It’s no news that scaling through medical school is challenging. Learning how to manage the stress that comes with it, is therefore a necessity.
Like I shared in an older post, a minimal level of stress, called EUSTRESS, is required for proper functioning in everyday life. When it becomes overwhelming however, it is known as DISTRESS which is counterproductive.
In this post, I have shared some tips that worked for me in managing stress as a medical student. I hope you find them helpful.
1. Start each day with a plan
As a medical student, I usually planned my day using both a to-do-list and a schedule.
A schedule is like a customized calendar that highlights specific activities for each day, especially those that demand a big chunk of your time (Eg Mondays for shopping, Tuesdays for taking out trash, Wednesdays for laundry, Thursdays for cooking, Fridays for blogging and so on)
A schedule helps you to manage your tasks, so that you can have sufficient time to get each one done, without neglecting others.
A to-do-list helps you to manage your time, so you get to maximize your day and account for every important activity.
A To-do-list on the other hand, is like a reminder, that lists out everything you want to get done before the day ends. It’s important that you do not overload your To-do-list. As a rule I don’t put more than 10 goals to accomplish on my To-do-list everyday.
Both are important to monitor your daily productivity, stay balanced and avoid crashing. To maximize them however, you need to apply the priority scale principle.
(PS: Check this blogpost for what a priority scale is and how to use it).
2. Practice healthy habits
It is true that you become whatever you’re becoming. Work at becoming a healthy doctor. Don’t just preach it, practice it!
You know the rules.
Sleep well. Eat healthy. Exercise. Avoid alcohol. Drink enough water. Shun illicit drugs. Don’t indulge in unsafe sex.
They are quite simple really. But you’d be surprised at how many medical students break most or all of them.
The work is demanding enough, so you can’t afford to break down, not if you can help it.
Learn to take care of your body, so that your body can take care of you.
One simple advice, have your breakfast everyday!!! It’s a great way to avoid energy drain especially during ward rounds.
3. Make time for me-time
And if possible, have a “No-Studying Policy” for at least one day in a week. Sundays are perfect! Just take time off to take care of you.
You might like to stay indoors and get refreshed. For instance, I found out that taking a couple of hours at the beginning of the month to have a retreat was spiritually uplifting.
Or maybe you prefer the company of friends, think indoor games, movie nights, beach outings or even a boat cruise!
And if you’re several miles away from home (like I was), hanging out with your homeys on phone or skype, will go a long way to relieve any tension you might have accumulated over some days. Having your support network (friends and family) around and allowing them to pamper you for a while, when you’re having a bad day is always a blessing.
4. Attitude is everything
In this path you have chosen, there will be some tough times but you must learn to hang in there.
Learn the 3As of keeping a great attitude: Accept. Adjust. Adapt.
Accept the things you can’t change, adjust the way you respond to challenges and adapt by doing the best you can.
Your motivation is your responsibility. Find out what works for you and use it to your advantage.
As a medical student, I started a blog, practiced meditation and yoga, subscribed to podcasts/blogs, improved on my culinary skills, and read a lot of novels and other non-medical books. There’s an endless list of what you can do too.
5. Take one day at a time.
I can’t over emphasize this part. It’s understandable to think about what’s next after medical school, licensing exams, areas of specialization, and what not. If taken to the extreme however, it does more harm than good. Whenever you find yourself getting overwhelmed, try to declutter your mind and focus on what is right ahead of you – the next class, the next test, the next semester or the next clinical rotation.
Thank you for reading,
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