change that.
  3. Break bigger daunting tasks into small easily achievable tasks, need to study for 6 hours for your exam? Work on small 40 minutes at a time and trick your brain into thinking that 40 mins is all you have to do, one step at a time.
  4. Cut down on caffeine. Be conscious of your caffeine ingestion and limit it to 1-2 cups a day. There has been a positive correlation between caffeine and anxiety. [2]
  5. Practice meditation. It has been scientifically proven that meditation significantly reduced (P< 0.05) state anxiety in each meditation training session with decreases ranging from 15% to 22% [3]. Great apps for b is theeginners are headspace app or https://quietkit.com/#cant-listen. The website is completely free with articles on meditation and guided meditation audios for beginners and experts.
  6. Lastly, seek help when you feel that your symptoms are getting out of hand, nobody is going to judge you for seeking help. Do not under any circumstance self-medicate, you may be a medical student, but you aren’t a psychiatrist.

I would like to end the article with famous words by Newt Scamander, “worrying only means you suffer twice!”

Poonam Nayak

 

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4442334/
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/1300232
  3. https://academic.oup.com/scan/article/9/6/751/1664700

 

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