Year 2 Reflections…Challenges Make Us Stronger

This week was refreshing as we started the final block of the Fundamentals of Medicine: The Nervous System and Human Behavior. The previous block (Reproduction) was surprisingly one of the most challenging blocks for me due to the sensitive nature of some of the topics such as complications in pregnancy. It was difficult to listen to the lecture on miscarriage having personally experienced the trauma of a miscarriage 7 years ago. It felt like I was reliving the experience and I found myself thinking about my dear, sweet, unborn child that I never got to meet.

Moments like this plus settling my son into Grade 1, helping him with homework, occasionally managing on my own while my husband was away, plus the pressure of exams, made things seem overwhelming at times (there were definitely plenty of tears). But I continually remind myself how grateful I am to be in medical school and how much I enjoy it. And in those moments when I was really down, I thank God for his indescribable peace and grace that sustained me. I thank God for my wonderful husband, who despite experiencing his own stress and pressure at work, continues to support me and stand by me on this journey. I thank God for my family and friends who continue to pray for me and motivate me. Sometimes I feel as if I am a marathon runner who has supporters running alongside me shouting, “Keep going! Don’t give up! Keep your eye on the prize!”

One of my dearest cousins used to tell me that nothing worth having in life ever comes easily. This needn’t scare us about trying things and stretching ourselves beyond our comfort zone! It is worth the effort, tears and sweat in the end!

I am truly excited to be learning about the human brain, nervous system and behavior over the next few weeks. This week in the anatomy lab, I had the rare privilege of holding a human brain in my hands. I hope this will not be too gruesome for some of you to read but I had to write this to express my sincere appreciation for the magnificence of the human body and for those people who donated themselves for our educational learning. To be holding the essence of this individual’s personality, memories, hopes and dreams in my hands made me reflect on how important each life is.

Featured Image by Potential Doctor: Sunset view of Montreal after a hike up Mont Royal 

 

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White Coat Ceremony…Donning the Healer’s Habit

Today was a very special day as my classmates and I celebrated a milestone in our medical training…The White Coat Ceremony! It was a beautiful and inspiring ceremony as we reflected on the next phase of our training, the moments when we will get to experience the triumphs and challenges of helping our patients navigate their illness.

In January, we will be transitioning into clinical practice which is when we will begin observational hospital rotations (alongside lectures and small groups) before beginning our official rotations in the 3rd year of medical school. I am very grateful that our curriculum offers us this opportunity to gradually transition into the world of clinical practice as we wrap up our Fundamentals of Medicine block in December.

Today was a reminder of the immense challenges ahead, but also what an incredible privilege it is to be in this profession.

 

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My amazing, supportive husband by my side
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White Coat Ceremony!
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Going on stage to receive my White Coat. So humbled and proud to be a part of the medical profession

 

Parenting Principles That Transformed My Life…Speaking Positively

Raising kids is one of the greatest challenges one can face. It calls for the utmost patience, unconditional love, and draws stark attention to our own weaknesses. I personally realized that I was not as patient as I thought I was. I can recall my angry outbursts and frustration with my two young children (particularly my son), often feeling like I had no idea what I was doing when it came to parenting. I couldn’t understand why they simply couldn’t listen more…and whine less!!

This summer, with my kids home with me every day for 2 months straight, I knew something had to change with my parenting approach. I didn’t like the fact that I felt so much frustration and helplessness. I decided to take concrete action and found that I started to see significant improvements in my son’s behavior (and my own!) If there’s one thing that I have realized with kids, it’s that often their negative behavior is fueled by my own behavior and attitudes.

So what action did I take? In a nutshell, I prayed daily about the situation and I read parenting resources voraciously. Then I applied what I learned consistently!

I have distilled what I learned down to five basic principles which I learned from several different books and online resources. I feel that these ideas have completely transformed the way that I see myself and my children. I will share these principles with you over a series of posts, but let’s get started with the first one.

Parenting Principle Number One: Positive Speaking

  • Speak positively about your child and to your child:  A child responds to your demeanor and attitude toward them. If all they hear is negative words about themselves, this is how they will behave. Negativity can slip out unintentionally in a moment of frustration: “You’re so messy!”, “You’re so slow!”, “What’s wrong with you!!”. I know I have been guilty of putting down my son when I could have been more gentle or understanding.
  • How can you create a more positive environment for your child? Focus on your child’s strengths. What are they good at? What did they do well today? This can be in the simplest of ways, “Thank you for putting your toys away” or “You were really sweet with you sister today, that’s great!” or “You’re really good at building things, keep up the effort!” This doesn’t mean ignoring their weaknesses or any bad behavior, but it means putting more emphasis on what the did well rather than what they failed at.

This principle was inspired by reading “Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World” by Zig Ziglar.

Stay tuned for Principle Number 2 in this series of ‘Parenting Principles That Transformed My Life’

Featured Image Courtesy of jodysysler.com

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

 

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!

 

Forgiveness Includes Forgiving Yourself

It can be so hard to forgive yourself when you make a mistake that hurts others, particularly those you love. This week was a lesson for me in the art of forgiving myself for not being the perfect mother I envisioned. Of course, I know deep down I cannot be the perfect ‘anything’. But given the weight of responsibility of being a mother, I figured I had better get this right. Two other little humans are depending on me for direction and to be the best example I can be.

Motherhood has been one of the most challenging, heart-wrenching, and tear-inducing experiences I have been through…and yet one of the most wonderful, joyful and rewarding. My children simultaneously bring out the best and the worst in me. Through seeing my own weaknesses daily, I am finding it easier to be more gracious towards others, because I know I sorely need grace myself.

Back to this week’s motherhood challenge. My son went through a difficult ‘terrible twos’ phase two years ago. This was to be expected at this age and with consistent discipline in the form of time-outs, his behavior improved significantly by age 3. I was then very surprised when at the age of 4, he seemed to embark on a ‘terrible fours’ phase (does such a thing exist?)

None of the usual discipline was working. Time-outs were ineffective and seemed to make my son very angry and upset. He seemed like a completely different child and I felt ineffective and helpless. This week we reached the zenith of the difficult behavior. Coupled with the stress of unexpected repairs to our house, I was hardly the in-control mother I hoped to be. I lost my temper, became very angry and said things I shouldn’t have. I felt like a different person.

I talked things over with my husband and we decided we needed to adapt our discipline methods. What had worked before was not very effective now. We decided to implement an approach of positive reinforcement. Specifically the behaviors we focused on were:

  • Obedience
  • No whining
  • No rudeness
  • No melt-downs

For each of these 4 behaviors that my son managed to achieve throughout the course of the day (one warning was allowed), he would get a star on his reward chart and a sticker of his choice at the end of the day. We would review how the day went and ask him how he felt it went. The idea is not to suppress his feelings but to teach him how to control them better.

Today was Day 1 of the new approach and it went fantastically! He would still get angry or upset sometimes (which is normal) but he handled it much better. My son likes stickers and reward charts (it worked really well for potty training) so I think this new approach will go well. I don’t expect every day to be perfect but I think this is a step in the right direction.

Parenting can be so difficult sometimes, but I’m reminding myself that I am helping to shape a human being who can then go out and have a positive impact on this world. All the disciplining, the tears, the heartache… will be worth it for the person who will emerge with character.

Today, I forgive myself for making many mistakes as a mother. Tomorrow is a new day with my beautiful family, with my wonderful children who I adore, a new opportunity to treat them with love and respect…no perfection necessary.

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My son (when he was  around 9 months old) and I going for a stroll along the boardwalk in Saint Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec. Beautiful memories.