Getting over the “Ivory Tower”



I recently met with a student I’m tutoring who stated that when studying for the NCLEX (RN Boards), she felt like it was her “ivory tower”. It was as if the test was a building so grand and so high, she would never be able to climb or conquer it. I’ve heard some call this an “Ivory Tower Syndrome” and during my undergrad years and I believe I experienced it myself. I absolutely dreaded Math and Chemistry, mostly because I felt I knew how undereducated and unprepared I was for each class.  In my attempts to encourage my student, I was caught thinking about my own “ivory towers”. The NCLEX, for example, was hard, but honestly not as hard as getting through nursing school. I prayed every day that if I was on the right path, God would let me pass. I guess I was, because I did. Tackling my first RN job was a tower too.  Now, it’s Chemistry. Each chemistry class I have to take is one more step to the MCAT. Each step looks higher than the next.

Ivory Tower – “a place or situation remote from worldly or practical affairs”. This is the most commonly used description of the term I could find on my quick google search.

I think mostly, people use this in relation to speaking of others who are aloof or unaware of the unpleasantness around them. Those who are high and great and rich are so far “up in the clouds of happiness” that they could never fathom the miserable lives of those who gawk up at them. When we get discouraged, I think we easily put ourselves as the gawkers. For me, I’m always asking questions of why. Why can’t I do this? Why is this so difficult? How come they can but I cannot? I also blame others – Why do they have to make this so hard? I usually answer myself with replies like it’s because your dumb, or lazy, or inadequate, or overambitious. Some would call this self-fulfilling prophecy. These things make MY ivory tower taller, wider, and thicker every time I indulge in self-regret.

So, how do we get over this? How do we ascend the seemingly impossible?

I don’t think theres a quick or easy way. Even though I consider myself to be a young buck (I guess technically I should say doe), there are several things I’ve learned to do when facing something so daunting. They include:

1) Prayer. Lots of it. I pray about everything. I even pray about the things I don’t know I should be praying about. Even if you don’t believe in God, taking time out of your day to be quiet and mindful of your tasks ahead can really center you.

2) Reminders. I have scriptures posted at my desk, so that when I feel anxiety coming up I can read one of those and chillax. It brings me back to reasons I started my endeavor. I posted them right next to the periodic table of elements, a list of acids/bases/and polyatomic ions. You know, the important stuff.

3) Exercise. BIG stress buster! I hate getting to the gym, but once I do, I most always feel better even when just going through the motions.

4) Food. I’m a foodie-wanna-be. I watch too much Chopped and Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Although these shows are more of a detriment to me because they  make me want to eat bacon, I’m often inspired to cook something healthy and full of nutrients. Healthy food = better nutrients = energized body and mind = better grades. That’s what I tell myself anyway! I also live by smoothies. See my favorite Smoothie Recipe!

5) Sleep. Duh. 7-8 hours. No more, no less.

6) Baby Steps – *coughwhataboutbob* One thing at a time bro! You can’t defeat that obstacle if you don’t at least take a step toward it. You won’t take the MCAT if you don’t pass this chemistry class, if you don’t do these equilibrium problems, if you don’t stop watching the Mindy Project….ETCETERA. Just do one problem at a time. Every problem is one step closer.

7) Accountability – get someone you trust enough to pork chop you in the head if you aren’t being a good steward of your time that you’re putting into that tower. Ask someone to call you once a week, or once a day if need be! Just knowing that someone has your back should give you a little boost.

8) Calendar – it’s like a inanimate accountability. If you plan well, you’ll do well. Knowing what you need to do each day to get to your goal is very helpful. For me, I really like crossing things off lists (I guess it’s because I like immediate gratification). Crossing things off a calendar is just as great! [Insert nerd snort 🙂 ].

9) Conscious Stopping. Albeit, a weird term i’ve come up with – but useful. I try ( TRY) to stop myself from thinking negative things before they get too bad. It seems kind of silly, but for me it works!

Anyhoo – I just wanted to share these things in case anyone else is being faced with a tower of their own. I’m always looking for new ways to de-stress and jump hurdles. Got any suggestions? Comment below!!


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