Four Simple Stress-Busting Strategies

How do you handle a stressful job, demanding school work, family life, parenthood or the challenges of life in general? There is no one-size-fits-all solution but there are some strategies that can help us cope with the day-to-day demands we face. Based on my personal experiences, I have found that there are 4 things that consistently give me energy, stamina, improve my mood and attitude:

  1. Regular exercise: It can be tough to find time to exercise 3 or more times per week. There are so many other things that need to get done! But, physical activity is as beneficial to our bodies as healthy food is. In fact, when it comes to cardiovascular health, physical activity is just as important as healthy food. It can take some time to find a regimen that works for you but setting realistic goals and easing into it could help set the tone for a more consistent exercise routine. Why not start with just 10 minutes every other day? Establishing the habit is the hardest part but you can do it!
  2. A good night’s sleep: This means different things to different people. Some can get by on 5 hours while others (like me) need at least 8 hours a night to feel fully rested. I have personally found that my mood, attention span, ability to learn and handle stress are much better when I have been sleeping well. If you are feeling stressed, consider whether the amount of sleep you are getting is sufficient for your daily needs.
  3. Social ties: Sharing our struggles with those we trust can take some of the burden off our own shoulders and help us cope. There is no shame in feeling overwhelmed or tired. Reach out to someone if you can!
  4. Reflection: Taking time for reflection, prayer or meditation is a fantastic way to make sense of your thoughts and slow down the rhythm of our fast-paced lives. It can also help us bring to the forefront unresolved feelings, hurts or other difficult emotions. Why not set aside 10 to 15 minutes a day for this personal reflection time?

Whatever stresses you may be going through, consider the above basic strategies to help you cope. Simple but effective!

My recommended workout of the week. This is a great 30-minute cardio workout with light weights (5 to 10 pounds) that also targets chest, abs, glutes, obliques, shoulders and legs. For those with problematic knees (like me!), there is a modified version of the exercise displayed. In general, aim for exercises that target multiple muscle groups at once to get more bang for your buck!

Photo credit: highway2fitness.com

 

Mid-Block Update…and Hello Spring!

Spring is finally here and it’s been a fantastic weekend enjoying the outdoors and spending time with the family. This afternoon, the kids and I spent about 2 hours outside attempting to tidy up the lawn now that most of the snow has melted. The miracle of Spring never fails to amaze me as I witness new bright green buds bursting their way through the ground with utmost determination. It is so refreshing! I also love hearing the sound of the Canadian Geese making their much welcomed return back home.

I am about half-way through the next block of medical school. This block is aptly titled “Defense” as we are learning all about the Immune system. I have to say that this has been one of the most enjoyable blocks of medical school so far. It is complex but simultaneously fascinating. There has also been a significant emphasis on differential diagnosis in this block where we act as medical detectives trying to decipher what could be the diagnosis of a patient’s symptoms. I’ll be wrapping up my Longitudinal Family Medicine Experience next week and I can’t believe I have had the opportunity to see over 100 patients over the past few months of medical school. I have learned so much and benefited greatly from a positive learning environment.

As the weather continues to warm up and we move into a new season, I am so thankful for my family, the people around me, the strength that God gives me daily and the wonderful opportunity to be studying medicine.

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This was the last big snowfall of the season (view from my daughter’s bedroom)
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The kids are super excited that Spring is finally here! We can finally go on the deck!

 

Glorious Sunset

One of the things I love most about where we live is getting to experience beautiful sunsets, particularly after fresh snow has fallen and the pink-purple rays of the sun cast a magnificent contrast to the gleaming white flakes of snow. I took these pictures from our dining room last night as my family and I settled down to eat supper, thankful that we live in a safe and beautiful neighborhood where my children are thriving.

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Glittering Sun, Family Love and the End of Exams!

As I type this, the setting sun is gleaming off the ice and snow that covers the grass in our backyard. I love to write at our dining table because of the beautiful view that I get to experience. My daughter is sitting to my right, testing out a box of markers to make sure each pen is still working well and up to her standards. Every so often, she proudly points to her artwork which at this point mostly consists of multi-colored doodles.

This week was an intense exam week consisting of Anatomy lab exam, Digestion/ Metabolism Final exam and the Reflective exam (which covers clinical material since the beginning of medical school). I found this block to be one of the most intense so far. Despite the challenging exams, the week ended on a great note with a fun patient simulation activity and then dinner with the Dean of Medicine. I was really impressed that the Faculty made time to meet with us in groups over the past few months and that the Dean talked to each of us individually to find out more about us. When asked what he considers to be the features of a good doctor, his words stuck with me….”listen, be kind and be humble”.

