Medicine and Emotion: Breathe

Finding the title to this article was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do since starting this website. I have to be so careful with my words, because of how many things have been happening in the past few weeks surrounding medicine. The truth is, I want to talk about the sensation of feeling overwhelmed, which is an emotion many of us have felt.

As a new doctor, the jump from final student to medical intern is HUGE. No one could have prepared me more for internship than internship itself. It is an emotional period where you often feel as though you’re failing or simply not doing enough.

So for moments when I feel overwhelmed these are the things I do:

Take a Step Back and Take A Breather

Strong emotions have a tendency to blind us and cause us not to see something that might be right in front of us. If you’re not getting something and you feel as though you have tried 1000x or thought about it from all angles- take a break. This is for difficult accesses, difficult cases or when you’re just too tired to think. Giving your brain that opportunity to rest and relax

Ask For Help

Help can come in many forms, it can be from asking your co-intern to site an access that you can’t get, or asking advice from a trusted senior about whatever difficulties you may be going through.

Ask For Clarity

Have you ever been left with the sense that you don’t know what to do, or what another person may want? It can be frustrating when you feel as though you have no idea what to do. It’s always better to ask for clarity, this alleviates the anxiety with not knowing whether what you’re doing is right or wrong.

Ask For Feedback

I see every level of clinical medicine as an apprenticeship. It is called a practice for a reason. My own personal approach is to learn from the good and the bad. Not every time someone will give you unsolicited criticism or feedback, and that’s why you should ask. Not just your seniors, ask your peers too. How can I improve? What do I do well? These exercises make working together as a team easier because you become a more cohesive unit knowing each others strengths and weaknesses.

HOWEVER, you must know when to shut out destructive criticism, that do nothing more than tear you down. This can be fairly difficult for anyone, and takes a lot of mental strength and confidence in yourself and your abilities to look beyond not so nice remarks.

Talk About It

Don’t bottle it in. Whether you write or talk it over with friends, it’s important to have an outlet for the things we do and see every day.

Put Yourself First

This is my everlasting motto. Put yourself first. You cannot give from an empty cup. Know your limits and be firm in your boundaries. At all levels, in all careers, putting your mental and physical health at risk for a job (or even someone else) is oftentimes not worth it.

I have learnt, that we are able to achieve balance. However, in order to do so, we must be committed and deliberate. We must also be okay to let go of things and persons that hold us back.

What are some ways that you overcome the sensation of being overwhelmed?

Samantha C. Johnson

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