Self-care for Medical Students: Reflection by Patrick Farrell


Before starting the self-care SSC I had delved a little into the world of Buddhism, under the thinking that learning to meditate would bring me peace and direction as I was finding myself regularly frustrated and at a loss to what I was making of my life. I had only read in fits and starts and hadn’t given any real commitment to the idea. I therefore saw the self-care SSC as a chance to spring-board myself further into the realms of body awareness and living a life that would bring me joy. I would have had a lot of anger and frustration on a daily basis, and would have been very self-critical upon personal reflection. The idea of taking proper care of yourself and being true to yourself before dealing with other people really hit home for me.

The area that I feel I’ve made the most progress with over the 3 weeks has been my own self-belief and self-confidence to do the things that I feel are right for me. This began as early as the first week as I learnt the importance of observing rather than absorbing during my interactions with other people in my life. I had always found this a real drain on my motivation and enthusiasm on a daily basis. I have felt for too long that I was neglecting my own belief that it was important to speak only when you had something to say, rather than a constant babble of mainly nonsense chatter, and this was something I struggled to implicate in my living. From the confidence in my self-belief I was gaining each day I began to implement this into my daily life, and immediately felt a strong sense of satisfaction that I was being true to myself. I have always found that I prefer my own company more often than not and I felt liberated as I started to make more time for just me to be with me.

I began to implement several lifestyle changes and methods discussed in class into my own daily living. Over the 3 weeks I experimented with alcohol consumption, having a night out when I was completely sober and a night when I consumed alcohol. I found that I actually enjoyed the sober night more, I did largely similar things both nights, and woke up the next day with no feelings of regret or shame that were present upon waking up from the alcohol infused night. This experiment stemmed from our group discussion on alcohol consumption where I was arguing the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. I was troubled to learn that the alcohol was causing me to become a chemically-fuelled version of myself, and leading me away from making decisions based on what was best for me. I was drinking poison. I will certainly exercise strict control on the alcohol I consume and not see it as a necessary ingredient for a good time.

I found the gentle breath meditation, yoga and exercising of conscious presence invaluable tools to waking me up to how my body was feeling throughout the day, and I began to check in and reconnect more often with how I was getting on. I am quite inexperienced with these techniques of body awareness and still find it difficult to maintain my focus on the task at hand, but I have been bolstered by the small improvements I have made in not multi-tasking as often and trying to fully check-in to what I’m doing, so I am confident I will continue to improve with regular practice.

Even before I started the SSC I would have taken care to eat a nutritious selection of food, but I wouldn’t have paid attention to the finer details, that could be the cause of afternoon sluggishness, general tiredness and changes in mood I was often experiencing. This was the area that I struggled to observe changes in how I was feeling despite making a number of changes to what I was putting in my body. I will continue to experiment and observe and along with continued conscious presence I will be able to pick up on the subtler changes that I haven’t previously noticed. I managed to cut out caffeine and unnecessary added sugars in my diet quite successfully, again stemming from group discussions in class. Also the addition of more vegetables and fruits has been welcomed along with a greater enthusiasm improve my ability to cook a wider variety of my own food from fresh ingredients. This will be tested thoroughly as I begin my clinical attachment schedule again next week, but is something I feel is very important and I will devote a considerable amount of energy to tackle it successfully. 

I have been quite unsuccessful in adapting a new sleep routine of an earlier bedtime and a corresponding earlier wake-up time. I have felt this impact on my general tiredness throughout the day but feel it is the result of a long habit of neglecting sleep. I have been tired most days coming home from class which has sapped any enthusiasm to study in the afternoon, so I usually begin to study in the evening and consequently go to bed late then struggle to get out of bed in the morning. This is a cycle I aim to break out of and something I feel will be important not only for my general vitality but also my enthusiasm to make the most of each new day.

