Archive | Student Life

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This too shall pass:

Posted on 05 April 2015 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

So here we are, the last couple hours before the CaRMS match results are released. While there’s still the issue of the licensing exam and graduating at hand, this feels like the moment we’ve all been waiting for (or at least for me).

Now considering how this decision is kiiiiinnd of important, it has been a bit of a nervous period.   But since I don’t have a stache of Ativan hidden away at home, I needed to figure out how to deal with this in some other way. And of course, because this is the UWO blog, I have to put it in a list form.

So I guess this following list is more for future classes’ references than for this current group, but here are some strategies that I came up with to pass the time waiting for the result.

1) Netflix.

Go read another post, because we’re done now. But seriously, this one is pretty much all you need. I mean the 3rd season of House of Cards just came out, and Better Call Saul is on there (if you have access to the UK version). Okay nuff said.

2) Read a book.

Because when was the last time we had time to do some leisure reading (reading for the sake of having an answer to your CaRMS interview doesn’t count). Rummage a library or download an e-book. Who knows there might be a book out there on how to deal with CaRMS results stress.

3) Work out

Speaking about stress, a good way to get a handle of it is to let off some steam. A run, yoga, bike ride (maybe tough to do with the snow), or a trip to the gym can definitely help you feel more refreshed and revitalized. If you don’t mind the cold and the weather is amenable, checking out a local pond and playing some hockey is just a must for a good Canadian kid.

4) Travel

Because you want to beat the cold. Because Family Day weekend is happening. Because Mardi Gras and American spring break is happening. Because you aren’t sick of flights yet from interviews. Because you really want to make the most of your line of credit.

5) Go out and party.

My logic is that if you are going to be up all night sleepless anyway, you might as well be up all night having some fun.

6) Relax to some music.

Some suggestions I have are “Everything is Awesome”, or the classic “Final Countdown”.

Of course, there are also some really fun parody songs out there too. My current favorite is this one that spoofs T. Swift.

7) Study for exams

Because nothing is better at diverting panic and anxiety for one major life event than focusing it all on another major life event.

8) Write something for the UWOMJ blog

This is a great tip and I’m recommending it based off personal experience. The mere act of writing this little piece has killed the last couple hours before the results are released. Now time for me to go meet up with my roommates, drink some mimosas, and figure out the rest of my life.

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CaRMS Tourrrghhhhh

Posted on 31 January 2015 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

I finish my interview, quickly changed out of my clothes, and pack my things. As walk down the stairs my phone buzzes, a reminder that my flight later is on-time.
That’s weird, I think, my flight is supposed to be on Friday.
I then check the date at the top of the screen. Friday. January 30th.
Right, yes. We’re interviewing in London now, so obviously it’s January 30th, that’s when it was scheduled.
Oops.
With the end of today’s interview, I’ve hit the halfway point (cue some Bon Jovi) on this interview circuit, and boy arethedaysjustblurringtogether.
Seriously, where did the time go?
It all started off pretty easy enough, last week started with two interviews only: Memorial on Monday and Dalhousie on Tuesday. Since I didn’t have any interviews in Quebec I had a few days to rest and relax before reaching the first big obstacle. Ontario.
5 days, over 800 km of road travel, late night socials, and 4 interviews in 4 cities, I felt as if I was caught up in riptide that just dragged me through the days. I didn’t even have it that bad – I didn’t interview in either Toronto or NOSM, my admiration to my colleagues that were able to manage these cities as well. Even more intense were some of the Quebec applicants who virtually had no break as they spent the whole of last week going through Laval, Sherbrooke, and the 2 Montreal schools.
I can see that it’s affecting my fellow applicants as well. Ties hang a little looser. What were immaculately cleaned and pressed outfits are creased and salt stained by the road. Earlier this week I heard one person mistakenly say he was enjoying being in Ottawa while at the Queen’s social. Someone told me he no longer keeps track of time by day of the week but by whichever city he’s currently in.
One of the residents I met along the way likened the CaRMS interview circuit to being on a rock tour: every day in a new city, constantly meeting new people, up late in the bars only to wake up early the next day, to go perform the same gig to a different audience.
It feels like I’ve been on the road forever, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a good time to just go with the flow. Next week will be a whirlwind through Western Canada, but it’ll be spent either interviewing or traveling. The actual day of the week, heck, the city I’m in, doesn’t even matter. It’s a weird and wonderful transient state to be in, and, pretty soon all over. Soon I’ll be grounded and back in a lecture seat, with just the worn out boarding passes and unused drink tickets to assure me that it all happened. Until then, I’ll be enjoying the fun.
Well, time to head out and catch my next flight. The tour must go on!

