Women in Medicine 👩🏽‍⚕️🏥

September is Women in Medicine month, its purpose is to highlight the accomplishments of women physicians as well as bringing attention to health issues impacting women patients. I would like to focus on the latter, and discuss an issue which I have become increasingly passionate about.

I believe we need to raise our voices and talk about mental health. Yes, in the past few years there has been an increase in awareness with regards to mental health, but does it go far enough? Absolutely not.

Mental health is defined as a state of well being, yet one in four of us will be affected by a mental health issue at some point in our lives. This doesn’t have to be lifelong, it can be periodic, but regardless we need to change this statistic. We need to talk more about mental health to help those who are affected and ensure that those around us are able to recognise if something is wrong.

When one of us feels different in ourselves over a prolonged period, confused by our emotions, and how we feel as a result it is very unlikely that we will speak out about it. Perhaps you’ll mention it to a close friend, a sibling but more often than not shortly after describing how you feel you’ll go on to justify these emotions by claiming ‘but I’m sure it’s just a phase’. I believe this is where the problem lies. A lack of awareness means that we do award our mental health the same level of importance as we do to our physical health.

If we have a cough for longer than a few weeks we stop, we notice it, and we address it by asking for medical help. So why should we not do the same when it comes to our mental health? Part of this could be down to the stigma around mental health, a fear of the unknown, of what is not openly visible, but only we can overcome this.

As women, we face innumerable pressures on a daily basis, we tend to multitask and take on more than what we can sometimes bear. Women generally speaking, have a tendency of ‘getting on with things’ we don’t like to complain much and most of us like to portray the image of someone who is very much in control. I feel this attitude leads us women to become more vulnerable to mental health disorders such as anxiety, and depression as recognised by the World Health Organisation.

However, I want to emphasise upon the fact that we cannot always be ‘perfect’, irrespective of our gender. It should be the norm for us to acknowledge this regularly and talk freely about our mental health, in the same way that we do with regards to our physical health.

I came across a quote recently that read “The only thing more exhausting than having a mental health illness is pretending you don’t have one”. So please, speak out about it, get the help that you need, it is up to us to break the stereotype surrounding mental health and increase awareness surrounding it. If you think you’re mental health may be affected and you’d like to get to know more about it, then you can visit the following website.

Setting goals 📈

Each week we look ahead and dread the responsibilities that await us, we then plough through the week. How often do we take time to re-evaluate? When is the last time you stopped to ask yourself why it is that you carry out the tasks which you do? Are these tasks helping you to achieve your ultimate goal?

I’ve found that the best way to set a goal is to write down your ultimate objective in the centre of a sheet of paper. Surround this with the smaller steps which you need to take to achieve your target. The more of these steps that you can tick off, the closer you are to your end goal. If at any point, you have crossed off a task but you are no closer to the centre of your paper, its time to re-think your strategy.

Recently I came across a ‘golden rule’ to keep in mind when we are setting our life goals. The rule is that whenever you set a goal you must think ‘S M A R T’. So what does this mean?

S – Specific. Make sure that the goal you are working towards is not vague, the more specific your goal is the easier it will be for you to achieve it. For example, your goal should not be to simply learn a language, instead you should be more particular. Your goal could be to learn German at a beginners level, and that too within a year of setting your goal.

M – Measurable. You should be able to assess your progress, so that you can determine whether you are progressing towards your final goal. This will allow you to make any adjustments needed to ensure you are successful in reaching your purpose.

A – Achievable. Do not set yourself up for failure by aiming for something which you know that you cannot accomplish i.e to stop climate change by the end of the month. Keeping in mind that we should always set attainable targets it is important to challenge ourselves.

R – Realistic. When setting an objective it is important to be honest with yourself and to factor in any hurdles which you may have to cross in order to achieve your aim. This will help you adjust your goal so that it is more realistic or work towards first addressing these points before going on to achieving your target.

T Time – bound. It is important to set a deadline for you to have worked towards your goal, if we give ourselves the comfort of reaching our goal ‘some day’ then it is more likely than not that you will continue to extend this date into the unforeseeable future. Having said this, give yourself the time you require to realistically reach this stage, this will motivate you to strive to meet your deadline.

I have recently set myself a few objectives using this golden rule, it will be interesting to observe whether using ‘S M A R T’ is any more effective. I hope to keep you all updated!

Grey days ☔️

You slump down onto the battered sofa that has been here for as long as you can remember. As you sit down you assume the hunch back posture that you are usually so keen to avoid. Today however, you do not care, it has been one of the most draining days you have had in a while.

At the crack of dawn you awoke and set about routinely completing your everyday menial tasks, you do this without any conscious effort, almost as if though you are on autopilot. The coffee beans had run out and that was only your first battle of the day.

As you left your apartment, you had to face the torrential downpour which set the downcast tone of your day. You only felt worse when you realised that your rather indulgently bought umbrella had given up on you, just above your head the water persistently trickled through. You realise that you had wasted the time that you allocated to making your hair look half decent. Instead you could have had heated up last nights left-overs for breakfast but you didn’t, and your stomach is incessantly rumbling. Meanwhile the lady now sat next to you on the bus is judging you deeply, perhaps it is your unfortunate hair which has fallen victim to the rain?

But what really bothers you, are the thoughts that niggle away in the back of your mind. You try to shun them away, but they weasel their way back in, your insides churn and you feel sick. You’re mentally exhausted but at this point, diverting your attention becomes more energy consuming so you just give in, a prisoner of your thoughts. At first you feel a torsion of your insides, a splintering pain, but eventually a cold numbness spreads through your body. You realise that your cheeks are damp, your tears have silently been streaming down your face.

English anyone?

If you’re already familiar with my blog, then it is not unknown to you that I study abroad in Bulgaria. I have been here for almost five years now. The fact that Bulgarian beared no similarity to English made me nervous to say the least. Having grown up in the UK and being fluent in English, I had never had to face the struggles of being entirely illiterate.

Despite being enrolled onto an intensive Bulgarian course which to say the least was poorly taught. I had moved 3 hours away from home on my own to a country in which I couldn’t even communicate a single word without the aid of my Google translate app.

In the months that followed I realised the true beauty of body language. Not knowing what someone was saying to me, and others not knowing what I was saying to them left me in a  odd position. It was as though I was deaf and mute. I had to rely primarily on my body language and that of others to discern what was being said.

I now realise the beauty of silent speech, what I mean by this is how insightful a persons expressions and actions can be. I began to pick up on array of things that I previously had not noticed, the slight slump or elevation of a persons shoulders, the creases by their eyes and the tone of their voice. When combined with one another these actually provide almost as much information as your words themselves.

Needless to say, it is much easier to learn the language and I have been on this journey ever since. Its had its highs and lows, from finally being able to communicate with the taxi driver, to that frustrating moment where you’re missing the one word that could piece your sentence together. The one thing that I’ve learnt is to always persist, to learn a language you must never give up, you must constantly practice and not be afraid to immerse yourself in it entirely.