HAPPY NEW YEAR GANG! Today is January 1st, and in this article I want to share with you my reflections on what a year 2017 was. I used to be a person who had ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ – but a couple of years back, I stopped using that phrase. It always seemed like a ‘self-improvement’ start to a New Year, and I realised that actually, I was pretty darn happy with who I am and how I live. Sure, there’s always aspects of our lives we can and want to work on, but the whole ‘New Year, New Me’ mentality just never appealed to me. Why be a NEW you? What’s wrong with YOU? So I decided to shift the focus to the SAME me, with New Year goals that I set in January for the 12 months ahead. They might be existing goals I haven’t fully accomplished yet, or completely new ones.
I thought I would write a post to talk about the 2017 experiences I am most grateful for, and lessons I have learnt, and finish with what my goals for 2018 are. 2017 was a pretty awesome year, I’ll start by saying that. Here are three things I’ve learnt and taken from the past 12 months, with a brief description of the experiences that shaped these lessons.
- Hard work pays off. Everytime.
2017 was a year of exams for me. As a junior doctor in my third qualified year, I’m at a stage where as part of training, we have to do three exams over two years in order to move on into higher specialisation (i.e. if I want to become a cardiologist, gastroenterologist, public health consultant, oncologist, etc). Having passed the first written exam in 2016, I set a 2017 goal to pass the second written and final clinical exam in 2017. The third exam in particular is known for being pretty darn tricky to pass – it’s a live exam, real patients, real clinical signs, and you have to be competent in your bedside manner, examination style, differential diagnosis and theory for each case. It’s about 2 hours long, and it’s intense. I don’t mind saying that I worked my butt off with my fellow junior doctor buddies who were also taking the exam in October – but despite knowing I was putting the hours in to prepare, I still felt ridiculously nervous. I should mention here that I’m a self-confessed perfectionist (in case you hadn’t guessed!). Hard work has always been my go-to to get through exams – and if I know I put my best effort in to study, I can’t say fairer than that no matter what the end result. But after this exam, despite knowing that, I ridiculously over-analysed my performance on the day. I left the exam, went straight to the gym, lifted heavy, sweated hard, just to forget about it – my ritual, but this time I found it really hard to switch off from it. Finally, I did, and two months later, when the results came out and I found out I had passed, I cried. Hands in the air, I bawled. With relief, and with pride – because it really reinforced my belief in hard work. So if you want something bad enough guys, put the time and effort into getting it, because it DOES pay off.
- If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. End of.
Every 3 months, I rotate onto a new medical specialty. I’m in a 2 year medical programme designed that way, to give us experience in lots of different areas of medicine. I started 2017 with 3 months as a doctor in the Emergency Department of my hospital, followed by 3 months in Oncology – and I’m not gonna lie, I was frickin’ terrified for both. It didn’t help that I more or less started both with a week of night shifts – not the best orientation! It might seem strange that I’m being so honest about my fear, but contrary to popular belief, working as a doctor isn’t all swag like in Grey’s Anatomy – being on-call in particular can be crazy stressful, scary and lonely, especially on night shifts. In addition, working in the A&E was something I hadn’t done before, and it’s a different style of work to being on the wards. But you know what? I loved both. Maybe not ALL of the six months – let’s be honest, nights on-call are rough, both physically and mentally, even when it’s a (rare!) quiet one. But I ended up loving my A&E rotation, and found my Oncology work fascinating. More than that, the six months was filled with experiences that I believe really thickened my skin, and built up my confidence as a doctor hugely. So this year, if you’re starting a new job, rotation, placement, lifestyle change, career change, country change – don’t sweat it. We can’t live our lives in comfort zones, as tempting as that may be. A little bit of fear and nerve is that adrenaline you need to smash those first few days and weeks – and although the challenge may seem daunting, it will help you grow, and you will be the better for it.
- Passion is there to be followed, not ignored. Chase what your dreams.