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Across the horizon

Posted on 02 January 2015 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

So here we are, final year of medical school. Winding up (or to those lucky ones, already finished) electives, CaRMS applications submitted, and now just waiting for those interview offers to roll in. And according to Love Inc, because we’re all super stars, we should expect a bunch of interviews. This all means a lot of traveling, and because Canada is really big, that means a lot of flying.

Flying can be exhilarating, liberating, and luxurious all at once.

Okay maybe not this luxurious. At least in Canada

But it can also be highly rushed, stressful, and exhausting.

Okay so probably not this stressful either

Add in jam packed days full of interviews and the schedule gets even more harried. However, a few small adjustments here and there can help make this peripatetic existence as smooth as possible.

Below are some of those life hacks tips.

  1. Check-in ahead of time – It’s a basic tip, but needs to be said. Check-in starts at 24 hours before the flight, and you should do it. Why? Well it not only saves you time getting through the airport but gives you better options to choose seating.
  2. Go carry on – With both Air Canada and West Jet sneaking in the baggage fees this year it’s probably best to leave the big suitcase at home and start focusing on portability. Sure, $25 doesn’t seem too much, but as the interview tour continues that can start adding up. Plus there’s always the added time you have to arrive to the airport ahead of time, additional line to check the baggage in, and the extra time to wait around for the conveyor belt at the end. You do want to be able to hit up the socials after all. Not to mention there’s always that small but nightmarish risk of your suitcase not making the flight with you. Going with the carry-on saves time, money, and creates fewer items to keep track of, which can help ease some of the stress as we navigate through airports, shuttles, cabs, buses, and other unfamiliar areas.
  3. Efficient packing – Yes, again a pretty common sense tip (I’m not a certified professional life coach so I, unfortunately, can’t call them LifeProTips) but because we’re traveling for interviews, we have to bring formal suits/pantsuits, coats, shoes, which create necessary bulk to our luggage. Of course, knowing this, there are still a few things that we can do that channels our inner George Clooney.
    • Pick versatile items: neutral colours, multipurpose accessories, a lot of black items (jeans, t-shirts, blazers), a good set of multifunction shoes and your formal shoes, and underwear that can be hand washed and quick dried overnight (Tilly’s, Ex-Officio, Uniqlo, MEC all have these options). The internet has tons of lists to offer packing suggestions, even apps to help you minimize. Make use of them.
    • Wear the bulk: don’t pack your bulky boots, puffy parka, or dense denims (yeah that last one was a stretch). Wear the heaviest items, and make the most of the space for the lighter gear.

