Finish line in sight

Another uni break means another opportunity to collect my thoughts, review progress and think about the future. The first year and a half of Masters has been a bit of a blur, but incredibly fun and challenging. There’s still so much to do, so I’m finding it hard to believe that this amazing journey will be over in 5 months.

An interesting aspect of studying a Masters in Psychology, is the sheer number of self-assessments you end up doing and how much you learn about yourself as a result. Along with logbooks and intense self-reflection, it means that I feel like I’ve grown and developed so much over the past year and a half. The main thing I’ve learnt about myself throughout the course is my immense love of learning. It seems obvious now in hindsight, after all, this quality is probably what’s contributed to me being where I am now. But combined with grit (yes, I’ve just started reading Grit by Angela Duckworth), I think these two qualities have enabled me to get where I am today and to also thrive in the coursework and placement.

If you’re interested in identifying some of your strengths, you can try the VIA Strengths Survey for free. It’s well validated and researched, and the theory behind it is that when we’re using these strengths in our lives, ideally in our jobs, we’re more likely to be intrinsically motivated. This was definitely the case for me on placement, I’ve experienced greater job satisfaction when I’m doing work in line with my strengths, and when I haven’t been using them enough, job satisfaction has decreased. Alongside this knowledge, one of the main things I’ve been trying to develop is authenticity. So when I’ve had lower job satisfaction, found I haven’t really been using my strengths at work, I’ve been having open and honest conversations with supervisors to find a way to rectify this.

With so many opportunities to learn about myself and develop, I’ve started to think about what I’m going to do next. What sort of work is going to truly satisfy me? I don’t know the answer to that yet, but to challenge myself and take a (small) risk in the short-term, I’ll be starting a psychology based blog with a friend and peer from the course. This friend is like a mirror image of me, and brings out the best in me, so I’m looking forward to seeing where that goes.

In the meantime, I still have 5 more months of hard work to go and I’m going to do my best to enjoy every single moment.

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Journalling

It’s the new year, and I’m hearing familiar advice being offered. Exercise, eat healthy, write down goals, and meditate. Another, albeit less familiar tip, is related to journalling. I have definitely heard something about the benefits of journalling before, but haven’t ever really paid much attention because it sounds ambiguous and like too much effort.

But the other day, it was mentioned on a podcast I was listening to and the presenter mentioned it could be done electronically, and not necessarily with pen and paper. And I had the delayed realisation that that’s what I’ve been doing on here over the years. Not only that, but now that I’m a provisional psychologist, I’ve also technically been journalling every day while completing my uni placements, although that’s called a ‘logbook’ and requires critical reflection as well as receiving feedback from supervisors.

So that inspired me to put pen to paper, or fingers to mechanical keyboard, once again.

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed putting my thoughts down in writing  just to capture my thoughts and to try to gain clarity. The whole logbooking process during Masters is also incredibly beneficial. Some students hate doing it and put it off, but I absolutely love it. I realise now that it’s probably because I’ve always enjoyed writing my thoughts on here. It’s such a pleasure to write down my immediate thoughts and feelings and then to return to them later to find connections and deeper meaning with other things going on in life.

After a quick review of some studies on journalling, it also seems that journalling about thoughts and feelings after stressful events have been found to be more beneficial than writing just about feelings i.e. it led to greater awareness of the benefits of the stressful situation. And also, journalling is associated with increased self-efficacy (which is a good predictor of task completion, performance, and self-esteem).

So, overall, lots of benefits! As usual, I probably won’t write on here as much as I’d like to but I’ll definitely try to make an effort to check in.

If you’re reading this blog, Happy New Year and happy journalling! 🙂

End of semester check-in

I feel exhausted but productive. A little overwhelmed, but optimistic. I can do this, right?

  • Lit review for thesis – 70% done (first draft due in a few days, quietly panicking)
  • Exam prep – just started (exams in 2 weeks, arg so much to learn so little time)
  • Uni placements – discussions in progress

My birthday came and went, still haven’t managed to catch up with friends.

Exercise has fallen by the wayside, but my elbow is on the mend.

Work has been awesome, I’ve been so productive, but I’m about to go on exam leave.  Worried I won’t do an adequate handover.

These are the thoughts keeping me up at night.

