Hi, my name is Amanda Podgurski.
As this is my first blog, I would like to introduce myself a bit. I am a 4th year vet student (3rd year in the Graduate Entry Programme) from Pennsylvania. I lived in Pennsylvania most of my life, but I have also lived in Maryland, New Jersey, South Korea, Italy, and now Edinburgh. I graduated with a dual major Bachelor degree in English Literature and Business Administration from Immaculata University in 2008. Since then, I have worked as an accountant, English Language teacher, and worked my way up to Bookstore Store Manager. Once I had peaked in that career, I realized that managing a store was not my dream job. My friends and husband (boyfriend at the time) helped me look inside myself and decide what I wanted to do. I enrolled in a Vet Assistant Certification program, which included an externship. That externship led to a part time job working at a small vet clinic. After that, I decided to fully pursue the veterinary degree, so I worked at the bookstore, at the vet clinic, and took my prerequisites, eventually getting into the Dick Vet.
My husband and I picked up our lives in Pennsylvania and moved, with our 2 cats – Freya and Sheba – across the Atlantic to Edinburgh! I am now a huge advocate for the importance of understanding animal behavior in clinical practice.
How I’ve kept my spirits up during the pandemic
The pandemic has affected us all in so many ways. It has changed practically everything about the way we live our lives. The quarantines and lockdowns are meant to protect our physical health, but what about our mental health? The drastic changes to our school schedule and the loss of socialization have had negative effects on many of my classmates. I myself have felt the same on some days, but overall, I have been lucky and able to find ways to keep upbeat. I have found that I am in a better mood and am much happier now without all of the demands of the in-person schedule than I was in pre-pandemic vet school times. I want to spread some of my happiness around and offer some insights into how I’ve been surviving and cultivating that happiness during the pandemic.
1) Keeping to a routine
Having a routine helps me to make sure I’m keeping on top of everything – schoolwork, friends, exercise, and even personal hygiene. I know this is a tough one, trust me. And I definitely don’t succeed every day, which is OK. No one gets it right every time, we are only human you know. Celebrate the times when you keep at it and forgive yourself for the times you can’t.
2) Going outside every day.
Getting outside helps me to not feel trapped in my flat. It’s also a great way to get some exercise. I like to take walks with people – flatmates, friends, significant others. I also go out by myself with just some music or an audiobook or podcast to listen to. While I am walking, I feel connected to the city and that helps remind me that everyone is struggling right now and my situation isn’t really as bad as I think sometimes.
3) Exercising and meditating
For me, it’s been yoga. I take time every day to try to keep this in my routine. It helps me keep the routine itself up, but it also helps me to still feel grounded. I sometimes feel like a blob moving through space that doesn’t do much on the days when I don’t exercise. These are some of the harder days for me. If you don’t really enjoy exercise but want to try, I recommend taking it slowly at first and forgiving yourself if you don’t always meet your goals. If you only feel up to 10 minutes, that’s fine. At least you did something! Willpower is a muscle and needs exercise just like the rest of your body to strengthen. Just keep challenging yourself. When I’m finished exercising, I sit down for 5 or 10 minutes in a quiet space and reflect. I like to go through affirmations, sit quietly, make a to-do list for the day, just taking some time to give my mind a break. This helps me focus my day as well. Noticing the thoughts in your head and taking care to change those thoughts to positive ones can help shift your perspective and lighten your mood. Positivity has power – have you read The Secret (by Rhonda Byrne)?
4) Talking to people every day
I often feel isolated being here in Edinburgh without my friends and family. I need a supportive network by my side to help me get through vet school. So, I make it a point to talk to someone every day. A phone call, video chat, or even just a text is enough to start a conversation and remind myself that I’m not alone. When checking in, I like to take some time to vent my frustrations, but I also try to remember to listen to the struggles of my loved ones as well. We are all going through tough times and everyone is in this together.
5) Finding a socially distanced hobby
Try to find something fun that you can do online with other people. Having a hobby outwith the school helps me keep a work/life balance – a much-needed skill in the veterinary profession. Here’s my nerdiness showing through: I like to play World of Warcraft and Dungeons & Dragons! This keeps me in touch with my closest friends back home and gives me a sense of normality. The fantastical nature of the games also helps distract us from the realities of the pandemic – all while keeping us safe in our own flats/apartments/houses.
6) Cultivating a growth mindset
We are in unprecedented times right now – an absolutely difficult situation. Rather than getting frustrated about it, I try curiosity instead. Since the pandemic started, I have been reading, watching webinars, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, taking courses, and going to virtual conferences. All of this by myself and all for one purpose: growth. I have the time to work on me without worrying about anyone else, so I thought why not take this opportunity to develop and grow personally. I have been taking the time to reflect and dig deep into my own issues. I do some research and really work on bettering myself. No one else can do it for me and it gives me a sense of purpose. Like I said, willpower is a muscle and changing habits takes a lot of work. Reminding yourself every day of who you want to become and why is incredibly powerful.
7) Practicing gratitude
When I climb under the covers and into my nice warm bed every night, I take some time to think about all that I have been grateful for that day. Often, this includes people in my life (remember that support network?), my cats, things that went well, and even things that didn’t go well but can be lessons for the future. I have tried to overcome my fear of the pandemic by embracing it as an opportunity of growth. I am thankful for technology and how much I can still communicate with the outside world without being exposed to the virus. I am thankful for the weather as it brings a change to long, lonely days. I am thankful for the bonds holding us all together. Each night, I try to challenge myself to come up with at least 1 new thing to my gratitude list. It has grown long over the past months and has been a great way to help me fall asleep when my mind is particularly restless.
I hope that this list can help you find some hope and happiness in these trying times.