      You could also wear ALL your lighter stuff and pack your bulkier gear

    • Roll, don’t fold. Not only does this reduce the wrinkles in your clothes, but also has been scientifically proven (I think) to reduce the amount of space you need for your clothes.
  4. Tame the security line up: The lines in the airport are Christopher Wallace Notorious, and the worst of them is the line to security. A few things can help speed up this process.
    • Find a friend with status, they can get you through the faster ‘Priority’ line as one of their guests. Since a lot of medical students list traveling as one of their big interests, it won’t be too hard to bump into someone. Maybe it’s you!
    • If you do get stuck in line, use that extra time like Batman and prep! Empty your pockets for loose items/wallets/keys into your carry-on, get the belt and watch off, and have the boarding pass ready in hand. You’re only fighting yourself if you wait all the way to the front of the line and then have to empty and unbuckle then.
    • Nail the order of putting things onto the security conveyor belt. Personally, I find this one the most useful: belt & shoes, coat/jacket & personal bag, laptop, and carry-on luggage. I like it because when the items come back out of the scanner, it’s staggered in the right order. I can throw on my shoes and belt, then grab or put on my jacket, I have my laptop bag ready for my laptop when it emerges, and then finally grab the rest of my items and get going.
  5. Bring along a small pack of moist facial wipes

    Because moisture is the essence of beauty…or something.

    Okay to start off, hate the word “moist”, but in this context, it’s acceptable. Desposable moist (shudders) towelettes or make up wipes are great for a quick cleanse after a lengthy flight. After a long day of interviews, cabs, to running through an airport and then cramped in a pressurized cabin of recycled air, these wipes are an amazingly effective way of quickly getting rid of that grimy sensation and feel refreshed.

  6. Keep things fresh – The interview period is a long time on the road, upwards of 3 weeks. That’s a lot of time for things to be cramped into your luggage. Fend off the ripeness by packing some Ziploc bags to hide away dirty garments, splurging on the odd laundry service day, and packing a couple dryer sheets into your luggage will help keep things smelling like spring.

    If you don’t have dryer sheets, a sprig of sage will work in a pinch.

  7. Pack a small power bar in your kit (provided you have the space for it) and never worry about having your devices lose charge during your expedition. You’ll also become a legend among your fellow passengers at the gate and it’s a great way to break the ice to make new friends.
  8. If you are wary of becoming lost in an unfamiliar city and have a limited data plan on your phone, you can look up the area ahead of time on Google Maps and then save it for offline use by saying or typing “OK Maps” (“okay” doesn’t seem to work) in the search bar once you’ve pulled up a region you like. This will cache in a full version of the map (allowing you to zoom in for greater detail) and your phone’s compass would be working all the time even without data for a GPS connection.
  9. If some of the flights happen later in the night or you’re hoping to get some rest while on your flight, download a white noise app to help sleep and drown out noisy neighbours.

What are your favorite travel tips? Feel free to add them in the comments below.

-Special thanks to Tammy Wong, a consultant for Deloitte, for the help in accumulating, curating, and paring down these tips. For more on reflections of the life as a traveling consultant, check out her blog here: http://tyw2010lifestyle.wordpress.com/ 

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The Other Side

Posted on 07 April 2014 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

Last weekend I got a chance to be an interviewer for the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry admission’s weekend. I didn’t originally expect to be a part of the panel, it was going to on a post-call day while on a busy General Surgery service and earlier in the month received an email stating that all the spots were filled and I would not be needed.

Fortunately, someone could not make it last minute and I was given the opportunity. Post-call or not, I was going to take it.

While this was not my first experience interviewing others for important roles nor was this the first time I was helping out with the Schulich Medicine Admissions weekend. This was, however, this was the first time my role would be part of the interviewing panel. The weight of having my opinion, experience, and judgement be made into part of the consideration of what gets a medical school hopeful accepted or not does not escape. It’s a tremendous honour and I was initially a little nervous about being suitable to fill such a role.

Then I did a gut check and realized whatever anxieties I may be having are dwarfed by what a good chunk of the interviewees must be feeling. #Firstworldproblems? More like #MedStudentProblems.

So what can I say about the experience of being on the other side? Well, first of all, not much in terms of details. That contract of confidentiality we all sign at the beginning of the day was fairly clear on that. So, sorry hopeful premeds (who I doubt are reading this anyway), no hints here.

The experience did let me to think back and try to remember what it was like to be one of the interviewees again. That whole memory was only 3 years ago, but it seems so distant in the past. Yet, that time seemed to past so quickly as well. Very strange how alien the memories of pre-med school Jimmy feel to current med school Jimmy.

