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

 

Accepted! I’m Going to Medical School!

On behalf of the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University, I am delighted to offer you a position in the Fall 2016 MDCM…program. Congratulations!

On behalf of the Admissions Committee, allow me to compliment you on your impressive candidacy. We are confident that your unique experiences and perspectives as a Non-Traditional Pathway student will enrich the McGill learning community and we look forward to your favourable response.

Yours sincerely,
Assistant Dean of Admissions

Words cannot express my joy when I received my offer of admission to medical school yesterday! This is a dream come true for me and after years of effort, three attempts at the MCAT, and my second attempt at applying to medical school, I have finally made it!

Yesterday and today have been  a whirlwind of events as I have spoken to many friends and family members. I have received an outpouring of beautiful messages from all over the world. At my women’s bible study this morning, I was smothered in hugs, smiles, laughter and happy tears as well as presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. A celebration party is already in the works courtesy of my friends who are as excited as I am.

Countless friends and family have been upholding me in prayer this whole journey and particularly after I received the difficult news on Friday that I had been put on the waiting list. My support network never gave up hope and continued to encourage me, support me and pray for me. I have never felt so much overwhelming love around me. My husband came home from work with tears running down his cheeks as we embraced for a long time and the kids were jumping up and down in excitement.

I feel that I have not been walking this journey alone. So many have been walking with me, picking me up when I fell down, motivating me when I felt exhausted, encouraging me when I felt like giving up.

This whole experience, both the highlights and valleys, has made me grow in so many ways and has strengthened my faith in such a mighty way. I am so grateful to all of you who believed in me and encouraged me. I will never forget the night in my kitchen when I announced to my husband that I was giving up on medicine and we talked for 2 straight hours about how that was not an option and we needed to talk through what my concerns were.

Through it all, my husband never wavered and continued to assure me he would walk with me through this journey. I owe so much to my family and friends, and in particular one of my big brothers and mentor who has been inspiring me since we were children, and who consistently told me how much potential  I have. I could not have done this without my Heavenly Father who gave me so much strength through my weak moments, and who guided me when I felt lost.

As I continue to absorb this exciting news, I think of my amazing late father who set a wonderful example of inspiration and dedication in his career as a surgeon. Taken from us to soon, daddy, but I follow this path in honor of you!

I want to encourage everyone out there who is on a difficult path, particularly those trying to get into medicine. It is very competitive, tough and sometimes disheartening to go through the application process, but persistence pays off. Keep trying, don’t give up! Whatever you set your mind to, keep your eyes above the waves and focused on your prize. You will get there at the right time!

Thank you so much to all my readers for taking the time to read my blog and encourage me. You don’t know how much it has meant to me and helped me along the way!! I know that the journey is only really just beginning and I still have a long way to go but I am just so excited to be starting medical school in the Fall!! Please continue to walk with me. It would be my delight to share my experiences with you!

This verse encouraged me multiple times during my journey:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11

A new chapter of my life begins…I’m going to be a doctor!

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My beautiful family that I’m so blessed to have!

 

 

 

All Medical School Applications are in…Let the Waiting Games Begin!

Today I submitted the last of my medical school applications and it was a very rewarding feeling to hit the final “submit” button! I have also verified that the universities I have applied to have received all supporting documents and transcripts so I am relieved that this is all under control!

I have one last exam to do at the end of October, the mysterious CASPer exam (required by a few medical schools in North America) which is a 90-minute online exam with various scenarios in video and written format. I found some sample questions online that I have started working on.

In preparation for any potential interviews, I am practicing interview questions with my husband and have started reading through an interesting eBook called “Making Evidence Matter in Canadian Health Policy“. So far I have learned an incredible amount of useful information on Canadian healthcare (with some comparisons to healthcare in other countries) and I realized that some of my perceptions of the system were actually inaccurate. I also came across this useful website that has a plethora of ethics scenarios complete with commentaries to guide you through the thought process.

I am excited that this Fall season is promising to be very busy with some new activities at my church. Not only has the weekly “Women’s Morning Out” started back up (a fun morning of exercise, bible study and prayer) but I have also started teaching Sunday school to a cute bunch of 4 to 5 year olds (my little Caleb included) on Sunday mornings.

This past Sunday school class was a lesson in my perfectionism going right out the window. Between one child running around a table frenetically and another trying to eat play-dough, I ended up not sticking to my lesson plan and had to improvise to keep the children focused on what I was trying to teach them. After the class, I then raced down to the church sanctuary to take my place at the piano in time for the worship songs. It was a hectic but very fun day!

Today at the ‘women’s morning out’, as we exercised outside in the crisp Fall air, I felt really grateful to be in the company of people who are so accepting of you just as you are. We are a group of all ages, shapes and sizes! Back inside, as we studied the Bible, talked and prayed for each other, I felt completely blessed to be surrounded by a great group of women who are supporting me in my dream towards medical school and who are keeping me uplifted in prayer.

So as the waiting game begins towards the next step to medical school, I am reminded that no matter the outcome, I have so much to be grateful for already. Getting into medical school would be an added blessing to my life that is already enriched by so many wonderful friends and family.