I started my blog in late 2016, and at the beginning of this year, I made it my mission to give it the time I felt it deserved. I wanted to educate myself on the area of preventive medicine (known as lifestyle medicine by some, though they aren’t quite the same thing), and create content for you inspired by that learning. I was absolutely honoured to win Best Irish Blog in the Health Bloggers’ Community U.K. Health Blog Awards in September this year, and it was probably one of the most special nights of 2017 for me, particularly as I got to travel to the UK with my amazing Mom to celebrate it – and my friend/fellow blogger Vicky (@theflourishingpantry and a 2017 friendship highlight for me!) won an award there too! Over the past year, I have realised that public health, health promotion, and ultimately preventive medicine is what I want to build my career around as a doctor, and I have my blog to thank for helping me realise that. At first, I couldn’t explain what the feeling inside me was that drove me to want to learn everything I could about how our lifestyles affect our health. But I soon realised it was because I hadn’t felt this way about any other specialty in medicine until this year. I had come close, with interests in areas like gastroenterology, and endocrinology. Public health was where I realised my passion and career would and could combine. This passion, because that is what it is, make no mistake guys, is what drives me to keep learning, reading, listening and writing. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but someday I hope to be, and one that effects change at that. So, bottom line, if you find something you love to do and are passionate about, find a way to make it your day to day. That’s my goal – and I intend to achieve it.
2018 – What’s in store for The Irish Balance?
I think my third point about chasing your passion leads me to 2018 nicely. This year, I have both goals I’m bringing from 2017, and new ones I’m setting. I’m going to put these in a mini list – because that’s the easiest way to keep them separate and concrete in my head! Plus, by sharing these with you, it keeps me honest and accountable for them.
- Career: As I’ve said, Public Health is what I want to specialise in, so in 2018, I’ll be completing the final six months of my medical training programme, and building my CV for that as I go, hopefully attending the Irish Public Health Summer Conference again this year. As you all know from my ‘Exercise As Medicine’ post recently, in late 2017 I organised the first of hopefully many ‘Exercise Prescribing in Chronic Disease’ for my fellow junior doctor colleagues, and I’m planning a second session for January which is very exciting!
- Life (deep, I know): After my programme finishes in July…I have to do decide what to do. At this stage as doctors, some people would apply to specialise, while others would try a year in a speciality before committing to it…others would travel, or go into research. Me? To be confirmed. But I think Australia is where I’ll be heading for a year this summer, to work, live, and experience life there. After that, I hope to pursue a Public Health Masters, and then move into specialty training. Aim high, achieve high gang.
- Blog: Where to start! I have so many ideas and inspirations for 2018. To start, I’m going to take the step of upgrading my blog this year – it will officially be it’s own ‘.com’ soon and I’m so delighted. I really feel like it is growing to the stage where it needed to be more for you guys – so it will be getting a bit of a makeover in early 2018– stay tuned! I want to create a LOT of content for you guys. To date, much of my posts have been recipes, personal reflections, and pieces about lifestyle medicine. I want to share MORE as I learn more on the area of preventive medicine, and I want to write about more specific topics related to health too – some people have asked me to do a post about Vitamin D, for example! I also want to share more workout and recipe video content on my Instagram, and it’s something you guys have been requesting more of, as well as being so positive about those I’ve shared to date! I would LOVE to do Instagram Live Cook-alongs too! Trust me, The Irish Balance has BIG things in store.
- Personal: I want to practise gratitude, mindfulness and digital detox more. My phone and laptop are how I connect with you guys, grow my social media, and work on my blog – but it’s also increasingly important to me that I remember to BALANCE that with switching off, for myself, and for time with family, boyfriend and friends. Easier said than done, but it’s a goal I’m going to work hard at. For example, I’m an avid reader, and yet I don’t do it enough between work and my blog – but that’s something that’s going to change.
- Health: As always, the four pillars of health that one of my inspirations, Dr. Ranjan Chatterjee talks about – nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management – are something that I try to keep in balance each and every day. Of all the four, sleep is what I find I need to work on improving the most, and second is stress management. Makes sense when you consider my day job! So for 2018, those are my two pillars I’ll be focusing on. Minimum 7.5 hours of sleep a night, and working on seeing stress for what it really is – a circumstance, a situation, and adjusting my reaction to it to one of acceptance and productivity, NOT panic. For nutrition and exercise, I’ve always been an active person (I’m very bad at boredom) and I love my diet the way it is right now. I’ll be taking on a new fitness challenge by joining F45 in Dublin (at the IFSC for anyone Dublin-based, opens January 3rd, come join me!) which is really exciting. Aside from that, I want to run more regularly, and work on lifting heavier this year. Again, all easier said than done, but didn’t I say what challenges us changes us?
And that is a wrap gang – goodbye and thank you to 2017, and hello and welcome to 2018! I have a really, really good feeling about this year. I can’t describe it, but it’s going to be special, I just know it. What are YOUR goals for 2018??? What were your 2017 highs and lows? Leave a comment, send me a DM or email, let me know! Happy New Year to all of you beautiful people – let’s make 2018 ours.