There was a deja vu sensation in how tired I was that morning, coming off post call following a whole night in the OR (10:30pm – 7am of operating, I’m not joking) will do that to you. I didn’t sleep the night before my Schulich interview either, as I was spending it on a turbulent red-eye flight from Vancouver to London. It was also a little fitting that I was still stuffing my “dress-up” clothes – a suit and tie back in 2011, business casual slacks and a button-down in 2014 – in beat up trekking backpacks. Wrinkles be damned.

However, prior to my medical school interview, I had never been to either Western or London and I remember being incredibly confused on figuring out how to get from York street to the Western Campus. The sense of being lost and almost late to an interview doesn’t help one’s nerves, and I could imagine that for a lot of last weekend interviewees that they, too, would be leaving their home schools, home towns, home provinces for this one day. In 2014, I have a much better sense of London, and even a tiny bit of the surrounding region. At least I could easily find the stupid purple balloons at the entrance this time.

Surprisingly, thinking back, I was a lot more self-assured prior to entering medical school. I knew the undergrad system that I was in at UBC, I knew how to excel in that setting. These days, not much at all. I’m constantly feeling lost in medical school. Information I thought I had studied just the night before, suddenly can’t recall it when I’m being pimped. There’s always something new to learn and yesterday’s achievement is today’s square one. Looking and listening to these fresh, well rested, faces, I know a bunch of them deep down think they are the shit. Without a doubt they are incredibly decorated and accomplished people. I wonder if they really realize what’s lying ahead for them (Somedays the only solace I can take is that hundreds of other students have gone through the same experiences as I have, faced the same challenges, and emerged out of it MDs). As an old rugby coach used to say, “Trust the system.”

One last stark difference is this time I’m in the know. As an interviewee, it was hard not to try to read in between the lines and try to figure out what exactly the question used was getting out. Turns out there definitely is a method to the madness. As an interviewer, it’s quite clear how we were supposed to be directed in our panels. That’s the most I can divulge I believe, due to the aforementioned confidentiality clause.

One final thing I should mention is that as both an interviewer and interviewee I had a great time. Being new to Western in 2011 I was blown away by the hospitality, enthusiasm, friendliness, and community spirit shown by the admissions volunteers. That impression definitely was a driving force in my decision to choose London in the end. On the other side of the panel, I had a great time connecting with the other panelists on my team. There were also breaks to get to catch up with some classmates and other volunteers. There are definitely a fair share of good feelings behind the scenes as well.

With the past weekend over, that wraps up the 2014 Admissions Weekend for Schulich. It’ll be a nervous and exciting time for the interviewees I’m sure. I am curious to see if the people who went through my panel got accepted and end up choosing Schulich for next year. If one of the them do end up coming to school here, I do hope that at some point within their 4 years they get to have a chance to side on the other side too.

So the cycle continues.

 

 

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The winter blues

Posted on 11 December 2013 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

So let’s take a look at where we are at in the year now, hmmm?

Days getting shorter, check.

Temperature dropping, check.

Clerkship dragging on, check.

CaRMS application milestones, and interview anxiety, check.

Perpetual tide of exams rolling out, check.

Between all that, and having to deal with things like always waking up in the dark, constantly trudging on boots to deal with the biting cold, and the continual all-nighters, it’s pretty understandable to have a case of the “winter blues” . However, often overlooked or disregarded is the more serious condition of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

Despite the silly (albeit fitting) acronym, SAD can be quite the serious. It is a recurrent major depressive disorder that follows the pattern of the seasons. According to the Canadian Centre of Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), SAD is linked to shortened hours of daylight and lessen exposure to sunlight, which do play a role in the brain’s release of melatonin and serotonin, although the exact pathophysiology is not quite clear.