Image courtesy of num_skyman at freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of num_skyman at freedigitalphotos.net

Turkey Tails, Luna Moths and Canoes…Family Time in the Laurentians

Weekend getaways with the kids usually involve a significant degree of preparation. There comes a moment when I must sit on our suitcase trying to squeeze in all the various kid paraphernalia one needs while away from home. Our car is a Toyota matrix (not very big) but somehow my husband manages to cram in our suitcase, car-seats, food, playpen, feeding chair, books, toys, stroller, diaper bag and let’s not forget our two children and massive dog (Great Dane-Boxer mix) who takes up the entire trunk of the car! Despite the usual drama of preparing for a trip with kids, we had a beautiful weekend in the Laurentians visiting some of my husband’s family.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms spotted by Granny and Caleb in the woods
Turkey Tail Mushrooms spotted by Granny and Caleb in the woods

The weather was perfect all weekend for outdoor activities. While Caleb, daddy and Granny veered off the road and tromped through the woods investigating various kinds of fungi and insects, I continued to walk along the road with Naomi, not wanting to push the stroller to its limits in the vast interior of the woods. It was so peaceful with tall, sturdy trees lining both sides of the road, the sun glistening in between the leaves and casting abstract shadows on the ground below. Every so often, the sparkling lake came into view as random birds called out to their companions.

It’s moments like these when I feel especially close to God. I  breathed in the fresh air and took the opportunity to pray and sing. There were no requests or complaints for God that day, just a simple prayer to thank Him for his goodness and to appreciate the beauty of nature. Just then, a small deer trotted quickly past us almost as if he waited for the opportune moment to cross right in front of us. I scrambled for my camera but he was too quick for me to catch him in action. Before I knew it, he had disappeared in the dense foliage of the woods. Granny later informed me that he was probably a young, excited “teenage” deer, exploring the woods for some adventure.

lun
Luna moth found by Granny in the woods

After the tromp in the woods, Caleb and Granny got to work making cheese puff pastries and they were delicious! Caleb and daddy then disappeared into the woods again, sneaking in a canoe-ride and swim in the lake. The water was tranquil, undisturbed and peaceful. The “boys” had dared to cross it at this moment of complete calm and solitude. As we said goodbye to the panoramic mountains, I couldn’t help feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude to be blessed with family both far and near. Sometimes I just gaze at my children and wonder, “Are they really mine? All mine? Amazing!”

Caleb and daddy canoeing on Horse-shoe Lake
Can you spot a little boy? Caleb and daddy canoeing on Horse-shoe Lake
Naomi getting a better view from daddy's shoulders
Naomi getting a good view from daddy’s shoulders
A picture of Northern Tooth Fungus courtesy of Granny
A picture of Northern Tooth Fungus courtesy of Granny

Week 2 of the 30-Day Challenge…Should I Give Up?

Today was a difficult day for the 30-Day Challenge. Both kids woke up much earlier than usual and since I had stayed up late studying for the MCAT, I didn’t get enough sleep. Coupled with a brewing cold and general grumpiness, I was in no mood to get out of bed, let alone exercise or pray. MCAT studying has proven challenging the last few weeks as I am now at the stage where I am tackling practice questions and there are some topics that I am finding difficult. I was in a “give up” frame of mind when I woke up today and I decided I needed to nip that negative attitude in the bud without delay. So with a stuffy nose, droopy eyes and yawning, I sat down at the piano and began singing.

Sitting down to sing at the piano
Sitting down to sing at the piano

One of the songs that was particularly uplifting today was the upbeat song ‘Enough’ by Chris Tomlin: “All of you is more than enough for All of me, for ev’ry thirst and ev’ry need, You satisfy me with Your love, And all I have in You is more than enough”

I then launched into prayer time where I simply laid my anxieties about the MCAT and getting into medical school at God’s feet and said, “I can’t do this alone, I know I can do all things through you who strengthens me“. I felt such a sense of peace after my prayer time and was further encouraged by my devotional reading which talked about God always being on time. “[God] never issues a call that we’re incapable of responding to, but the timing of His call always seems too soon to us. We think we need more…..more time, more money, more preparations, more qualifications, more……But the Savior is also a saver of time when it involves his purposes. He won’t waste it by calling us into His purpose prematurely or by allowing us to linger beyond the timing He knows is best.”  (From ‘Praise in the Presence of God’ by Jack Hayford). This really encouraged me as I am sometimes tempted to question whether I am prepared enough or if I can really succeed in getting into medical school. When you are pursuing something big, that takes you out of yourself, that pushes you to your limits, that gets you questioning your abilities, you have to push negative thoughts aside and focus on the goal. There will be periods of enthusiasm and periods of doubt, but always the focus should be on “I will get there…..at the right time“.

Despite my feeling under the weather the past 2 days, physically and emotionally, I very much wanted to keep up with the 30-day challenge and enjoyed doing the following two workouts:

  • Tuesday: an intermediate workout great for toning legs, glutes, core and obliques. There is also a tutorial at the beginning of each exercise so that you can get the hang of things.
  • Wednesday: a yoga workout great for core, abs and arms. I was looking for a light workout today but actually found this workout a good challenge. I recommend you only try it if you’ve had some past experience doing yoga. It was tough!

Nutrition has been going well and today I ate mostly fruits, vegetables and nuts throughout the course of the day. I thought I would have little energy without eating much in the way of carbs but I was surprisingly clear-headed as the day progressed, even with having a cold (it was only towards the end of the day that I had an energy low). This was definitely a break from my usual routine of eating lots of chicken, heavy carbs and dairy, and I think my body welcomed the change! Nuts are a great snack filled with fat and protein so will give you that energy boost you need.

So back to my question….should I give up? No, I will not give up on the 30-day challenge, I will not give up on the MCAT and I will not give up on my dream to pursue medical school! Whatever goal you are working towards, be it the 30-day challenge or something else, there will be days when you want to give up. Don’t let yourself do that! Confront your feelings, write about them, talk about them, and work through your thoughts until you are in a positive frame of mind again.

We’re almost half-way through the second week of the 30-day challenge! Keep up the great work! Onward……

Photo courtesy of arztsamui at freedigitalphotos.net
Photo courtesy of arztsamui at freedigitalphotos.net