Everyone loves Katniss Everdeen. What’s not to love about the strong, independent, bad-ass woman? Given that exams and Step 1 are looming closer and closer, I’ve been feeling less and less sure of myself and wishing that I could channel my inner Katniss Everdeen and emerge victorious against the Capitol (and by the Capitol, I mean exams). When sharing these thoughts with a friend, it occurred to me that I could step into Katniss’s shoes for a day by taking archery lessons. So, my friend and I gathered a group to see if any of us could hypothetically be the next winner of The Hunger Games.
I was curious as to whether archery had any special benefits for mental health besides ones commonly associated with physical exercise in general. Interestingly, I found that archers had higher confidence levels than shooters. I also realized after my reading that archery requires a different sort of mental focus than other sports: given the nature of archery, enormous concentration and control is required.
Armed with this knowledge, we arrived at the archery club and were greeted with several heads of dead animals decorating the interior of the club. I was a little taken aback, but I guess I should have expected it. We met our instructor for the day who, after realizing we just wanted to know the basics, decided to first get into some stretching, then go straight into teaching us proper positioning to shoot targets. After stretching out, we learned how to draw the arrow back and position ourselves properly. I was surprised that this was something I didn’t have too much trouble with, and learned quickly that this was probably due to my having strong back muscles from my many years as a competitive swimmer. Once all of my friends had gotten comfortable with their stances, we started practicing to shoot our targets. Again, to my surprise and delight –considering how most of my adventures thus far have gone — I found that it wasn’t too difficult to shoot the targets! While I attributed this to my 20/15 eyesight, steady hands, and strong back muscles, I also like to think that this means with some more practice, I might actually rival Katniss Everdeen — something I admit to feeling a little smug about.
The hour passed by far too quickly, and for the first time since I have started these adventures, I felt that I had achieved the flow phenomenon that people only achieve when they are truly immersed in an activity. For the first time, I felt as if I was actually competent at what I was doing and I fully admit to receiving a slight ego-boost when the instructor complimented me on my natural knack.
This, however, made me realize something, not just about this activity but about medical school or really life in general: everyone has their strengths and their weaknesses. It always seemed to me in medical school that everyone seemed to be better prepared or just had a better knack for a certain subject or certain skill, whether it be suturing, identifying histopathology slides correctly or memorizing everything about every microbe mentioned in Sketchy Micro. I never felt that there was an area I excelled in and, consequently was harder on myself than I should have been. I felt similarly about every single activity thus far: whether it was yoga, dancing or my pitiful attempts at rock climbing, I always felt that I had less aptitude than the rest of my peers in that activity. Excelling in archery, however, made me realize that each and every one of us, though we may often forget, do have expertise. I may be terrible at singing, but I can shoot a bow and arrow well. I may not be able to memorize the epilepsy drugs (mechanisms, use and side effects complete) in less than half an hour, but I am good at organizing material in charts and diagrams that I’ve been told have been useful for my peers.
So in conclusion, I think I found my “soul activity.” After I’ve finished going on as many activities as I can think of — and trust me, I have a pretty long list — I think I’ve finally found the activity I want to stick with. I hope somewhere along the line, you will too.
A very important topic is that of mental health in medical practitioners, notably medical students. According to a study in the Student British Medical Journal, 30 percent of medical students report having a mental health condition — with a majority of 80 percent stating the level of available support was poor or only moderately adequate. This column was born from these alarming statistics and aims to stimulate conversation on mental health in medical students, from providing suggestions on how to maintain one’s mental health to discussing the taboo and stigma surrounding conversations on mental health in practitioners and students, and how to eliminate it.