Tag Archives: stress

It’s Stressful

2012 has already been a stressful year and we are less than a month into it. Over the last several weeks I have had to try to learn to deal with the enormous amount of stress in my life. This stress comes from
the following:

1. My cousin/roommate, who was only supposed to be living with me temporarily, is pregnant. She finally told her mother, which is the only reason that I can even write this. This has caused a huge commotion in my family (not a good one) and I feel like they are blaming me for my cousin’s irresponsibility.

2. Results of a mammogram and FNA show that I have a fibroadenoma in my left breast. Benign, yes. Scary at first, definitely. Even though the stress of the initial results has worn off, I think that the shock, when combined with everything else, stressed me out completely.

3. Our family dog, Maximus, has been diagnosed with liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). I am now in Missouri with family, spending time with Max and with my mother. Understandably, my mother is devastated and she has sought my advice on treatment for our dog. It has put me in a very difficult situation of appeasing my mother while also making sure that Max isn’t suffering. He is now eating well, going for walks and has been less lethargic since we started him on medication (for pain management). Hopefully we continue to see some improvement in his disposition, but his prognosis is still poor.

Older picture of Max, Best Dog in the World. Sorry, for the yellow frame. It was the only picture of him I had on this laptop.

Those three stressors combined with everything else have really made me stop and thing about how I need to handle personal stress better. As a surgeon, I can handle the stress of work no problem. It is how I handle my stress outside of work that has negatively affected my life.

So far I have tried a few different things and the results have been extremely positive! I have increased how much I work out and by that I mean not just running 50 miles a week. I have done more yoga in the mornings and Pilates once a week. I have drastically changed my diet. While I am in Missouri, my cousin is cleaning out the cabinets. Absolutely no processed foods and I am going to try to buy seasonal fare. I have eaten multiple small meals throughout the day and shying away from the larger, sit-down meals that my family insists we have. Even with the diet and activity changes, I think that the best change I have made is taking time for myself.

One of my New Year’s goals is to learn to sew. I purchased several books on pattern-making, sewing basics and choosing fabrics. I have researched sewing machines and I’m very excited to buy a machine when I get back to California! I have taken time out of every day to read the sewing books and I think that focusing on something other than the stress has, obviously, helped.

In addition to setting aside time for this new hobby, I have also been writing more. I wasn’t able to write a blog post for a while. Every time I sat down at the computer to type, I was too overwhelmed to focus. Instead I tried writing short stories and worked on streamlining my book. Not having to worry about the content specifically helped clear the writer’s block enough that I begin to formulate this post in my head.

As always, I am open to suggestions to help me deal with the stress. Some of my friends have suggested meditation, but at the moment I can’t quiet my mind enough for that to work. If you have any tried and true stress busting remedies, do share!

Baking my way through medical school

Medical School: Learn to Live Like a Zombie

Medical school is stressful. Not the “busy schedule,” kind of stressful either. It’s the “life-consuming, soul-destroying, completely overwhelming,” kind of stressful. There were days when I just didn’t want to deal with life in general. In the mornings, my alarm would go off and I would plan my run. Part way through my run, I would consider not going back to my apartment and contemplate skipping my classes for the day. This happened every day for almost six years.

I had always attributed my lack of interest in medical school to my

My room was much less depressing....

parents. They had forced me to go to medical school, even though I told them I would be miserable. Of course I had been right, I disliked medicine intensely. It was easy enough, I found that I was good at it and I continued to drag myself to class everyday. By third year, I was so depressed that I had (what I would now classify as) a nervous breakdown. I stopped running, eating and only left the apartment for class. I spent an entire break from school in bed, leaving only to use the restroom or shower (sometimes). It was awful. I kept visualizing my life and in my head it was the most depressing future I could ever imagine. I pictured myself going to work everyday, dealing with patients and never being happy. It was too much to bear, so I just shut down.

At the end of several weeks, I finally decided enough was enough. I drove to see my parents, I was going to tell them I was done with

My grandmother is so much cuter

medical school once and for all. When I arrived home my grandmother was there. She was in the process of baking babka wielkanocna for the holiday so I asked if I could help while I waited for my parents to return. Perhaps it was speaking Polish with my grandmother or maybe it was licking delicious gooey batter off my fingers, but by the time my parents arrived home I had completely forgotten that I was there to tell them my life-changing news. Baking has always been an important aspect of my life, but at that moment I realized that I could take out my frustrations on cupcakes. It was a game changer.

