Valuing and maintaining your support system

Introduction

Happiness in life is strongly associated with social connections. Going through vet school can be extremely stressful and nerve-wracking at times. Students often try to deal with these situations on their own through the use of effective (and ineffective) coping strategies.  Instead, by connecting with classmates, the advantages of the social network  benefit both. Personal support networks, whether classmates or outside of the program, are worth their weight in gold, helping with everything from car maintenance to being a “sounding board”. It is important to form and nurture these support systems; they can make all the difference.

Strategies

  • Say “thank you.” Voicing your gratitude can go a long way. People who provide support also need to feel appreciated. The vet program can be hard on those not actually in it when they don’t see you often enough.
  • Remember NOT to take your support system for granted. Show your appreciation with a simple but meaningful gesture such as a hug, a flower, a special note, or a favorite snack.
  • You may need to identify different support systems for your differing needs. Be proactive about talking to people who may be able to offer advice and support.
  • Don’t always receive, take the time to give back.
  • Communicate your needs; never assume that others, even close relationships, can read your mind.
  • Have fun with your support systems when appropriate. HUMOR and LAUGHTER can result in miracles and can make all the difference.
  • Tell your support system specifically what they’ve meant to you. “Aunty, if it wasn’t for your financial help, occasional free dinners, and couch for me to nap on, I really don’t think I could make it through vet school. You’ve really made a difference in my life.”
  • Invite your support system to your White Coat Ceremony and Graduation.

People to Talk to:

  • Student counseling services: (612) 624-3323
  • Dr. Erin Malone: (612) 625-4762, malon001@umn.edu
  • Anyone in Academic and Student Affairs
  • GOALe mentor(s)
  • Any faculty you feel you can approach
  • Classmates, friends, and family
  • Your spiritual advisor
  • Organizations to which you belong

Final Thoughts

You do not have to always handle everything by yourself. If you need support and advice, reach out and ask. Asking for support is not a sign of weakness. “Excessive self-reliance” is actually a disorder. Reaching out can be a measure of one’s maturity and insight. Value and maintain your support systems. Let them know how much you appreciate them.

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“Although I’ve always thought of myself as a strong person, there were moments in med school where the support of my family and friends meant a lot. Sometimes just being able to cry in front of them was comforting. It was easy to neglect relationships in med school, but as time went on, I got better at calling, e-mailing, and spending time with loved ones when I had some time.”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2004

”My first year of [med] school was one of my biggest challenges. So many things were going wrong in my life, and at some points, I lost my interest in becoming a doctor. However, because of the great moral support I received from good friends, family, other students, and our counselors, I became stronger and more driven. I am glad they were there when I was most in need. I truly appreciate their support.”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2007

“I think it is normal to feel uncertain sometimes. When I did, I mentioned it to my significant other and he would help to remind me why I am here.”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2008

License

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Well-being Handbook by Erin Malone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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