Image result for overwhelmed gif

The Best Laid Plans…

What a week it’s been! I started it full of confidence and optimism, ready to smash out another 6 workouts. But of course, plans don’t always work out.  A comment on my last post by Matters of Living should have prepared me for this, they were pondering how much can you actually plan and how much will you be able to follow through on.  A week later, I think the best thing to do is to incorporate flexibility into your plans to expect the unexpected. Because on Monday, I injured my elbow.

Dr Google thinks it might be elbow bursitis but I need to see a physio (I think this is a result of compensating for another injury in my shoulder). It happened just as I started my planned workout; first, my elbow was aching so I stretched it, then I heard a very unpleasant noise (grind/squelch), followed by pain.

I probably should be resting completely now, but I’ve managed to find a way to persevere.  Arm strapped up in a sling, doing one-armed HIIT workouts. I look ridiculous. But I’m hoping the physio gives me the go ahead to keep doing it this way because with uni stress piling up this is definitely not the time to stop exercising.  In the meantime, no more weights/pump classes for me.

 

Date Planned Exercise Actual Exercise
Wed 17/05/2017 Fire 45 EZ Fire 45 EZ
Thu 18/05/2017 HIIT 15 HIIT 15
Fri 19/05/2017 REST REST
Sat 20/05/2017 Pump Pump
Sun 21/05/2017 Fire 45 EZ Fire 45 EZ
Mon 22/05/2017 Fire 55 😦
Tue 23/05/2017 Pump Fire 30

Exercise and Theory of Planned Behaviour

Approximately 2-3 weeks ago, I made a decision to try and increase the amount of exercise I was doing and to keep track of it.  This isn’t new for me, I’ve done it before (and in fact, I’ve even blogged about it on here), and I’ll probably do it again.  But this time round, I decided to do it because I was heading into the busiest time of the semester. I know from personal history that when the assignments, group presentations, and thesis components all start to pile up health and fitness takes a back seat.

The good thing about studying psychology though is that I know about the theory of planned behaviour (TPB).  TPB is all about increasing the likelihood of you achieving a goal if you take control of your decisions, plan your actions, identify risks/excuses, get support from others/tell other people about what you’re doing.  I’m also fully aware of the psychological benefits of exercise – improved memory and cognitive functioning.  Two things I REALLY need to get through masters!

So I’ll try to check in weekly (most likely on Wednesdays) with a brief update of how the week has gone. At the moment, I’m doing a combo of Beachbody’s Turbo Fire at home, with the occasional weights session (Les Mills Body Pump) at the gym.

Turbo Fire sessions are either called Fire or HIIT.  Fire workouts tend to be longer, and have a few ‘fire drills’ i.e. 1 min bursts of high-intensity workouts included, whereas HIIT ones are shorter, and are literally high intensity the entire time.  Body Pump is a full body cardio/weights workout that goes for 1 hour.

So my first check in.  The previous week went exactly as planned.  I’m not entirely following the Turbo Fire schedule 100%, I’m rearranging the workouts to suit my weekly schedule, so this made it much more achievable.  So for example:

  • On Thursday and Fridays when I have to go to uni, I reduce the time required to workout.
  • On Mondays when I work, I also do a shorter workout.
  • Pump classes are on Tues, Sat or Sun so I just plan that around my other activities. I try to do 2 per week.
  • I leave the longest workouts for days when I’m at home e.g. Wed and Sat.

Even though I started increasing my exercise around mid-April, this was the first week I managed to do 6 days of exercise so I’m feeling very happy with myself.

Day/Date Planned Exercise Actual Exercise
Wed 10/05/2017 Fire 55 Fire 55
Thu 11/05/2017 HIIT 15 HIIT 15
Fri 12/05/2017 REST REST
Sat 13/05/2017 Fire 45 Fire 45
Sun 14/05/2017 Pump Pump
Mon 15/05/2017 HIIT 25 HIIT 25
Tue 16/05/2017 Pump Pump

 

Masters Update

I thought the first five years of studying psychology was great, I was so happy to learn the content and so excited at the possibility of being a psychologist. So it came as a shock in honours when in the first week, I felt inadequate, poorly prepared, and felt like my future was unattainable.

In the very first class, our tutor asked us what we wanted to do after honours.  I was up first and I said something like “I don’t know…keep studying I guess…” and he said, what would you study? and I said, “not sure, clinical masters I guess”.  Then the rest of the room got their turn, and it turned out almost everyone in the group of ~20 wanted to do clinical masters.  The tutor then told us (almost with glee) that Swinburne would only take about 15 students into clin masters and that most of us wouldn’t get in.  Apparently, to even have a shot at it, we had to have extensive clinical experience, outstanding references, high HD grades, AND ace the interview (if we were lucky to be offered one).

After that class I went straight to a computer lab and started to look up work experience opportunities for clinical roles, and I remember calling Pete in tears and telling him that I’d ruined my life, I had no chance to be a psychologist, I had to quit my job asap and do volunteer clin roles.  Somehow I persevered through the hardest year of studies I’d encountered, and along the way made a friend who was literally the only person who had ever spoken about organisational psychology. Lucky for her and lucky for the lightbulb moment where I realised I love my corporate job, and could actually apply for the org psych masters.

And what a difference one year makes.  I started the masters in org psych in early March, and so far it’s been the best experience of my life.  I’m in a much happier state than I was this time last year when completing honours.

 

First and foremost, the content is fantastic.  I’m still working two days a week, and I find that I can relate almost everything I’m learning back into the workplace.  Deakin and the Aus. Psych Association (APS) also offers additional opportunities to learn and gain experience, which is incredibly useful.  So far I’ve attended a public speaking workshop with the APS and an ASIST Suicide Prevention workshop.  I’m already getting a sense that when I finish this in 2 years time, I’ll have gained an immense amount of knowledge, skills, and experience. Because of this, it’s impossible to not be motivated by the coursework.

Secondly, the quality of our lecturers and guest speakers, and even the motivation of my peers have all been fantastic.  I’m learning a lot from the people around me, but the best thing about the social interaction is that I feel like we all have similar values and goals in life.  I have so much respect and admiration for the other students, regardless of age and backgrounds, they’re the most motivated and hardworking group of people I’ve ever met.  It’s such a joy to go to uni, not once have I wanted to skip class.

 

Managing stress with exercise

Week 6 of 12 – Halfway through the second semester of psych honours.

Since rejoining the gym, I feel like my stress levels have been pretty low/consistent this semester.  I’m still having moments where it feels like things are falling apart, but I haven’t been too unhappy.  This week in particular is tough, my mother’s in hospital, and although we aren’t very close it’s still quite upsetting.  I also have a big work event coming up, I’m facilitating a strategy day for 40 people, and as an introvert, I’m always a little anxious in the lead up to these things.  On top of that, I have precisely 4 weeks to finish the thesis. And… I really should be thinking about applying for Masters.

But it’s true what they say, endorphins are addictive, and as long as I get my daily dose, it feels like everything is manageable.

My mum is going to be okay.  A last minute trip to India led to her getting malaria, which didn’t get picked up for weeks, but she’s getting the right medication and care now and is going to be okay.

The strategy day will be fine.  I know these people, I know my stuff, it’ll be fine.

The thesis is on track.  Yes I’m struggling a bit with the data analysis, but my supervisor seems happy with my progress, so it’s all good.

Masters.  Hmm.  That’s definitely a source of stress.  So the way psychology works in Australia is that after 4 years, you have to do another two years in one of the following ways in order to be a registered psychologist:

  1. 2 years full-time Masters (with thesis)
    1. Extremely competitive entry
    2. Only a few streams are available in Vic: clinical, organisational, educational, forensic, that might be it?
  2. 1 year full-time Master of Professional Psychology (no thesis) plus 1 year of supervised work
  3. 2 years of supervised work
  4. PhD and/or Masters and PhD combined

I’ve definitely ruled out option 4 – yes I enjoy research, but no I don’t want to end up in research.  I like the practical, applied side of psychology.  The bit where I get to work directly with people and make an immediate difference to their lives.

Option 3 is also out of the question, as the registration requirements are so strict that it’s almost impossible to do this.  Anyway, I like learning too much, I don’t want to start working directly with people without more training.

Right now, I’m trying to decide between option 1 and 2.

Option 1

Pros: Great work experience in large organisations, may be able to pursue a career in org psych at my current workplace, long term prospects to work in defence (which has always been an interest of mine), this stream allows you to specialise i.e. get additional training and supervision in the stream you choose, so in my case that would be org psych

Cons: They only take 16 students per year in Victoria.  2 more years.  My god.  And another thesis. 😦

Option 2

Pros: Practical experience counselling people, this would mean I finally get to do some one on one work, only one more year of studying, no thesis!