I spent the weekend at my parents, planning my baking shopping list. My mind was finally off of medical school and instead it was thinking about how many Meyer lemon’s I needed for tarts. When I got back to the city I headed straight to the store, I bought over $300 worth of

The best kind of mess.

random ingredients and then stopped by a kitchen supply store for extra accessories. Back at my apartment, I baked for hours. My counters that had once been covered in nothing but medicine, were now covered in flour. I kneaded dough until my fingers cramped and rolled it until my arms were sore. It was wonderful. After I took the last cake out of the oven, exhaustion took hold and I slept for twelve hours straight. I woke up feeling oddly refreshed, went for a long run and then delivered the baked goods to my classmates.

For the rest of my time in medical school, I took plenty of time out to work in the kitchen. My friends and classmates loved it, so much so that they began to request certain recipes more than others. The favourite ended up being my Black Forest Cupcakes, which were requested on a weekly basis. It quite literally got me through medical school and made me realize that I would ultimately survive the experience.

It seems like a silly thing, to think that baking cupcakes could really have such a profound impact on a person. To me, it has always been the act of baking more than the finished product. Even though I enjoy tasting my creations, it is ultimately the pleasure they bring others that makes me so content. Once I found that I enjoyed baking, it became an outlet for my anxiety which helped me through medical school.

So, would I have still been a physician if I had not discovered my love of baking? Probably. My parents would have forced me to finish school and if I had decided to drop out, they would have pushed me toward engineering. Baking didn’t save medical school for me, but it did help me find some sort of balance in my hectic life. To this day I continue to bake for my family and friends. I think they are glad I had a nervous breakdown, because without it they never would have been able to taste what they consider “the most amazing cupcakes ever.”

Post Moving Apocalypse

While I was trying to fall asleep last night, my mind kept going back to the fact that I start work again on Monday. This wouldn’t be so terrible if I had the majority of the house set up, but doing this all by myself has been a trying experience. When I moved from NYC to KC, I took only what was necessary since I was keeping my NYC apartment. Moving from KC to LA was fairly easy, as I was moving first into a small house and it didn’t allow for much “stuff.” However, moving just a few blocks away has been a nightmare.

To start with, the holiday weekend meant that the streets were packed with drunk college kids and out-of-towners. Navigating as you got closer to the beach was pretty terrible and it stressed me out even more. Once we got to the house, the movers were quick to get everything inside, as I’m sure they also wanted to start their 4th of July celebration early too. Not all of the furniture was delivered on Friday, so I had scheduled the movers to come over three days (July 1, July 2 and July 5) so that way they would be around to help me move furniture from room to room. I also had a delivery scheduled for the 8th, but the 3 men who delivered the chairs were more than happy to move them around for me. Since the days were spread out, I had to try to set-up as much as I could over the holiday weekend. I did take some time out to see friends, but got right back to organizing boxes.

Unpacked boxes

So much time spent opening boxes

The problem I have with unpacking is that I feel the need to sort through everything as I take it out of the box. I have been going through my books, deciding which get the privilege of residing on my shelves and which ones will take a trip to the Hermosa Beach Public Library. I have yet to even tackle my clothes which are still hanging in the boxes. I have turned one of the bedrooms into a closet, thanks to custom cabinetry. This means I have to go through my clothes and will probably donate some of it*, but I have to sort through it first. This whole process is going to take forever and with work on Monday, I don’t see how I will ever get any of this done.

The only rooms that are completely done are the master bedroom, the master bathroom and the kitchen. I knew that I had to have some sort of sanctuary in the house and I figured my bedroom was the best place to start. My cat has been staying in the bedroom as well, since she appears to be terrified of the new house. I have yet to bring the dog into the house and my old neighbors are still taking care of him. They told me that they would watch him for as long as I needed. I knew that bringing Jasper into the house would be a disaster, since he loves to chew up cardboard boxes.

I know that moving in takes time, but with my schedule it is difficult to see the “light at the end of the tunnel,” or in my case the bottom of the empty moving box. I can only hope that I get as much done as possible in the next two days and that I’m not in the OR for the majority of next week.

*Any suggestions on where to donate clothing in LA?