What is more apparent is the symptoms of SAD. These include: lethargy, feelings of hopelessness, increased appetite and weight gain, social avoidance, anxiety, and oversleeping. This can resemble bipolar disorder or hypothyroidism, as well as clinical major depressive disorder. However, the latter is more likely to have insomnia and anorexia.  It is believed that SAD affects women more than men, with 60 – 90% of those affected being female.

But what can be done for those afflicted? The treatment options, listed by CAMH, include antidepressant medication, trytophan supplementation, and light therapy. Antidepressant medication has shown to be effective in treating SAD, fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft) being listed as effective in management, and bupropion (Wellbutrin) being used prophylatically. Tryptophan supplementation is believed to increase stores of this amino acid, which is an essential component in serotonin and melatonin biosynthesis. Again these two neurotransmitters are strongly linked in the pathophysiological mechanism for SAD.

Light therapy is quite an interesting treatment option for those with SAD. Light therapy ‘lightbox’ bulbs are upwards of 100x more ‘luminous’ than a normal incandescent lightbulb. Individuals with SAD are to receive daily dosages of 30 min to 2 hrs to help increase the body’s level of sunlight exposure.

Additionally, exercise has been recommended by the CAMH as a means to help prevent SAD, as well as showing a role in boosting therapy and preventing further recurrence. While the physical aspects of being active are at the basis of these recommendations, I suspect that the associated social aspects of being active, such as increased interaction and making personal connections are also an added boon. So if it’s too icy to run on the road, strap on some skates and hit the rink instead!

One important thing to note is that while this article has given a basic overview of SAD, it is not meant to be a be-all-end-all summary to be used in (self) diagnosing the condition. Yes, it’s pretty obvious, but still needs to be mentioned. If there is ever the case where symptoms emerge, do not improve, or worsen, consult a physician immediately.

While the depths of winter, especially when coupled with a harsh academic season, can be difficult to get through, it is incredibly important to maintain our mental well-being while undergoing the trek through the cold season. How many days until spring now?

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Those Post Call Days

Posted on 14 October 2013 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

So for those keeping track at home, right about now marks just past the 1 month point since the actual beginning of clinical rotations. By now we’ve probably have had a decent exposure to a range of clerk responsibilities, including…(dramatic drum roll)…call.

Yes, call, that one word that make your average preclerk pull off a near perfect Macualay Culkin impersonation.

But no, we’re clerks now, and just like Freddie serenades, we must go on.

And besides, inevitably, we all got to do call. It’s just a fact of life (of a clerk).

But it turns out, the whole process of being up in the night, isn’t that bad. Note: this is the personal opinion of a self inflicted insomniac. Like Hooch, I’m craaaaaazyAs long as you’re up and about and doing something, the body’s seems to shunt enough fresh blood to the brain to keep it perfused enough to maintain lucidity and sanity. And if something active or acute is happening, then at least the adrenaline is better than coffee!

What does suck though, is when that buzz comes crashing down. Dawn breaks, morning rounds or handover occurs and you finally exit to sweet, sweet, fresh air.

And then what? You got a post-call day, which is some much coveted free time; yet you’re not exactly at the peak condition to enjoy it. So what to do?

Fortunately our handy research crew (ie: me) has searched high and low, even with the government shutdown. From that, we present to you the list of the top 5 to do, and also, top 5 things not to do, during that post call daze (oh hey wordplay!) if you DON’T want to simply sleep.

Don’t:

5) Go on a shopping spree.  – Seriously, you’re judgement is impaired, you’re blood sugar is a little off, and you’re vision is a bit blurry. You’re going to be after any little sparkly doodad or supposed “good deal” out there. Even worse, the Masonville Apple store is just a short bus ride away.

4) Fall asleep in a frat house. – While sleep is key. Make sure you’re vigilante of your surroundings when you do snooze. Make sure you don’t nap in any area where people could assume you’ve simply passed out from intoxication (because, let’s admit it, by this point you could pass off as a drunk), and you end up on this site (NSFW).

3) Try to pick up. – You simply aren’t as sauve as you think right now. Period.