Now that this set of exams are over and we are on Spring break, I got to spend a beautiful simple day with my daughter. We did silly things like dancing around the dining room to her favorite music. I love how she would look at me with her big brown eyes and giggle as she tried to copy my dance moves. My son spent the week with his grandmother in the Laurentians since his school was on Spring break and I was having exams. It was the first time he has ever been away from us overnight and it went very well. He had a blast with his granny. I really missed him though and look forward to seeing him  when we drive up to the Laurentians for the weekend.

Today, I had the chance to reflect on the wonderful blessings in my life, especially my husband and children. My husband came home early from work today and surprised me with beautiful flowers. A few weeks ago my son presented me with some of his artwork depicting our family and it really moved my heart to see his perception of us. Sometimes in the busyness of life, we can forget how much we as parents mean to our children and how important we are to them. I love being a mother and wife, and despite the demands of medical school, I am so happy to be learning so much and that I have been given the incredible opportunity to do this. I look forward to the next block after the Spring break!

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Beautiful surprise flowers from hubby!
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My 5 year old’s drawing of our family (including our black dog!)

 

When Striving Towards Your Goal Feels Like a Marathon

There is no doubt that medical school sometimes feels like a marathon. There are moments of high energy and exhilaration. There are also moments when we feel like we are running out of fuel. The pace is fast, intense and requires consistent focus. If there is anything I am learning, it is absolutely necessary to take moments to slow down, reflect and catch our breath. Why are we doing this in the first place? Do we still have our eyes on the finish line? Are we taking time to enjoy the scenery as we run the race?

This week I felt exhausted from all the demands of medical school and family life. I woke up this morning feeling mentally and emotionally tired. I went before God in prayer asking for strength that only He can give. As I opened my Bible, I came across verses that immediately encouraged me and reminded me that it’s ok to feel weak sometimes. It’s ok to fall on our knees, hang our head and call out for some help. In that moment, we just need to take stock of the attitudes permeating our hearts and minds, and lift our head back up to keep our eyes fixed firmly on our prize. We will get to the end of the race and reach our goals in due time!

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I press on towards the goal…” Philippians 3:14

Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Photo credit: http://www.towpathmarathon.net/

Updates on the Second Semester of Medical School

The second semester of medical school is well on its way and it’s been fun, challenging and amazing! From our anatomy labs, I continue to be awed by the beauty and intricacy of the human body. Seeing for oneself how arteries, veins and nerves weave in and out of various organs while trying to piece together the physiological mechanisms that keep us breathing and alive is nothing short of miraculous and fascinating!

We have completed our blocks in Public Health, Respiration, Circulation, Renal and are half-way through Digestion and Metabolism. I am continuing to enjoy my exposure to family medicine which I get to do about 2 to 3 times a month. My favorite aspects of it are the variety of cases you get to see right from children to the elderly. I have enjoyed following up on return patients and getting to practice doing various procedures.

One of my goals in medical school was to ensure I carve out quality time for God, family and hobbies. This has generally been going well! My biggest struggle however has been keeping up with consisent exercise. To help me improve on this, I have downloaded a “30 Day Fitness Challenge” app on my phone which will keep track of my progress.

The kids are doing great! My 5 year old son started taking karate classes (perfect for his high energy personality!) and recently went skating for the first time. His reaction to skating… “Mummy, why do I keep falling?” He also wanted  know if he could bring his snowman inside from the front yard and put it in the freezer to keep it from melting!

My 3 year old daughter is full of funny remarks too. She recently informed us, “Med school is where mummies go and when I become a mummy…..I’m going to med school!”

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My little girl checking on me!
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Birthday surprise from hubby and the kids!
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Celebrating mummy’s birthday with a family movie night. We watched “The Good Dinosaur”. Loved it!
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Nerdy birthday gift from hubby!

 

2016 Highlights and Moving on to 2017

The year 2016 started off as a difficult year but turned into one of the best years of my life. I am still blown away by the fact that I was accepted to medical school after a previous failed attempt and numerous rejections. In hindsight, it made the acceptance all the more sweet and increases my motivation to give my studies my best effort.

It was also a beautiful summer spending time with my husband and kids, watching the kids grow and develop their personalities. I feel incredibly blessed to be a mother and to have friends and family that love and support me in so many ways. I am grateful to God for his grace, love and compassion towards me even when I fail Him.

As we move into 2017, I have one simple goal…to not lose sight of my top priorities which are quality time with God and with my family. I am very excited to be starting my next semester of medical school and all that I will learn over the next few months!