Pacing Yourself During Med School

January 23, 2015

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Student on placement in the operating theatre Med school is not a race to the finish line. It takes four years of intense studying, classes, clinical rotations and research to get through the process. During medical school, you will also have to study for your licensing exam and apply for your residency.

When you consider all you have to do and accomplish, it can seem overwhelming. But many people have traveled the road before you and got through the process and so will you. The key is to pace yourself to prevent burnout and deal with stress. Below are some ideas to help you manage med school and stay the course.


Dealing with the Workload

The workload in medical school may seem daunting at times. But if you have a reasonable plan of attack, you can stay current and handle your studies while still maintaining your sanity. 

Organization is essential in med school. If you were not organized as an undergrad, you better find a way to get it together. Organizing your notes, class assignments, due dates and exam schedule is a must. Whether you use individual binders for each class, a paper planner or apps on your phone, find a system that works for you.      

One of the best things you can do is set a study schedule. Once you know what times your classes are, and factor in other must do’s, such as sleeping and eating, you can figure out how many hours you have a day to study. Try to make a schedule you can stick with. Keep in mind, if you plan on studying too many hours, you may burnout quickly. But if you plan too few hours, you many fall behind. Find a balance that works.

It is also helpful to plan ahead a bit. You are required to take the first part of the United States Medical Licensing Exam at the end of your second year of medical school. Allow a bit of time to prepare for the test a few months in advance.

Whatever you do, don’t fall behind. Stay up to date with your reading and lectures. That may mean devoting a little time on weekends to catch up. But it will be worth it to avoid stress around exam time.  

Fighting Fatigue

Med school may mean all night study sessions and clinical rotations, which require you to work varied shifts. It is no wonder, medical students often feel fatigued. Luckily, there are several things you can do throughout your four years of med school to fight fatigue including the following:

Schedule sleep time: You have classes scheduled and study time mapped out, sleep is also important. Don’t just grab a few hours of shuteye when you can. Plan ahead and carve out a solid block of time to rest.

Eat well and exercise: The basics are important to feeling energized. If you eat poorly, you will not feel your best. Skip fast food and opt for healthy foods, such as fresh veggies and lean protein. In addition, regular exercise can also give you an energy boost.

Take a nap: A nap can be just what you need to help you feel refreshed and more alert. If you can snooze for a few minutes, take advantage of it. But stick to about thirty minutes, or a nap may interfere with your sleep later on.   

Handling Stress

It may be inevitable that you will have to deal with some stress during medical school. Having a certain level of acceptance about your situation can help. Come to terms with the fact you will have a lot of work, feel overwhelmed and may be at the mercy of your resident during clinical rotations.

Acceptance does not mean allowing stress to build up and make you anxious or depressed. It is more about having the right frame of mind. You may not be in control of every situation in medical school. But you are always in control of how you react. Accepting that med school is a challenge, which you will get through, can help you keep perspective.

Venting to fellow students may also help reduce stress. Talking with other people who are going through the same thing can be therapeutic. But refrain from always complaining to anyone who will listen. Venting and being a constant downer are different.

Attitude Matters

Whether you are in medical school, residency or are an attending physician, things will sometimes not go your way. Learning how to deal with obstacles and see them as learning opportunities is useful in medical school and life. Remember you are still in the process of learning how to become a doctor and are not expected to be perfect. Wanting to do your best is great. But trying to be perfect may be setting yourself up for failure. If you don’t already have a sense of humor, now may be the time to develop one. Finding the humor in a situation may serve you well.

Finding Support

Developing a strong support system will help you get through difficult times in medical school. It may not come as a surprise that med school can become all encompassing. You may get so caught up in school work that you have limited time to talk with friends and family. It may be even harder if they all live far away.

But staying connected to people you care about can help you feel supported. Make an effort to talk to family and friends even when you are busy. In addition, lean on your classmates and gain support from each other.Watching the sunset at Gangilonga Rock  

Take a Break

All work and no play can make you crazy or at least pretty stressed out. Everyone needs time off away from work. If you waited until all your work was completed, you might never take a break. Remember, work will always be there.

Use your time off wisely. Enjoy holiday and summer breaks with friends and family. In addition, carve out a little time each weekend to do something you enjoy. Leave the books behind, forget about grades and relax.