Category: Life Hacks

Winning the War Against Anxiety

Winning the War Against Anxiety

 

Hey everyone-it’s been a spell. I’m glad to be writing again.

Guys-I have anxiety. No, I don’t fit the diagnostic criteria for GAD or Panic Disorder. That said, my default wiring is anxiety. I worry about nearly everything- school, dating (I’m single ladies…), weekend plans, friendships, finances, research, if I remembered to flush. You know, normal stuff. Most of all, I worry about the beautiful, big picture, future-stuff like boards and residency and who I am as a person. I am exceedingly future focused and self-conscious, a winning combination, I know. Chances are, if you’re in medicine, you probably relate.

And you know what?

Anxiety Sucks.

A lot.

The ways anxiety sucks are impossible to number, but if I picked three reasons it would be these: Anxiety sucks because anxiety is de-motivating, it robs today of its joy, and it’s just a tiny bit addictive. You know, like when you watch Human Centipede and you want to stop, but you just can’t. (Editor’s Note: DO NOT WATCH HUMAN CENTIPEDE).

Right now, I just want to talk about how constricting, how suffocating, how demoralizing anxiety can be. Story time- I’ve been MIA from life for the past 3 as I’ve been wading through a labyrinthine haze of UWorld and First Aid. I had an original Step 1 date set for early June. As the day drew closer, I started getting anxious. I was sleeping 4 hours a night, vomiting before practice tests. My bowels were a mess. I don’t say this to garner sympathy, but to make it clear where I was at.

And you know what I did instead of buckling down? I psyched myself out- I told myself I couldn’t do this- that I wasn’t improving (untrue), and that I should be ashamed for not working harder (maybe a little true). I felt it didn’t matter if I studied or not, so I started slacking- waking up later, studying fewer hours, less intensely. If that’s you, I want you to simply know- you can do it. Heck, if you’ve accomplished anything in your life, you know that you succeeded in part because you told yourself you could succeed. When you’re anxious, nothing seems worth it, your mind races, and what was once false starts becoming real. Anxiety inhibits us from reaching our full potential.

But you knew that.

What you not might know is the cure – humility. Working harder doesn’t work. Talking yourself out of it doesn’t work. Humbly admitting that in your present state, you can’t do it- that works. You, being as anxious as you are, cannot and will not succeed. You have to accept reality. To me, that’s what humility is- seeing yourself precisely as you are-no better, no worse. I had to realize that yeah, I do suck right now. It’s a really hard thing to realize- that you’re broken and need help.

Everyone I’ve ever seen get through their anxiety, they had to accept the world as it was at that moment, to admit they needed a hand. It is never wrong to ask for help. To ask for help is, believe it or not, a sign of strength and courage. And I’m sorry, I wish I could give you a roadmap to humility, but I can’t. Maybe you’ll just break down in tears to your dad sitting in your sweaty Pontiac Vibe with broken a/c in the parking lot of a Panera. No? Just me? Okay, that’s cool.

Honestly, not the best place for a mental-breakdown- there was a Kopps Frozen Custard just across the street.

There’s a second step to winning this war- build an army. I mean a real team- people who may not entirely understand what you’re going through, but love you unconditionally. Joel, my roommate who told me how it was. Josh, my best friend who happened to be coming up to Wisconsin the weekend after I had my mini-meltdown. The scores of friends who lent me support on test day. The crew at MotivateMD who gave me the time off I needed to take care of myself. Dr. Tsao who showed me so much kindness and helped me switch my schedule around. And of course my amazing family, who let me be normal, who told me that I was loved no matter what, who told me I am valuable simply because I exist. Yeah, it’s a platitude. But sometimes we need to believe in the stupid little banal platitudes of life.

Because they’re true.

And you know what? Things got better. I moved my test date, took extra time to study, moved back home for a month. Things got better. Suddenly, material that didn’t make any sense was going in. I believed I could succeed, I wasn’t sick, I was sleeping again. When test day rolled around, I felt like I might actually pass, or even reach my target.

You can feel that way too-all it takes is a little humility.

I’m not saying anxiety is easy to deal with. I’ll probably always struggle with it. But now I know how to. Heck, my anxiety is mild by most standards. I know that. I’m not so resilient, I don’t have grit. Sorry if I sound like a pushover today. Even so, if you struggle with anxiety, I hope that my story has gone some way towards helping you win the war.

Be kind to yourself. Love others.

-Matt

Medical School Side Hustles: Are You Up for the Challenge?

Medical School Side Hustles: Are You Up for the Challenge?

Medical School Side Hustles: Are You Up for the Challenge?

Medical school is crazy expensive. Obviously, your first priority should be doing well in school school and building your resume. This should be combined with a healthy balance of quality time spent with family, friends, not to mention focusing on your own personal well-being. If, and only if, all of that is in order, then perhaps you may be interested in one of the following medical school side hustles. However, working during medical school doesn’t have to be a giant commitment either – here are some of the ideas that fellow med students have tried to make some extra money…

Leverage a Talent

You will have to define your talent, but it could be something along the lines of an athletic or musical aptitude. At the very least, your status as a medical student should earn you tutoring gigs, if not for your medical school itself. Basically, if you are a master at something, or at least well beyond average, then you can likely charge for your services. For instance, I teach tennis part time and garner $20+/hour after the facilities cut. I have also tutored intermittently, landing $20/hour there as well. Now it is your turn, dig deep and find your inner medical school side hustles!

Earn $20+/hour Working for Motivate MD

This flexible opportunity fits perfectly with a med student’s busy schedule!  Motivate MD is currently seeking talented medical students for:

  • MCAT Tutor 
  • Pre-Med Online Mentoring 
  • Blog Content Writing
  • Sharing Motivate MD’s Pre-Med App and Services

If you’re interested in using your talents and past experiences to help pre-meds achieve their dreams, and desire the flexibility to fit into your busy med school schedule, this might be the job for you!  Take 5-10 min to fill out our simple job application here.

Donate Plasma

This one is not for the faint of heart, aka those with a crippling fear of needles. You are going into medicine though, so I will assume this applies to the minority. I have donated at BioLife Plasma, which pays $20 for your first visit each week, with another $50 if you come a second time that week. You can only donate twice in a calendar week and each donation must be at least a day apart. The sessions generally last only an hour. The best part is that BioLife has free Wifi, so studying is an easy possibility. I usually crush Anki decks while donating!

Uber or Lyft

I read online that you could net $25/hour and was obviously skeptical. “Why not try it out,” I said to myself. I was pleasantly surprised and did in fact net $25/hour. Surge definitely helps (elevated fairs based on consumer demand), but even without it I would have done well. Moreover, the passengers were all kind and chatty (one simply handed me a $20 for the tip), instead of drunken and belligerent, as I had imagined. The one downside is that your car can take on a lot of extra miles with this, so I would recommend doing it sparingly, but if you have got some time and a ride, give it a shot as one of your medical school side hustles! You can apply to Uber or  Lyft here.

Overnight Sleeping Shifts

These are absolute hidden gems. What is better than getting paid to sleep? Again, I figured this was too good to be true, but am thrilled with the results. Forty hours a week I sleep at a group home. I am actually only awake and doing things, like making breakfast or packing lunches, for 4 hours each week. The remaining time I truly sleep, or study. Facilities like this need round the clock supervision and odds are there will be one and demand near you if you reside in a big city. You will need to feel out the group home residents though. If they are runners, good luck getting sleep. Simply explain the situation to the interviewer and say that you are paying your way through school and actually need to sleep during the shift. They are understanding, as everyone else picks the job to sleep!

Landlording

I wish I could have made this one happen, but it wasn’t meant to be. If you think you have the chops to find an ideal property, location being key, then perhaps you should pursue this. The idea is that you have your tenants, hopefully other medical students, pay your mortgage. Then, long-term you can continue renting to medical students and have created your first rental property, voila! Make sure you have the nerve to handle any hiccups and headaches that may come along though.

Thank you for reading, and best of luck throughout your journey to becoming a doctor!

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Could Short-term Memory be More Important than Long-term Memory for Premed and Med Student Success?

Could Short-term Memory be More Important than Long-term Memory for Premed and Med Student Success?

 

The beauty of success is that only one person can define it for you: you. If your idea of success is being the best damn Mom in the world, then pursue that wholeheartedly. If you desire to revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry, then by all means, do it! Whatever it is you want in this life, be it x, y or z, aim for perfection. Of course, no one is perfect (with the exception of my cats), so we will all inevitably fail. Because of this inevitability, most people are afraid to shoot for perfection. Naturally, they set the bar a bit lower, still high, but not quite at the level of perfection. Maybe they achieve their goal, maybe they don’t. Regardless of the outcome though, they have created a ceiling for themselves. They have put a limit on their potential. Because of this, I counter that we should all aim for perfection, with one caveat: utilize short-term memory.

Continue reading

7 Hacks for Pre-Med Success

7 Hacks for Pre-Med Success

Hello nerds and nerdettes, I’m here today to give you 7 lifehacks that will make your years and a pre-med infinitely easier. To be perfectly honest, these aren’t the sorts of lifehacks that you might learn from mentalfloss or /r/lifehack, but simple, little tricks I believe saved me time, money, and a whole-lot of stress during my years as a pre-med. To be honest, these first hacks aren’t particularly specific to pre-meds, but in the future, I promise that I’ll have a stronger focus on those specific needs.

1. Live with People Who Will Help Move You Forward

Let’s face it, pre-med life has a set of unique challenges few understand (except maybe our friends in the engineering and physics departments). Compound this with the fact that you are likely living on your own for the first time ever and “learning to adult” at this same time is a recipe for endless stress. In order to minimize these struggles, I encourage you NOT to live with your best friend(s) unless they too are pursuing a career in medicine. I made the mistake of living in a house with 13 other guys my 3rd and 4th year, and while more good than I can share came of it, the fear of having clean dishes, or enough hot water for a shower, or my non-medical friends wanting to grab a beer or play video games or have people over when I needed to study was a source of endless anxiety. Instead, find other similarly studious people who you might not be best friends with, but can get along with just fine, and set ground rules right away.

2. Abebooks.com

It’s witchcraft I tell ya. After being an idiot and buying my textbooks from the school bookstore first semester, I never looked back. Abebooks is arguably the best website I’ve ever used to find textbooks I’ve needed or wanted at reasonable prices, including all of those expensive science textbooks. And what’s more is that a lot of what they sell are the international editions (which, despite what your professors say, are exactly the same as their American counterparts), which are already cheaper. In fact, I managed to make money off selling my textbooks back to students and/or the bookstore once I was done with them. Also, don’t trust your professor about needing the textbook or not-ask other students instead.

3. Social Media is the Enemy

Okay, yes, digital natives, blah, blah, blah. I understand that we all have social media at this point, but the reality is that you will spend way too much time on it if you aren’t careful. It is easy to try to justify it by saying “That’s how I stay connected or hear about school stuff/events on campus,” but at the end of the day, social media sucks up more time than we realize. I love it too, but I had to come to terms with my passive use of social media to fill my brain (I could talk about the negative health and intellectual impact of this for days), and so these days, I only use social media, and even check email, and very specific times during the day. That way, I control it, and it does not control me.

4. Pack Heavy

I cannot tell you how much time I’ve wasted going to my apartment in the middle of the day to go get my books for afternoon class, or to make lunch, or even to take a nap. I end up just wasting time screwing around-cleaning, or talking to a roommate, or what have you. When you set out in the morning, go out with the intent of not returning until the evening once classes are over. This has the dual purpose of forcing you to stay in “class mode” as long as you are on campus, with no excuse not to sit down and get some work done when you have an odd 15-20 minutes between class.