2) Go for a long, extended drive. – Yes, you need that car to get back home to that ever alluring bed, but you don’t need it to just hit the open road (even if Bryan Adams compells you). Seriously, there are a number of articles telling you this is a bad, bad, idea.

1) Do another call shift. No. Just. No. 

Do. 

5) Attempt to do some course reading : Yes, nerd alert , but just hear me out. This is a win-win. Either the act of reading puts you out to a peaceful sleep completely…OR you learn something and get to impress and WOW your residents and attending on your next shift (only you won’t but it’s nice to think that).

4) Eat, and lots of it: Typically you finish call at around noon the next day. This calls for five words: All. You. Can. Eat. Sushi. ‘Nuff said.

3) Have a light work out: Emphasis on the light, as you probably aren’t at your peak self. Despite this, take the opportunity to stretch the muscles a bit, get that cardio going, and burn off some of the crappy calories you consumed during the middle of the call shift.

2) Sit/Lay down on the grass: When was the last time you got to see the sun afterall? If you have the opportunity, take it, you never know when you’ll hit that dreaded streak of “go in when dark, leave when dark” phase known as the Canadian winter, so make like Superman and recharge off the rays of our yellow sun.

1) Catch up on some shows: From Netflix to YouTube, the web is brimming with series to start, catch up on, or rewatch. I’m recommending some Archer, or if you can’t get enough of medicine: Scrubs.

So there you go, what do you think of this list? Have more ideas or suggestions? Why don’t you put them in the comments below.

Didn’t like the post? Well don’t blame me, I’m writing this post-call!

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Can we get this trending?

Posted on 26 April 2013 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

This past weekend I was in Quebec City for the Spring General Meeting of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students. This meeting involved receiving a general round of updates and summaries of the initiatives that happened throughout the year from the CFMS (Wellness survey, new external representation of students on national medical academy level, establishing a financial policy, looking into revising their Student Initiative Grants). It was a great weekend full of making new acquaintances across the country, learning more about national student issues, and having reunions with old friends.

However, this isn’t the part of the weekend I want to talk about. Continue Reading

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OMSA Leadership Summit and Lobby Days

Posted on 17 April 2013 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

About a week ago, the Ontario Medical Student Association hosted it’s 2nd Annual Leadership Summit and Provincial Lobby Days over the weekend of April 6-8th. It was an opportunity for medical students across the province who were interested in the process of government and health care policy (AKA those who are secretly health care systems enthusiasts) to network, learn a few things about healthcare in Ontario, and then work in teams to actually lobby the provincial government on an issue that reflected medical student concerns from all 6 Ontario med schools.  Continue Reading

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Wellness on the mind

Posted on 18 March 2013 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

I guess it’s just that time of the year. The latter half of our 2nd term is rising over the horizon, March Break (aka vacation time) ending, finished with St. Patrick’s Day and Easter just around the corner, the tax season deadline approaching, and the slow but inevitable lurch forward (like some sort of not giving up…school guyof clerkship, all these things have got me thinking about the whole “work life balance” and wellness.

Again.

Yes, I realize this topic enjoys as much attention in medical school as pictures of cats do on the InterWebs, but with the 1st OMSA Wellness Retreat geared up this Friday, it’s hard not to think on the subject and muse.

The concept of Wellness has developed it’s own curriculum. Through stand-alone lectures, lunch time seminars and workshops, regular emails (while writing this piece, I actually received an email regarding Wellness), and sharing of published literature on the subject, Wellbeing and learner health has become as integral to the medical school experience as anatomy. This has obviously been a great improvement upon the attitudes and culture in the past.

As a side note, an interesting piece of history can be found when examining how one of the longest standing traditional notions in medicine, the superhumanly long overnight on call shifts, was largely influenced by the work habits of a prominent physician who himself was using and addicted to cocaine throughout his whole career (it was not yet illegal at the time). While better regulation for sleep and shift scheduling have finally been implemented, through the goggles of hindsight it is fairly obvious that such a practice was inevitably unbalanced.

