Balancing Medical School Stress: Practical Tips for Aspiring Doctors


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A small group of four medical professionals sit around a boardroom table as they meet to discuss patient cases. They are each dressed professionally in scrubs and lab coats as they focus on working together.

As a medical student, you are expected to handle a huge amount of stress. You have to finish your classes and projects, study for exams and rotations, and also find time for personal health. 

It’s not easy! 

In this post, we’ll discuss some practical tips you can use to balance your workload and stay sane while studying medicine.

1. Find time for yourself

This may be easier said than done, but it is imperative that you have some “me time” in your schedule, or your stress will eat you alive.

Finding time for yourself may mean setting aside some of your responsibilities, such as volunteering at the hospital or taking care of patients during medical school rotations. 

Don’t feel guilty about doing this; remember that if you don’t take care of yourself first, there will be no one who can help others later!

2. Get enough sleep

As a medical student, you’re likely to be sleep-deprived. You might think that getting more sleep would be helpful, but research has shown that sleep quality matters more than how much time you spend in bed.

Sleep quality can be affected by many things, but your environment and habits are just two examples. If you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, try these tips:

  • Make your bedroom cool (65 degrees Fahrenheit) and quiet at night by removing any sources of light or noise from the room (including electronic devices).
  • Avoid caffeine after 2 p.m. each day; it takes up to 12 hours for half of caffeine consumed earlier in the day to leave your body! Caffeine may also affect your ability to fall asleep at night if taken too late in the day or evening.
  • Don’t drink alcohol before going to bed; although alcohol initially makes us feel drowsy when we first get into bed, this effect wears off quickly, so we end up waking up earlier than usual with no improvement in the quality of sleep. 
  • Avoid heavy meals within three hours before going to bed. Instead, eat light meals throughout the day so that they don’t interfere with nighttime digestion, which can cause pain while trying

3. Exercise

Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and improve your health, both of which are important for medical students. 

Exercise helps you sleep better at night, so you’re less tired during the day. It can also make you feel better about yourself, which will help with confidence when approaching difficult tasks or exams.

Exercise can also help reduce stress levels associated with school work by giving students an outlet for their frustrations that don’t involve spending hours studying or doing homework (which may actually lead to more stress). 

4. Take a break from social media

Social media has its benefits: it can be a great way to connect with friends and family who might live far away. But it can also cause stress if you’re not careful. 

The key is finding the right balance between connecting and disconnecting from social media so that it doesn’t become a source of anxiety for you.

It’s easy to say, “Just turn off your phone,”–but turning off your phone doesn’t necessarily help you feel better (and can sometimes make you feel worse). 

Instead of telling yourself, “I need more time away,” try focusing on specific ways in which disconnecting could improve your situation. 

For example, if certain apps or sites always irritate you when they appear in notifications or newsfeeds- delete them! 

Or set rules with yourself about how often you check emails during work hours so that you don’t get caught up checking your messages every hour. 

5. Connect with other students in your class

As a medical student, you will likely be spending at least four years of your life in the same class with other students. 

You may think that this is a long time to spend with people who you don’t know very well or don’t like. 

However, making friends with other students in your class can help reduce stress levels by allowing for an outlet for venting about the course material and providing support when needed.

If there are any common areas on campus where students tend to hang out (i.e., student lounges), try going there during breaks or after class. 

You could also look into joining clubs or organizations related to what interests you outside of medicine so that you meet others through these groups who might also be interested in getting involved with them!

Another great way to meet new people is through study groups. These provide an opportunity for collaboration among peers while helping everyone learn more effectively since each member contributes different strengths and weaknesses to group discussions.

If you are stressed about the future, you can consult professional advisors, like the team at Physicians Thrive, to ensure you are on the right path. 


Conclusion

As a medical student, the pressure to succeed is immense. You have to balance your studies with clinical rotations, volunteering, and research opportunities–not to mention maintaining a social life outside of school. 

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all these demands on your time. But if you can manage stress in healthy ways, it will help keep things in perspective and keep you from feeling overwhelmed by all the demands on your time.


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