I saw a lot of sense in our teaching about love being the true energy of human beings, and how our actions in our past and present lives play a big part in what happens to us both now and in the future. From this I also learned the importance of living your life in the present moment and not wasting energy on dwelling on the past or looking into the future. I’d come to a point in my life a couple of years ago where I was looking for answers, feeling that I was letting life slip by without enjoying it. So I began to look for different sources of information away from traditional Christianity, and found books of Buddhism and enlightenment and they made sense. But my motivation for continuing further with my research was lacking and I felt as though again I was just sort of drifting through my days. I had great excitement therefore when I saw the details of this SSC, how it was a continuation of themes I’d been learning about and interested in, and after as little as the first few days I knew I was in the right place. I was being taken on steps further down the path of my own understanding, and the themes we discussed seemed to be familiar thoughts that I’d had before but had just forgotten or hadn’t fully formed. I certainly saw the utmost importance of taking care of yourself, and putting your own care at the top of your priorities.

I would probably say that the most dramatic change I’ve noticed over the 3 week period has been the vast increase in my own self-love, not in the sense of vanity, but rather my complete satisfaction to be exactly who I am. The genuine sense of joy that came just from being true to me was staggering. My critical self-talk stopped and my own self-belief grew and grew, as I finally realised that if I didn’t believe in myself how could I expect anyone else too. Admittedly it’s still an early stage, and my ability to care for myself is very inexperienced but it will only improve. I now feel armed with the tools that I need to make sure that I’m not neglecting my needs, that I am listening to my body and I have the courage and the belief to do what it asks. 


  • Reply
    Gayle Cue
    24th February 2014 at 9:56 pm

    What surprised me the most about Patrick’s reflection was how quickly he could re-turn to living from this re-newed sense of self. After many years of being in the world without awareness of how he was living, without making self-loving choices; a brief introduction to self love techniques and 3 weeks later he is able to completely ‘get it’. Now this gives me hope that humanity can make new choices, if people like Patrick are giving them the reflection of how they can care for themselves. So inspiring. Thank you to the Soulful Doctor and Patrick for continuing to build the wave of self care in medical training.

  • Reply
    24th February 2014 at 10:11 pm

    This is awesome Patrick. A true confirmation that Self-care topics should be part of the curriculum for all medical students. Great work Eunice for introducing this. Just imagine if all health care professionals had a deeper understanding of self-care and what a difference it would make for their patients.

  • Reply
    Dragana Brown
    24th February 2014 at 11:53 pm

    I enjoyed immensely reading about your experience Patrick and all the little (big) steps that you have been making towards greater self-care during those 3 weeks.

    And it is absolutely wonderful to hear of your enthusiasm to continue to apply greater care for yourself so that in turn you can provide that same level of care to those you will be serving.

    All the best in your endeavour and if after all the years of you medical studies you don’t feel that that’s it – may I suggest you take up writing 😉 It is absolutely beautiful.

    Thank you again.

  • Reply
    Jeanette Macdonald
    27th February 2014 at 7:54 pm

    I love what you have written here Patrick and the way you write with such clarity. This bit; “I was being taken on steps further down the path of my own understanding, and the themes we discussed seemed to be familiar thoughts that I’d had before but had just forgotten or hadn’t fully formed.” It feels to me like you received a lovely gift and by choosing to undertake this beautiful programme the gift was actually given to you by your self :-). it seems like a remembering rather than something new to learn which means that it must be something that is naturally within us waiting for us to reconnect to and reactivate should we choose to do so.
    I’d love to hear more.

  • Reply
    28th February 2014 at 8:59 pm

    Thank you so much Patrick for sharing your reflections of the SSC. I found it such a beautiful blog to read. I love that you are discovering your self confidence and belief to be able to do the things that are right for me, not with any disrespect to anyone else, simply honouring the fact that you are tired or don’t want to talk or go out sometimes. Wonderful examples. Thank you so much.

  • Reply
    Ariana Ray
    4th March 2014 at 9:22 pm

    This is a great blog to read, it’s given me an altogether different view of doctors! Your depth of understanding is conveyed very well here, and so great that you are learning to feel the deeper side of life rather than run with the crowd. Thank you for stepping up to take self and patient care to another level.
    Ariana Ray, UK

  • Reply
    Priscila Azeredo de Souza
    20th March 2014 at 9:46 pm

    I loved reading your reflections Patrick. Seeing how you approached these 3 weeks, experimenting with your new discoveries and sharing them honestly is deeply inspiring. I particularly like the parts when you say ‘This is a cycle I aim to break out of’ and ‘my complete satisfaction to be exactly who I am.’ – clear examples of your self empowerment. Stunning.

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