But with the acknowledgement that there is more focus on Wellness and Health these days, more than ever, in medical school, there should still be a caution on how the pendulum has the tendency to over swing.

The caveat  that should be mentioned is that Wellness is not simply an ends to reach, or another goal to accomplish, or another role (like the other CanMeds ones) for students to adopt and check off their mental CVs. Nor should Wellness remain focused solely on Physical and Social wellbeing. While these are necessary components to wellness, there are other equally important components that are under-appreciated.

Current Wellness Counseling theory contents that a person’s wellbeing and individual health can be conceptualized to include aspects of physical, intellectual, social, spiritual, emotional, financial, and occupational (or environmental) wellness. Each of these components can be in or out of balance, and it’s important to appreciate what could be missing in one’s lifestyle. That said, I will reiterate that it shouldn’t be about determining that components A, B, or C are depleted and by doing activities X, Y, Z, they will be more in line with the other ones, but rather realizing a lifestyle that can fulfill these aspects to your satisfaction.

I realize that this doesn’t require a total and sudden makeover (are you thinking what I’m thinking?), but is more of a mindset that one adopts over time. And, as one of the more infamous Night Owls in my class, definitely a topic I could use some more appreciation about.

Well, I got a few more days to think about this as I head to the Wellness Retreat this weekend. As overemphasized as this subject is, I still believe in it’s importance and am very excited for a weekend designated especially for learning more about it.

 

 

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Get SMART for 2013

Posted on 01 January 2013 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

Happy New Year’s everyone, welcome to 2013! Now one of the more popular customs around this time of year (aside from watching World Junior’s Hockey and engaging in the personal rituals of overcoming a hangover) is the setting of New Year Resolutions. After all, it’s fitting: setting new marks for the next 365 days, creating a new you for a the new year,  having a natural turning of the pages in time, whatever.

Unfortunately, maaaany of these resolutions don’t last long, doomed to fizzle out like flat soda on a warm day. It’s a phenomenon that is often joked about. But what can be done about it?

Well, one thing is that these resolutions aren’t SMART enough.

No, no, no, I’m not trying to say that the people who are making these resolutions are idiots.  But goal setting has a science behind it, which has been distilled down to a handy-dandy acronym because, hey, it’s not geared for med school if it doesn’t come down to an acronym.

So goals (or resolutions) should be SMART, which stand for:

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Relevant

Time-specific

What this is trying to get is that goals need to be clear and unambiguous, without being vague (Specific). This can usually be answered by addressing the What, Why, Who, and Which of the goal. Being able to make the goal measurable allows one to keep track of any progress and stay on course. Often it means setting some sort of target deadline (but more on that later); without being measurable it is difficult to know if one is actually reaching the point of completing the goal. That said, the goal has to be Achievable, in the sense that it is realistic and attainable. It can be a difficult goal or a long-term one; however, it should be within reach. Related is the term relevant, which focuses  on the importance of choosing goals/resolutions that are worthwhile. If the goal is not relevant, there’s the good chance that the resolver will not muster the motivation to follow through with it. Finally, as I alluded to earlier, resolutions need to be Time-specific: there should be some form of deadline or target date. This gives resolutions structure, which frames them in a way that one can approach it in an organized manner.

So it’s pretty easy to see how the typical, “I want to lose weight” New Year’s resolution really falls flat on its face when examined through this lens. While well-intended and certainly relevant, it’s vague, without structure, or ways to measure it. As a result there’s the usual 2 week rush to the local gym (or student rec centre) that creates a traffic jam for all the regulars *cough cough*.

Well, one final point to add is the importance to tell others what you’re planning to do or change or accomplish. You can get tons of support, as well as people to keep you accountable, perhaps from company that will join in on your ambitions or share plans with you as well.

That’s all from me for now, enjoy the rest of your break, but feel free to share with us any New Year resolutions below.

Onward to 2013!

 

 

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