5. Amazon Prime is your Friend

Amazon Prime is only $50 for students, and it is worth every penny. Whether it’s a charger for your computer, new ear buds, goggles for class, pens and notebooks, or even toiletries, Amazon Prime has saved me more time than I can even begin to imagine. This is especially true if you’re like me and didn’t have a care during your undergraduate years, and couldn’t just pop off to the store every time you needed something. You can even set up regular shipments of things like razors, shampoo, toothpaste, or certain foods (Amazon Pantry) that will free up more time for you to work hard and enjoy undergraduate life.

6. Take Advantage of Free

Whether this is free Friday screenings of movies on campus, or the kindness of your friend with a meal plan, take every opportunity to cash in on the free opportunities in undergrad. Let’s face it, your tuition is really paying for these “free opportunities” anyway. And more than simply freeing up cash for a Kaplan Class or the MCAT (two major expenses not to be overlooked), these free experiences are often opportunities to exposure yourself to new ideas and chances. For example, had I never attended a free physics symposium, I never would have heard of the new biophysics class being offered, and I would’ve missed out on an excellent opportunity.

7. Meal Prep

This is my biggest regret in undergrad-I simply did not eat healthily, and it bit me in the butt on many occasions. The trick was that I didn’t believe I had time to cook-which is entirely true when you’re a pre-med. My advice- take an afternoon-3 hours or so- once a week and make meals for the rest of the week, especially breakfast. Even if it’s just sandwiches or mac and cheese, or maybe something fancier like a casserole, make yourself something healthy and nutritious that will last you throughout the week.

Bonus: Have a Daily Schedule

I’ll talk about this more in a later installment, but suffice it to say that learning to plan out a single day is the number one skill a pre-med can develop. Lay out the gameplan the night before, and if you’re anal like me, even prep for the next day that night by laying out your clothes and packing lunch ahead of time.

By Matthew Wright
Medical College of Wisconsin
Motivate MD

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The 80/20 Rule – from Peas to USMLEs

The 80/20 Rule – from Peas to USMLEs

The Pareto Principle originated in 1896, when the esteemed Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto demonstrated how 80% of his peas were derived from 20% of his peapods.  This since has been widely investigated; with mathematicians proving that this principle follows a power law distribution applicable to many natural phenomena.  Currently, the most prevalent and proven applications of this principle take place in the business world, following the rule of thumb that, “80% of a company’s sales, come from 20% of their clients”.  So how would a doctor or medical student use this natural principle to their benefit? To answer this question, one needs to re-evaluate their effectiveness on a daily basis….

During undergrad, my main method for studying material was to re-write the content several times, so that by the end of my studying, I could recall and write down most of the testable content.  This technique carried over into to medical school, and surprisingly enough, got me through a successful first year.  That being said, I was fed up with hand cramps, fear of the infamous “2nd year”, and the monotony of arduous writing, I explored more efficient methods outside of the realm of typical studying techniques.  This led me to the 80/20 rule, which I thought I could steal from the business world and use to my advantage.

First, I had to ask myself, what aspects of my studying contribute the most to retaining the material I was attempting to master?  Upon self-reflection, I concluded that most of my recall came from simple, made-up mnemonics (mostly converting acronyms into visual representations), which I only utilized during my later rounds of re-writing the material. The light bulb went off; this is my 20%!  Now focusing on the 20% of studying that contributes to 80% of my retention (and cutting out the rest), I have saved countless hours of study time (and healthcare costs by avoiding my inevitable treatment of focal dystonia from handwriting), ultimately creating more time to live a happy and balanced life.

This principle can be applied to any aspect of your life, including relationships. For example, try to identify the 20% of meaningful conversations/activities that contribute the most to building a successful relationship and work towards increasing the frequency of those moments.  So whether it be growing peas in your backyard or studying for the USMLE steps, applying the 80/20 rule can dramatically increase your effectiveness; leaving you more time to devote to things that matter the most.

photocredit: https://eatingrules.com/the-80-20-rule/

Drew Porter

University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health – Class of 2019