Maintaining your mental health in medical school 

Studying hard, passing entrance exams, interviewing for medical schools, finally getting accepted, and starting a new program is certainly stressful – and it’s only the beginning of a medical student’s journey to becoming a licensed physician.

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Medical school is also no walk in the park. For medical students to succeed, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears goes into the learning process. Many sleepless nights accompany Step and Shelf exams, and hundreds of hours logged in clinicals during internships is also no small feat.

This being said, around the world there are hundreds of dedicated students who do become licensed physicians every year. The pressure of studying and passing exams can greatly impact students’ mental health. Doing it all is definitely possible, as long as you take care of yourself too. Cultivating good habits and creating a sustainable study schedule will go a long way in helping to minimize burnout and maximize success.

Organize your time

Everyone uses different techniques in order to organize their time. Whether you keep track of assignments and what you need to study in a planner or on your phone, make sure you use a system that you feel comfortable with. The less work you need to do here, the better.

Check out various free study schedules online for exam prep inspiration, especially if you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed! Make sure to take short breaks while you’re studying, a la the Pomodoro Technique, but always get back on track. Developing and sticking to a routine will also help you to stay focused when you need to be.

Organize your space

Before you start studying, and every once in a while during the semester, take time to clean up your workspace. The less clutter you have to deal with, the more focused you’ll be able to be and the less time you’ll spend moving papers or textbooks around and the more time you can spend being productive.

If you’re studying at home, separate your “study space” from your “living space” to create a mental divide – when you’re in your study space, you’ll be focused and ready to accomplish the tasks ahead of you; when you’re in your living space, you’ll be able to be more relaxed and can let go of some of the stress that comes with studying.

Organize your resources

Your schedule is organized, your desk is clean… now what? Part of managing your stress also includes choosing study resources that comprehensively provide the information you need and that are conducive to sticking to your study schedule.

There are a multitude of study resources available for students, but an all-in-one study resource such as Lecturio is a great place to start. Having not only content for learning but also test-preparation material for studying will keep the stress down, as you have everything you need at your fingertips.

Take care of your physical health

Mental and physical health go hand in hand. Eating brain-healthy foods, such as avocados, berries, nuts, whole grains, and leafy greens, can contribute to your productivity and recall. Exercising regularly – whether that is taking your dog for a walk or going to the gym for a full-body workout – will help you stay awake and focused.

Get up and stretch during the day or use that time to move around so you’re not sitting down all the time. If you don’t have a standing desk, try stacking books up to create one – every little thing helps!

Take care of your mental health

Especially when you’re in dedicated study time, it’s important to give yourself time to break. Not only does doing so give your brain the time it needs to process and store the new information you’ve learned, but it also gives you a chance to de-stress and do something other than study.

If you study with an online learning platform, taking a break from screens and other technology is also recommended. Take some time to pick up a hobby or continue with one you’ve started, or try other activities such as meditation to care for your mental health. When you’re not taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of others.

Medical school is not designed to be easy – it’s stressful, frustrating, and challenging. However, if you take care of your mental health and stay on top of your studies, it is also incredibly rewarding in the long run.


Interesting related article: “During the pandemic, don’t forget about your mental health.”