5 Simple Tips to Cope with Stress in Med School
Long time, no see! I’m sorry I haven’t been really active on the blog lately, I have to say that Uni was quite busy! But today I’m back with a new article! As you probably may know, I have started my 3rd year of Medical School this year, and one month ago, I was telling you about my first impression on it (click here to read it!). Some time have passed since then and let met tell you something….The rhythm is INSANE!! Although all subjects are genuinely interesting, I have to admit that it requires to be very organized if you want to enjoy learning at a quiet path. Indeed, with 5 big subjects this semester, my planner has definitely become my best friend! Med School can sometimes be overwhelming if you are trying to keep on track with all the lectures, labs, and studying…It’s not always easy to come back home after an intense day of classes, and sit down at your desk or head to the library to read about today’s courses. On top of that, try to add workouts and a social life…Well, this is quite challenging! That’s why today I want to share with you my 5 tips on how to cope with stress in Med School! These are tips that I try to complete on a daily basis in order to maximize their benefits. In fact, these are tips that need to be adopted on the long-term and applied with consistency, without which, you might not notice any durable benefit. Alright, let’s get started!
1) Plan ahead, Worry less.
What do we even stress about? Well that’s a good question. I believe that stress, comes from the fear of the unknown, a fear of not doing as good as possible, a fear of failing. In fact, all of this is very subjective, and we should always remember that one of the biggest failure is to not take action. Indeed, stress is mostly a reflection of inertia, in which your mind is being victim of psychological constructions that prevent us from taking action. From the moment you start moving, a part of this fear of failing is already clearing up from your mind. Why? because action cures fear. And when it comes to med school, or any other studies, I have found very effective to set some concrete goals for my upcoming week. I’m sure you’ve already heard this a thousand times, but the truth is, that once you start writing down your plans, refining your goals, and start scheduling them, you are already taking action. Eventually, you’re working your way towards this '“unknown” that seemed so scary at first!
My advice would be that you get yourself a planner, either on your laptop, or a good old paper version works great (better) too. Set a time on the weekend, and start placing the most important tasks of the upcoming week. Once you have completed this, add up any non-school related tasks such as appointments, parties, workouts, hobbies… From there, you should already have an overview of which days are going to be the busiest, and which ones are going to be more relaxed. Start planning your biggest study sessions on the days where you have the least classes. For example, on Fridays, I only have a single lab in the morning, then I’m free for the rest of the day. I usually schedule most of my test preparations or any important courses on this day. The point is, that you don’t want to live from day to day with your schedule. Learn how to optimize your time by using it cleverly. On days where you are have classes very late, schedule a short workout. You will probably be too tired to come back home and sit down to study, so use this time to complete a task that is more relaxed and beneficial to you (I talk more about this later ). The key when you start planning is that, eventually, there is time for everything. Start doing it and you’ll see the results in no time!
2) Uplifting Thoughts only.
Once you will have completed task n°1, you will feel very proud to see that you are no longer a slave to time. This might be very empowering, but it goes without saying that dedicating yourself to this new lifestyle, is a long-term goal, and that’s why you only need the best assets by your side in order to complete it. By assets, I’m referring to the importance of being surrounded by people who acts towards the same goal as you. The mindset is key when it comes to achieving durable and successful goals. If you want to be positive, and productive, find people who only swear by this. Even if it’s for succinct events, go meet with people who share the same enthusiasm as yours. Don’t neglect the importance of uplifting thoughts, no matter where they come from. There is one quote that I truly live by since a few months, and that is the following : “ the mind is what the mind is fed.” (David. J. Schwartz - The Magic of Thinking Big.) Another important aspect that I would like to add it to beware of toxic, stressful, and negative media contents. Sure it’s important to be surrounded by people who make you want to be the best you can, but with the huge amount of time that we spend on social media nowadays, choose carefully what you want to see on your screen. Make sure that this content is suitable with your new stress-free routine.
3) Just Do It.
I’m gonna be honest, there are definitely days where I don’t feel like doing anything, and my motivation is playing hard to get… Well that happens. Sometimes you just don’t want to study, don’t want to push yourself, but that’s also because there’s a lot of negative thinking, and a strong affect hiding behind. Once you start being aware of such a behavior, your mind will win over this habit of constantly involving (too many) emotions into a given task. If you have to study for a test, and something is worrying you about it, just write it down. Take a sheet of paper and write down your thoughts and fear about this upcoming test. Once you’ve done it, write your plan of action. How are you going to study for this test? Which chapter are you going to read first? How long will you study for it? As mentioned previously, action cures fear, and focusing on the practical aspect of things will save you a ton of energy! So, don’t think too much, sit down and start applying that plan of action, and you’ll see that when you’ll be busy achieving this task, your mind won’t have time to stress!
4) Coach yourself.
I believe that from reading the first 3 tips listed in this article, you can tell that all of them require lots of rigor in order to be beneficial. That’s why in this 4th tip, I want to mention the importance of being your own coach and that you should perform gratefulness towards yourself, every single day. Indeed, It is not easy to be constantly following a busy schedule, trying to fit in many tasks to achieve certain goals, but I truly think that the only way to reach them, is by taking time to say “thank you” to yourself and appreciate all the efforts you’re putting in to succeed in whatever you have in mind. Since the beginning of the year, I took the habit of writing a few lines at night about 3 things I’m grateful for that day. it does not have to be long, it just have to summarize the essential of your day, and help you to focus on this little steps that help you to get closer to your goals. Humans, in general, have the very bad habit of getting their day caught up in small, insignificant things that have happened to them, whereas they could focus on 1 great thing that happened on that same day too. It could be catching up with an old friend on the street, reading some pages of a book that we enjoy a lot, or even the fact that we had time to prepare a good meal for dinner. My point is, don’t wait for the day to be exceptional, and to be filled with outstanding plans. You create your day, and you are the one in charge for coming up with these outstanding plans! And if one day, you didn’t have time to complete something, or to make your day as great as you wished, thank yourself for what you still did.
5) Accept that not everything can be done.
A lot of the stress and frustration can arise from wanting to achieve plenty of things in a single day. I can totally relate to that, and when it comes to studying, I always tend to plan too much. I tell myself that I can do 3 subjects and go to the gym, and work on the blog in a single day…and let’s be honest, that’s completely unrealistic. However, I know that this is my personality, and that I want to be active, and achieve things. That’s how I got rid of a huge part of this frustration (not all of it, not yet!) when I finally understood that NOT everything can be done. And it is not a FAILURE. In fact, I tend to think that If I plan more, I will always push myself to target at least half of the given tasks, which indeed, is already 50% of the job done. You got it? Don’t always see the glass as half-empty. When you think that you did not do enough, actually, you should give a look at what have already be done. It’s a tricky habit to start implementing in your routine, but shifting your mindset to a more positive one, also applies to practical things such as studying. Remember, small steps are better than none!