Healthy living in medical school

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Medical school may set you up for a successful living in the future, but let’s be honest; it doesn’t set you up for healthy living in the “now”. For all you medical students out there, I know you know where I’m coming from. From class to class, hours upon hours of studying, quick and easy dinners, short workouts (if any), and sleepless nights cramming for that next test; medical school can prove to support a very unhealthy lifestyle.

Healthy living in medical school

So what can you do about it? A lot! But it takes a conscious decision to make time for YOU, on a regular basis. Sure, becoming a doctor involves a lot of studying and hard work, but being successful in medical school also requires a healthy student!

Step 1: Schedule YOU time. Daily. And don’t deviate! This means setting aside a specific amount of time to do whatever you please, no guilt, and no books (unless it’s for pleasure, of course)!

Step 2: Exercise. In any way, shape, or form. This could mean squats in the trauma bay between patients, taking the stairs to your clinical floor, walking to and from class, or a living room high intensity interval training workout (HIIT) in your apartment living room. When I was in medical school, I utilized the gym regularly for workout classes. If I was really feeling stressed about studying, especially during my boards exam preparation, I would listen to podcasts while on the treadmill. It may not be the most ideal situation, but you CAN make time for exercise, and it will in turn keep your metabolism high and provide energy to your body.

medicine is not healthcare

Step 3: Feed yourself! GOOD meals and snacks. Remember the college days of ramen noodles? No more, my friends. You are about to be a doctor! And those high sodium meals will not provide high energy for those long clinical shifts. Keep snacks everywhere; I mean everywhere- your car, workbag, gym bag, and white coat pockets. Eating small snacks regularly is better than going hours without eating. This can lead to poor energy, brain function, and even syncope (passing out). No one wants to be the medical student that passes out during rounds! Make time to cook dinner regularly. It won’t happen everyday, but meal prep as much as possible! I started to look at my home-cooked meals as a treat, something I would look forward to regularly. In addition, clinical rotations were even better when I knew I had delicious leftovers in my lunchtime future!

Step 4: Surround yourself with only those who bring you positivity and happiness. Whether this is your family, or friends, keep these people in your life regularly. It is so easy to go weeks or months without communication to family/friends who are not in medicine. Signing up for medical school may mean missing weddings, funerals, birthdays, etc. However, if you keep your supporters close and cut out ALL drama and negativity from your life, you will start to notice that you have MORE time for those that really matter. It is important to prioritize in medical school, since you can’t say, “yes”, to everything. Save your precious time for those that bring you only joy and that contagious positive vibe.

Step 5: Keep your mental health at the forefront of your priorities. Making a life out of studying can lead to serious depression and anxiety. Be aware that medical students and physicians, in particular, are at great risk for these conditions. Evaluate where your mind is, on a regular basis. Do not wait to get help, if you notice persistent feelings that are impeding your success and well being as a student. I highly recommend finding a counselor or therapist to talk with, regularly. Remember YOUR health is the most important. If you don’t care for yourself first, you can’t care for patients!

Now that you have a little insight into how I incorporated health and wellness into my medical school experience, hopefully you will reflect on and evaluate your own health and wellness! Remember your well-being IS a priority, and you should be taking daily steps to ensure you live healthy and happy!

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