It’s no secret that being in professional school stresses you out. Even just the process to get there could drive you up a wall. We also know that long-term stress does terrible things to your body through chronically high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). It’s important that you find ways to combat this. You can do things that either decrease your body’s production of cortisol, or increase the production of other hormones that combat its effects.
Speaking for myself, I prevent a lot of the stress that could come my way by having good time management skills, being organized, and planning ahead. However in this field, no matter how much you try and prevent the stress, it’s still going to come, and that’s where these top 5 things come in handy to keep me sane (in no particular order)
I love going to the gym because when I’m there I’m not thinking about anything else. For me it’s like a cheesy metaphor: When I’m pushing my body to get stronger and do more, it translates to my mental game. My mind gets stronger, more capable–at least that’s what I tell myself. I also think the endorphins keep my attitude positive. I actually notice myself getting more stressed and irritated when I haven’t worked out in a few days. It’s like a fix that I need to stay in my right mind.
I got into running the summer before I started medical school. I wanted to build a healthy habit and I felt like I was one with nature after a garden-focused study abroad trip. I separated this from the gym because it does something totally different for me. This is the only activity on this list that allows me to think and reflect and be raw with myself. I don’t use headphones–it’s just me and the wind and the birds. It’s an escape from school work but not from the world. The best parts (debatable) are when I get tired and start to push myself further. “Ije you can’t stop now just make it a little further, then a little further.” “Keep pushing, think of how you’ll feel when it’s over.” And when I finish, I’m hype! It’s all endurance. Which is what this med school journey is all about.
When I’m stressed to the point actual discouragement, I go to the Bible to excite my spirits. Romans Chapter 8 is my go-to if I don’t know where to start. I also remind myself of the promises that God has laid out for me. I renew my strength–both spiritual and mental. It’s one of the many ways to exercise my faith, and I finish feeling like I’m capable of doing whatever I put my mind to, because I know that I have the promise of the Most High. Who am I to be defeated by stress when I’ve been graciously granted everything I need to be successful?
I just got back in to reading during my second semester of first year. Honestly it’s like an excuse for me to not think about all the work I have to do, but not feel bad because it’s still mentally stimulating. I usually read during breaks or before I even start studying. It cools off my brain without me having to go anywhere and it keeps me from falling asleep (sometimes). I’ve read some pretty awesome books though, check out my Reading List!
I use YouTube videos to make me laugh when I’m in the process of drowning in work. Laughter is really the best medicine! My go-to’s are Spongebob, The Big Band Theory, and Shaqtin’ a Fool clips. It just gives my mind a break for a minute and momentarily I forget about the mountain in front of me that needs to be moved. Afterwards, I can say OK, let’s get back to work. And I’m actually more productive.
People joke with me and say “you make med school look easy.” Trust me, IT’S NOT EASY. But these are some of the things that make me happy and keep me motivated when I have a lot going on with school and life in general. Also it’s important to note that these are things that I do on my own and don’t rely on other people. Not everyone can best handle their stress on their own, and that’s fine. Your stress outlet might be your best friend on speed dial, the Chik-fil-A down the street, or a counselor from your school. Whatever it is, just make sure you have at least one, and use them!