Managing Stress in Medical School

Shanice is a first year medical student in California.  She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Biology and Society from Cornell University. She runs a blog called Purely Positivitea, where she writes about medical school, food, and life!

Stress is an inevitable part of medical school and learning how to manage it early on is probably the best thing you can do for yourself. When I started first year, I got a lot of advice from upperclassmen on how to manage stress in a healthy way and I would like to share the four strategies that I think are most important. I hope you find them helpful!

FullSizeRender (1) (1).jpg

1. Make Time For Yourself

In medical school, if you allow your workload and commitments to run your life, it will without hesitation. It’s pretty widely known that the volume of material you are responsible for in medical school is “like trying to drink from a fire hydrant,” and sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day! Alas, even Beyoncé has 24 hours, so the magic is all in how you manage your days. There will always be more work to do, but taking time for yourself is important for curbing stress and avoiding burnout.

I try to take at least one full day off from school per week. Sometimes I take a whole day off on the weekend and other times I take two half days if I want to spread it out more. During those times “off,” I do things I enjoy like catching up on TV shows, cooking recipes from Pinterest, blogging, and exploring the city with my friends. It wouldn’t be honest to say that a full day off is a realistic goal for every week because some weeks are more definitely more packed than others, but no matter how busy it gets, I always make sure that I set aside some time for self-care and fun! After even a quick break from the books, I always feel so refreshed, focused, and productive and I highly recommend that you do it regularly!

2. Stay Organized

Nothing is more stressful than not being able to find some notes you need or double booking some important meetings. I would say that finding a system of organization that works for you is an absolute MUST in medical school. If you’re able to stay on top of what’s due and foresee what’s coming up, it takes the uncertainty out of the equation that would otherwise lead to a lot of stress. I use Microsoft OneNote to organize all of my notes in one place, a calendar that syncs my school and personal events, and a planner that has a daily checklist to make sure I get through everything each day. Finding what works for you definitely takes some time, but don’t be afraid to try something new when you’re figuring it out!

3. Don’t Overcommit

There are a million and one things to get involved with in medical school. Especially since you’re surrounded by a group of achievers and many seem accustomed to being over involved, the pressure to join every of interest group at the fair and get involved in research ASAP can be high. I think it’s best to choose one or two things you are really passionate about and give them your all than to be pulled in a lot of different directions. You are better off enjoying what you do and leaving some white space in your calendar to make time for yourself!

4. Never Ever Hesitate to Ask for Help

Sometimes, things can get too overwhelming to handle on your own and that’s okay. When you start to feel like things are becoming difficult to handle, be sure to reach out to the counseling services and wellness programs offered by your school. Medical school is demanding and stressful, but you should always remember that your health and happiness are more important. 

A very special thank you to Shanice for taking the time to write this informative article on managing stress while in medical school. We wish you the best of luck in your journey to becoming a physician!