Medical school can slowly take over a student’s life. If you don’t believe it, just ask any student! The extreme amounts of information needing retained comes in waves of classes, studying session, and exams. This doesn’t leave much time for anything else.
Unfortunately, this single-minded life can have devastating effects. Suicide and depression are alarmingly high among medical school students. The key to avoid this in your own career path is to maintain a healthy balance between work, life, and school. While studying is, undoubtedly, important, it should not be the only thing in a person’s life.
Learn to Prioritize
Everything in life has a certain amount of priority but knowing how to properly prioritize life during medical school can be trying. Here’s a secret: your studies are NOT number one. Your very first priority should be to take care of yourself. Without a healthy physical body and emotionally state you won’t do well in your studies, anyways.
Studying should come second to personal health and well-being, and work (if necessary) should come after that. Students will be surprised to find out that putting themselves first will actually get more studying done – and that studying will be more efficient, too.
Creating a schedule that includes everything helps you ensure that there is always time for everything. That may sound a little silly, but people often don’t realize there is free time in their schedule until they see it on paper.
Get a daily planner and start by filling in those things you can’t move around. That includes classes, work shifts, and any appointments you might have. Then, fill in your study times. Instead of scheduling a big block of studying you should try to space it out throughout the week. Maybe you have half an hour in the morning and in the evening, five days a week. Leave room in the evenings for a leisurely shower and bedtime routine – about half an hour to an hour should do.
Finally, you can see where time is available to socialize. Maybe you have every Saturday afternoon free and can take an hour or two to have lunch with your siblings or parents. Maybe each Saturday morning is free, so you can stay up a little late on Friday to hang out with friends.
Know Your Limits
Knowing your limits (and when to just say “no”) are incredibly important for mental health. Before you enroll in full-time classes, consider if you know this to be within your realm of capabilities. Some may find it easier to take a class or two during the summer and (if offered) during winter break in return for a slightly lighter class load during the main school year. Others would much prefer to do it all at once and have extended break periods.
If you’re already operating at your max capacity, then don’t agree to take on that extra work shift. Or, don’t accept additional responsibilities in your extracurricular clubs. It’s very important to both know and accept your limits if you want to stay physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy.