We’ve always known that extreme stress brings on the fight and flight response. It is now acknowledged that there are probably four other dimensions. In addition to fight and flight, one also has fright, freeze, frantic and fatigue.
The above responses are hard-wired in humans and animals for survival of the species. However, to have these responses constantly in our everyday lives is not so useful, and certainly not much fun. For doctors who have upcoming written and/or clinical exams, their bodies activate at just the thought of an exam.
We all react differently to fear, especially in the oral exams. For instance, with
FIGHT you may react defensively to an examiner’s questions.
FLIGHT you may gabble anything just to finish and get out of there.
FRIGHT you may feel weak and shaky, and your voice doesn’t work well.
FREEZE your brain seems to go numb and you just can’t find the words.
FRANTIC is when you feel totally overwhelmed, and
FATIGUE is just a feeling of being flat and having extreme tiredness.
At different times you may have any one or more of these responses. It really depends on the environment, your previous experiences, and your personality.
However, if you practise the various exam components regularly under pressure, at home under simulated exam conditions, you can become more familiar with recognizing when excessive stress is starting to impact on your performance. By taking a diaphragmatic breath when you recognize that your body is tightening up, and your mind is starting to race, you can usually manage to take control and increase your focus on the task.
One major stressor for doctors is constant fatigue. This fatigue can be managed if you follow a few guidelines.
However, I know that sometimes you may have urgent preparation for a presentation the next day and must use computers etc. right up to bedtime. Try orange tinted glasses – orange lenses block the melatonin-robbing light coming from your devices so you can sleep better at night, and feel more energized in the morning. I believe you can find orange or amber-lens glasses online. Wear them for at least one or two hours before bedtime. I believe some tablets and laptops now have orange-coloured backlights for screen viewing.at night.
There are several things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep.
Swimmers and water polo players have learned to use these strategies when they compete at night and need to sleep during the day.
In summary, these are just a few hints for busy doctors who need to deal with exam stress, constant fatigue, and lack of sleep.
Be mindful, it’s worth it!
Dr. Patsy Tremayne