A healthy lifestyle (or lack thereof) in medical school!

Ahhhh…. medicine. A magical place that turns 24 hours into 1-3 hours of usable time. Studying is the name of the game, but sadly I’ve seen too many neglect their mental/physical health. So here’s some tips for those coming in, or those having some troubles adjusting to this hectic life.

1. Work out and/or diet

I don’t necessarily mean hit the gym, but do an activity that will work out your body. Swimming, jogging, even putting a load of books into your backpack and doing some squats, anything to keep your body moving for awhile. However, there are some times where even cutting out 45 minutes of your day seems like an impossible task. This is where your diet comes into play. A good diet is the foundation of any health program. Many people, with diet alone, can live healthy lives. With the pressure of time, you can succumb to the temptation of high octane crap, such as hot pockets, microwave burritos, or instant ramen. You must fight this at all costs. Take some time during the weekend, make a large meal and divide it up for the week. Find someone in the area who makes meals to go. If your school has a meal system, work with it. If you want to give up working out all together, that’s fine, but don’t neglect your diet.

2. Take a load off

So, you’ve been studying for 12 days straight and you managed to pass your first anatomy exam, congratulations! Now what? Study some more? Sleep? Eat a shoe? Well, stress is a horrible thing, and wrecks havoc with your body. Take some time and decompress, watch a movie, go shop, bake some cookies, call your parents. Always (try) to maintain an equilibrium in your life. Reward yourself for your hard work.

Now, lets say the second exam rolls around and you didn’t do so hot. Time to study twice as hard and neglect yourself? No! Never let you mental health keep deteriorating. It’s just as important as physical health. Take some time to de-stress. Look back at your study habits or methods and what needs to improve. For some, this failure can hit hard. Depression is a common sight in such a high stress environment. If you need to, talk to your institutions department about getting a hold of a counselor/psychologist/psychiatrist. Take care of your self. There’s no point trudging on while loathing every second of it.

3. Sleep

Sadly, this is one of the things that is sometimes sacrificed and it’s unavoidable. At a bare minimum, get 4-5 hours of sleep and try avoid all-nighters. Low sleeping time is the surest way to kill your thinking and memorization capacity towards the end of the semester, when you need it most. Use weekends to sleep a bit longer to help keep your sleep debt relatively low. If you do start dipping below four hours of sleep, take a nap during the day.

4. Caffeine

Yes, coffee, energy drinks, pills… It’s a drug and must be treated as such. There is no use of having caffeine if your body builds a high tolerance to it and experiences withdrawals. Use it to your advantage, before tests or a particularly intense study day. Harness the benefits instead of enslaving yourself to the risks. (I still enjoy my morning coffee as I am not a morning person, but everything with moderation.)

You came to medical school to (hopefully) help people improve their lives through medicine. We must practice what we preach or else we set the example to our patients that our minds and bodies can take a back seat. Don’t let this be acceptable.

Until the next sleepless night!

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