Six exams in one week, all-nighters reading through Robbins Pathology and Netter Anatomy, community service commitments, research study deadlines, clinical patient experiences, oh and yes, in between all of that I have to catch up on something called sleep!
As future doctors of America, having a busy schedule is an understatement. We are expected to simultaneously be able to juggle our extracurricular responsibilities, maintain high academic standards, and be attentive to our personal lives. At times this would become overwhelming during my preclinical years of medical school.
My main goal from the day I embarked on my medical school journey and donned my white coat was to help people. However, it was easy to sometimes forget my real purpose behind wanting to become a physician when the countless hours of studying in the preclinical years is all I could think about. In my preclinical years, there were various times when studying would become stressful and staying motivated became difficult. Now looking back at those times, I can confidently say that the reason I was able to successfully finish my preclinical coursework was by following these 5 simple rules and incorporating them into my hectic life.
1. Keep your study space motivational
Wherever you study, make sure that it contains something that motivates you. It may be a motivational quote or a picture of yourself from your white coat ceremony. Personally, in my study space I keep a picture of my parents who are a major motivation for me to finish medical school.
2. Sustain your positive reinforcement
Make sure that every day you give yourself a bit of a positive “pep talk”, especially if it’s a stressful exam week. Whether that is just taking a moment to become aware of all that you’ve accomplished thus far or reassuring yourself that you are doing the best that you can at this moment. It is a humbling experience to be able to reflect and look back on how far you have come from finishing your K-12 education, undergraduate studies and now medical school.
3. Develop a Support system
When medical school seems overwhelming, it is imperative to have a support system around that you can lean on for advice, comfort, and some positive vibes. Whether that is your parents, siblings, extended family, or friends. Remember, that you likely have many people who are extremely proud of your achievements and will be there when you need a bit of support to get you through tough times.
4. Maintain physical activity
It’s not a new concept that physical activity even for just thirty minutes each day is an excellent idea. However, as a medical student this can be hard to fit into an already frenetic schedule so sometimes, you have to be creative. I like to do interval strength training in between memorizing the pharmaceutical drugs to treat peptic ulcers. Others may do a vinyasa “hot yoga” class or go running or walking. No matter what you decide to do for physical activity make sure it makes you energized and happy!
5. Reward yourself
This is by far, one of the most important of the five items I’ve mentioned. It’s sometimes easy to be very hard on yourself for not doing the best on an exam or patient clinical encounter. So, it’s always best to take some time to yourself to enjoy the simple things in life. Whether that means booking a relaxing trip during spring break or satisfying your sweet tooth with some frozen yogurt or savory foods. Whatever rewarding yourself means, make sure to make yourself feel special.
So the next time you find yourself in a situation when your weeks get extremely busy or it seems like there is no end in sight among countless exams, just take a moment to try any of these tips. Remember that you are not alone in feeling overwhelmed and overworked, but the good thing is the M.D. “promised land” is distinct, near, and totally attainable!
About Subha Hanif
Subha Hanif is a medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine (2018). She graduated from the Honors College at Oakland University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology.
Subha has a strong commitment to health education and service to those who have immigrated to the United States. Her leadership roles include founder and coordinator of the Women’s Health Awareness Workshops for Bangladeshi Americans and team lead/liaison to MSU medical school for the Women’s Health Workshops for Michigan Syrian refugees. Subha is a 2016 recipient of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Mentoring Fellowship and is currently completing her fellowship at the University of Michigan Health System. She hopes to use her community education and public health interest as a physician to make critical health care policy decisions for the state and U.S. federal government in the future.