Cons: At the end of this route, you can’t specialise in a specific psych stream.  If I ever want to specialise in my life, I would have to go and do a 2 year masters.

So…I have no idea what I’ll be doing next year.  Applications close in approx. 1 month, so in the meantime, I need to apply for Masters of Org Psych, and Masters of Professional Psych and see what happens.

Did I mention I hate uncertainty? I think that’s why I’m so grateful for the gym.  Even when work and uni are stressful and unpredictable, I can do my workouts like clockwork.  Same classes, same time each week, and I’m in control.

Life goes on

I have survived an entire semester of Psych Honours, woo! With (some) of my sanity intact.

Last semester was exhausting.  The workload was intense.  I missed most family events, skipped all work socialising, didn’t see my friends, cancelled the gym membership and basically lived the life of a hermit.  Fast forward to midyear, and I’m over it, I can’t live my life like that again.  Yes, grades were good, but I don’t think it’s worth my sanity.  So I’ve made the decision to not apply for masters next year, and it feels liberating.  Even this semester, I’m increasing my hours at work and have rejoined the gym, because all work and no play makes Jhil go cray cray.

The midyear break has been fantastic though, I’ve started to live my life again.  Highlights include:

Batman: The Killing Joke – took my husband to see this as an early anniversary surprise and we loved it.  Aside from the bizarre Batgirl plot (wtf?!), it was exactly what I hoped for – dark, complex, and a little bit ambiguous.

The Cure – this band got me through teenage angst, and I’d never seen them live, so this was a big deal.  The gig itself was incredible, ran for 3 hours and had about 5 encores.  Robert Smith still sounds amazing, and I was transported back to the 80s.

Lots of binge watching Netflix/TV

  • Stranger Things – LOVE! Can’t recommend enough.  80’s nostalgia ❤
  • Marcella – I love a messed up female protagonist who still manages to kick arse
  • Game of Thrones – FINALLY found the time to watch it, had read the books previously though

However, all good things must come to an end, and classes resume today.  Here’s hoping I can balance my life a little better this semester.

3 months can make a difference

The last 3 months have been emotionally taxing.

I finished my final exams and felt some sadness at having to leave this university.  Unfortunately, they only offer psychology honours 2.5 hours away from where I live, so studying there wasn’t viable.  But that said, I wasn’t guaranteed to be offered honours anywhere else, so I was quietly worried that I’d have to accept an offer from RMIT and either commute massively each day or move houses.

On top of this, I was burnt out from studying all year without a break (studied overseas midyear).  I managed to have 2 full days off work where I lounged around and played Fallout 4 to my hearts content.  This brief bout of lazy happiness ended, and I increased my work hours to full-time.

 

Soon after,  I was offered a secondment in what seemed like a normal role, but I eventually realised it was much more difficult than I expected.  I was leading a team who appeared to be fully functioning and well skilled, however it turned out that they had just passed through the forming-storming phases, and were yet to norm.  These meant many issues, technical errors, and arguments about the best way to do thing.  3 months later, this role has come to an end, and I’m hopeful that I’ve helped them transition and left them in a stronger position then when I began.

During this time, I also graduated.  I can’t describe the joy I felt from receiving the certificate and celebrating with loved ones.  After going through high school imagining I was dumb, hearing similar comments from my mother, it was a huge relief to have that piece of paper that proves otherwise.  I received my final results soon after, and although they weren’t as great as I would have liked, they weren’t bad at all.

Then the worrying began.  Were my results good enough to get into honours? Each university only takes in approx 20-60 honours students, so it’s incredibly competitive.  I began to doubt my own abilities, and when I received the offer from RMIT I immediately accepted.  Then the other offers started to come in, and instead of it being a relief, it actually became a lot harder to decide what to do.  The first offer that came through was from a lesser institution, so I declined.  The third offer was also a less credible institution, however I accepted, to ensure I wouldn’t commute 2.5 hrs each way each day.  More offers, more changes.  It was exhausting.  It was only in the last fortnight that I finally received an offer that ticked all the boxes – credible institute and decent location (45 min travel time) but I was still hesitant to cancel all other offers because the next hurdle had to be surmounted.

Getting the right supervisor is tough at the best of times, and it requires students to really put themselves out there.  You have to somehow figure out what you’re interested in (hard when undergrad only gives a shallow understanding of many topics, with no opportunity to get in-depth with anything), find supervisors at the uni you’ve been accepted into who not only match your interests but are also experienced, well qualified, and can give you the support you need, and then convince them that they should supervise you for the next 12 months.  It was even harder for me, because by accepting this offer late in the process, I had very limited options of available supervisors.

Somehow it all worked out in the end.  Earlier this week I met with 2 supervisors who sounded great, and in person, one clearly stood out as having a similar work ethic as myself.  The relief I felt when she confirmed that she would be happy to supervise me was MASSIVE.

 

Now the next part of this journey begins.  I’ve heard that honours year in psych is quite literally the worst year of most people’s lives.  Worse than undergrad, masters, PhD.  Apparently I should expect ~3 hours sleep at night and zero social life.

With it starting in less than 2 weeks, I’m now hoping to manage people’s expectations.  I’ve reduced my work hours even more, warned family I might not see them weekly anymore, and now I need to break the news to my friends that I’m probably not going to be around this year.  Other than that, I’m trying to do all of my favourite things.  Socialising, cooking, video games, vegging on the couch, gym.

I imagine this will be a year for a lot of sacrifice.  Hopefully I survive with my sanity intact.

 

My uni experience – the people I couldn’t do without

I’m almost at the end of my undergrad degree – all coursework and exams are finished, now it’s just a matter of time until results are released and I get to graduate.  When I decided to do this as a mature age student, 4 years ago, I had no idea what I was in for.

I look back on how I thought and felt over the years, particularly the earlier years, and in hindsight, I can see that I was arrogant.  Yes, I expected to learn new concepts, but I didn’t expect to change as a person.  I thought at the age of 27 I was a very well developed person.  I had a career, a house, and a husband.  But I didn’t have confidence in myself, and I didn’t have direction.

Since studying, I have so much conviction in what I think and do, and a clear purpose in life.  Not just when it comes to psychology, but even things like health and fitness, and continuing to try new things and grow.  I’ve come to accept that I experience a certain level of fear and uncertainty, but that when I push through, I can do incredible things.  Like public speaking, train and develop large rooms of semi-strangers, and go out of my comfort zone to do new activities like boxing and capoeira.

I still have moments of self-doubt, but the more examples I have of overcoming these, the easier it gets.  So as I’m approaching the end, I feel a sense of joy and excitement.  I’m happy in the knowledge that I made it.  I survived, and not only that, I exceeded all of my expectations.

To be honest, I never imagined I would have the opportunity to go to uni, let alone do so well. I’ve lived out of home since I was about 18-19 and learned the hard way that you can’t count on people to help you in life, not even family. It’s really up to you to succeed.  Despite this cynical mentality (and the barriers I’ve put up as a result), I’ve had support from multiple people and honestly couldn’t have achieved this without them.

First up, my best friend Ness, who somehow manages to know my most secret and strongest wishes, never once stopped asking me why I wouldn’t consider studying psychology. She had faith in me when I needed it most.

Secondly, and to my ongoing surprise, I’ve had a series of amazingly supportive managers. Because of them, I’ve not only managed to keep working productively, but I’ve grown, developed in the role and had some incredible opportunities over the years. And because of them, I am always truly happy to work there, even though it hasn’t always been related to my degree.

Along the way, I kept myself separate of the other uni students.  I just didn’t feel like I had much in common with them, being an adult and having all the responsibilities that come along with that.  But to my surprise, I found some genuinely lovely people who had the same drive to succeed as I do.  I also encountered some inspirational and motivating lecturers and tutors, who kept my interest alive.

And finally, I can’t put into words the amount of support I’ve received from my husband…but I’ll try. He has been there for me every single step of the way. Early mornings, late nights, deadlines, cancelling social events, cramming for exams, tears over grades, outrage over perceived unfairness, he’s been there for it all and hasn’t complained once. I went from providing a full time income to 40-60% of my salary, and he did not mind in the slightest. Partway through my 2nd year I floated the idea of applying for honours (so… not returning to full-time work anytime soon) and he’s backed me 100%. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I do know that that’s what love is – being completely and utterly invested in the success of another person.  Along with him, comes his family. More people to talk to and share this journey with.

So yeah, I used to think I had to do everything by myself but somehow, somewhere, I found some incredible people to help me.