Six years ago, as a third year medical student, I journaled electronically for a year and turned my entries into a book entitled Love, Sanity, or Medical School. About 2 years ago, when I was a third year emergency medicine resident, I had the idea to write another book.
I made it as far as writing the first entry:
August 1, about two years ago
2:52 am: We toasted each other on the helipad overlooking the city, then tossed back shots of tequila before taking the elevators all the way back down into the emergency department – back down into the chaos of the busiest trauma center in California. The last of the fourth year emergency medicine residents had completed their final shifts and were now officially done with residency. Tears were running down most of our faces as we said goodbye to our friends and wished them luck on their journeys. One by one they left the emegency department (the ED, as we call it), off to new jobs, new cities, new opportunities. Hugging Claire goodbye one last time brought on the waterworks as she had not only been a steadfast friend, but a mentor and role model - someone I knew always had my back and looked out for my best intentions. I would say I could still feel the sting of the tequila in the back of my throat when I returned to work but I couldn’t – because I hadn’t actually taken a shot. Actually, none of us had. It was more of a symbolic parting shot. In reality, we had just clinked our water bottles together and snacked on gummy bears during this venture to the helipad.
The departure of the fourth year EM residents signified the official “moving up” of all the other classes of residents. I am now done with second year of residency, halfway through my four-year EM program, and am now a senior resident. Once again, I am officially a third year.
This website will be yet another go at electronic journaling. I suppose that is called a blog. Whatever. Anyway, here goes another attempt at chronicling my adventures in life and medicine - this time as an EMS and Disaster Medicine Fellow.
Each entry will contain a “recipe” (as blogs often do) for a prepping skills or something related to physical or mental preparedness.
If you’d like to read Love, Sanity, or Medical School, check out my website ThirdYear.org or you can find it on Amazon.
Recipe: keeping a journal
Recent research has shown that keeping a journal can have both psychological and physical benefits.
Interested in starting a journal? Not sure where to begin? Try using one of the prompts listed below! These are some of my favorite inspirations to use on the days when I’m staring at a blank page and not sure where to start. There are countless additional prompts you can find online, too.
Write stream of consciousness about whatever comes to mind
Don’t worry about grammar, content, flow, or pacing
Imagine that someone has decided to write a book about your life, up to this point.
What would the cover blurb say? Are you happy with it?
Now imagine what you’d like that blurb to say at the end of your life.
What changes need to be made for that to happen?
Gratitude journal: each day, write out three things you’re grateful for
Track your habits: sleep, food, physical activity, physical or mental health symptoms, etc.
Write rapidly for 5 minute. Go!
Right now I feel ____.
Today the weirdest thing happened ___.
“I really ought to ____.”
Make an inventory: of health, family, home, work, spiritual/religious, well-being, etc.
Clustering, aka visual free-association
Write a central word or phrase à quickly add words and thoughts around the center idea à Makes lines and circles connect key thoughts and associations à Briefly summarize
Pick a topic and make a list of 100 items
Ex: 100 Things I’m Sad About; 100 Things I Need or Want to Do; 100 Places I Would Like to See; 100 things on my mind, etc.
There will be repetitions – which is important. Once the list is done, group the responses and look for themes
An undercover spy is about to impersonate you in all aspects of your life. Write instructions.
Write your memoir in five sentences. 6 words. 1 word.
Pensive doctor records life around her.
Write a letter and don’t send it. Address a specific injustice, or a long standing issue
Alpha-poem: write A-Z or a word vertically down the side of a page
Write about a particularly meaningful or emotional experience
Record your current place, including your 5 senses
Write a portrait of another person.
Write about your own personality
Personify one of your emotions:
Give it an appearance, a style of dress, a personality, and temperament. Have a conversation with it.
Write out a dialogue: Create a metaphorical conversation with, or between, any persons (living or dead). This can be a conversation you want to have, you wish you had, or will never get a chance to have. No constraints on time, space, physical reality, or literary voice.
Describe how you feel. Now describe how you want to feel
What always brings tears to your eyes? (As Paulo Coelho has said, “Tears are words that need to be written.”)
Take some time to reflect on your career. Jot down a timeline of it. What was your best experience? The worst? What would you like your future to look like in regards to work?
Write about a disagreement or fight from the other person’s POV
Gain a new perspective on an event or situation, and push yourself to understand where someone else may be coming from
Decide on one positive habit you’d like in your life. Whether seemingly mundane (flossing) or perhaps life-altering (exercising), write out the steps you’ll take to get there.
Via negativa: pick a habit that you’d like to eliminate from your life. Think about the steps you’ll take to get rid of that negative habit, as well as how to keep yourself accountable.
Copy lines of poetry or jot down song lyrics that speak to you
Make a word or image collage. Or just scribble.
When I’m in pain — physical or emotional — the kindest thing I can do for myself is…
Simply write about your day. What time you woke up, what your commute was like, what you did at work, how you spent your evening. (If you’re journaling in the mornings, write about the previous day.)
What piece of advice do you most often give and least often follow?
Give yourself a pep talk
The words I’d like to live by are…
I couldn’t imagine living without…
What’s surprised you the most about your life or life in general?
Make a list of everything you’d like to say yes (or no!) to
After each entry, re-read what you've written. Then, give yourself a sentence or two of feedback. This helps you sum things up and transition back to your day.
For example: “
“I'm surprised by _____.”
“I'm now aware of ____.”
What other prompts have you tried?
Recipe: Everyday Carry (EDC)
EDC is gear that is on you at all times. For some, EDC refers to a firearm. For others, myself included, it references gear that is within arm’s reach at all times.
My own EDC is comprised of the keys and accessories on my key chain. I never want to be away from my car or house keys - if something were to happen and I needed to get away from work (or wherever), I’d be stuck (literally) if my keys were locked in an office or cabinet or some other area of the hospital. So, my keys are always on my person.
As for my key chain accessories, I carry a flashlight, a whistle, and a Swiss Army knife. The flashlight is a compact yet blinding 47 lumen light - powerful enough to use for illumination, signaling, and self defense (yes, self defense). I’ll talk more about my love of flashlights on another post, but suffice it to say that I always have a flashlight on me. The next item is a slim howler whistle, with a reported range of over a mile. For an item that weighs nearly nothing (it’s less than an ounce), the signaling strength is unmatched. The next item is a Swiss Army knife. It has just a few tools, but they’re all incredibly useful. The final item is a tiny Icelandic Vegvisir, which symbolizes a compass. I suppose I could carry a real compass instead but this was a present from my husband from way back when we met while backpacking while Iceland. My husband has a similar set of EDC items on his key chain, with the addition of a bottle opener in the shape of a guitar. Gotta have priorities.
Maglite Solitaire LED flashlight
Slim Rescue Howler by SOL
Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket Knife
In addition to the above, my cell phone is also always on me. My phone provides, in addition to the obvious ability of calling for help, a variety of other uses: GPS, compass, flashlight, emergency medicine/military/first aid/disaster prep/EMS apps, and access to the world of the internet. My phone is rarely less than 75% charged, and I keep a variety of chargers i my home and car to ensure a nearly-full battery.
EDC can quickly get heavy, and expensive, depending on your style and what you’re willing to carry. For me, my keys, a flashlight, a whistle, and a small Swiss Army knife strike the right balance between utility and weight.