Medicine is about serving others. It’s about developing a set of skills and knowledge and combining them with compassion to deliver treatments and care. The process of becoming a doctor doesn’t leave much time for ourselves. However, forgetting to care for ourselves limits how much energy we have to care for others.
To maintain happiness, stability, and resilience through these challenging years, I’ve carved out time in my schedule that is exclusively for me. It doesn’t happen at the same time every week because school can be unpredictable, but I make sure to get it in. But this “me time” is essential to ground myself in the midst of lectures, meetings, and exams. It’s a time where I can do something that makes me happy, take my mind off the work of today and tomorrow and be fully present. It may sound tough to find this space but with practice it’s as easy as riding a bike. For me, it’s literally riding a bike.
I crank up the music in my headphones and just ride. Sometimes, I ride slowly and my subtle sweat is quickly dried by the breeze. Other times, I push myself and my eyes sting as sweat beads down my forehead. Whether I’m observing the runners, dogs, and swimmers along Lake Michigan or staring blankly out of the window on an indoor stationary bike, this is time that my medical school mind can turn off. Biking has been my outlet when I need a second to breathe, reflect, decompress, and refresh.
Any activity you love can fill this space. Watching a favorite TV show, reading a book, taking a bubble bath, going for afternoon walk, lifting weights, people watching in a park, napping, or improvising yoga at home. Something that you can do in a moment you find yourself with just a few extra minutes. It doesn’t have to cost money and it doesn’t have to involve anyone else. Just something simple and convenient that you can get into the habit of doing.
Setting healthy habits now creates the foundation for our future practices. While my instinct is usually to say, “I’ll make time for it after medical school,” time is not going to come easier in residency and clinical practice. There’s no better time than now to get in the habit of taking care of ourselves. I was initially skeptical of giving extra time to biking but once I took the plunge, I realized that my academics didn’t suffer because of it. I am happy when I’m on my bike and I’m happier throughout the week after taking my personal time. It’s easy to get caught up and lost in the flurry of medical school, with endless amounts of knowledge to absorb and brilliant peers to keep up with. Having an outlet and something that is uniquely mine makes me feel content and grounded in a culture that always asks for more.
A career in medicine is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re thirsty during a marathon, you wouldn’t wait until the last few miles to drink water just because you think drinking might slow you down. Drinking water will make the run much easier and that hydration will help to complete the marathon. In the same way, indulging yourself in a few sips of “you time” will keep you going through the marathon of medical training, with the goal of not burning out along the way. Getting myself grounded has given me more energy to dedicate to my patients, friends, family, and to learning the practice of medicine.
About Arianna Yanes
Arianna Yanes is a second year medical student at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. While studying psychology as an undergrad at Northwestern, Arianna became fascinated with the complexities of human beings in the way they interact with each other and the world. She was drawn to medicine for similar complexities of the human body and experience that must be understood to treat each individual patient. During a medical journalism internship, Arianna became passionate about communicating medical news and making health information accessible and digestible. She hopes to incorporate writing and communications into her future career as a physician. She enjoys writing about the unique experience of studying medicine and the triumphs and challenges that come along with it.