Acknowledge your anxiety, stress, sadness, or whatever else you may be feeling. The reality of this situation hits me in waves, and there are days when I’m really not feeling up to doing much at all. Learning to respect that feeling, and to be OK spending a couple of hours watching a feel-good TV show, reading a book, or listening to a podcast instead of being worried about my productivity levels has been amazing for my wellness.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elisabeth Fassas.
Elisabeth Fassas is a recent graduate of Johns Hopkins University (B.S. Molecular and Cellular Biology) and the London School of Economics (MSc. in International Health Policy) and a current medical student. She is also an SAT and MCAT tutor, an avid dancer, and she makes a mean Nutella cheesecake. Elisabeth initially intended to take a single gap year before medical school, applying at the end of her senior year, however, she requested a deferral of her admission for an extra year to work with McKinsey & Co. and began med school in the fall of 2019 at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Iam the author of the book Making Pre-Med Count: Everything I Wish I’d Known Before (Successfully) Applying to Medical School, and current medical student at the University of Maryland, School of Medicine. I was a pre-med undergraduate at Johns Hopkins University, and then spent two years studying and working in London. While I was abroad, I realized that I had spent so much energy throughout my college career worried about how little details about my life would potentially look to a medical school admissions committee. When I finally got my acceptances and could take a breath, I decided to get definitive answers to all the questions that I had spent so many years occupied with — and to make them available to all the pre-meds coming up behind me without the resources for personalized advising sessions.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
My favorite novel of all time is The Thread by Victoria Hislop. I’ve read it at least five times. It’s historical fiction and talks about how Salonica, the city in Greece that my family is from, changed from having an equal distribution of Christians, Jews and Muslims in 1912 to being majority Christian after World War II. I picked it up again recently amidst this stressful situation, and it has really been calming to be reminded that we will come out of this, just like generations before us came through similarly challenging situations.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
These are things that I try to remind myself of whenever the stress of the media gets overwhelming…
…that we are all in this together. Literally, almost every person on the planet right now is sheltering in place, trying to keep themselves, their children and their families healthy throughout this season.
…that individuals have risen to the challenge of helping their communities power through this. In the UK, over 750,000 people volunteered their time, resources and services to support the National Health Services — the government only requested about 1/3 of that number!
…that businesses have risen to the challenge of helping the most vulnerable in our communities. A $400-per-night LA hotel offered to help get the city’s homeless housed, and several more are following suit.
…that the internet has rallied for the workers on the front lines. There have been so many initiatives across the country to connect unused personal protective equipment (PPE) to hospitals and physicians that need it.
…that we all have gained a little more time to spend on the things and with the people that are most important to us.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Take a breath. Being stressed out won’t get you anywhere with this. The most brilliant minds on the planet are all working on this problem. Trust that they are doing their part just like you are doing yours by staying indoors.
- Cut yourself off from the news. Yes, it is important to be informed, but the constant barrage of news isn’t necessary. Try to set limits for news time (maybe 15 minutes a few times a day).
- Schedule a call with a friend. Pretty self-explanatory! Is there anything better than a long chat with your best friend?!
- Acknowledge your anxiety, stress, sadness, or whatever else you may be feeling. The reality of this situation hits me in waves, and there are days when I’m really not feeling up to doing much at all. Learning to respect that feeling, and to be OK spending a couple of hours watching a feel-good TV show, reading a book, or listening to a podcast instead of being worried about my productivity levels has been amazing for my wellness.
- Give yourself something fun to look forward to every day. My mom and I have been really into baking lately! We pick a recipe every day and make it together as our “fun thing” — I am going to be a pro at homemade donuts by the end of this!
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
Headspace is offering a two-week free trial, and I’ve been loving the barre workouts that my local studio livestreams! Also, as the weather gets nicer, a walk outside (with the appropriate precautions) can be a fantastic break.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
I know it’s a little (OK, a lot) cliché, but “everything happens for a reason.” When people ask me why I wrote Making Pre-Med Count, I always say it’s because being a pre-medical student made my undergraduate experience more stressful than I would have liked. Looking back on it now, with a little bit of distance, I realize that not only did I really have a spectacular four years, but also that the lessons that I took from all of those little stressful moments gave me an opportunity to help the community of students coming up behind me with those same questions and concerns.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I saw this amazing quote online a few weeks ago that said something like “climate change should hire COVID’s publicist” and I couldn’t agree more! If I could start a movement, it would definitely be something environmentally focused. Maybe an international “work from home month” to encourage people to minimize their footprint and be thoughtful about their travel. Clearly, it can be done 😉
What is the best way our readers can follow you online? @makingpremedcount on Instagram, @premedcount on Twitter, and at my personal email: [email protected]!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!