Staying Healthy While Studying Medicine
Few fields of study are as rewarding as medicine, but few are also as demanding. Many medical students struggle to stay healthy despite the stress of classes, exams, family life, and the prospect of needing to pass the USMLE Step 1. Here are some tips and tricks you can use to preserve your physical, mental, and emotional well-being while studying.
Resist the temptation to subsist solely on fast food or microwaveable meals. Studies have shown that a diet heavy in overly processed foods is detrimental to your overall health. Learn to cook a few simple but nutritious meals, and make them in batches to freeze in individual portions.
If you really can’t make the time for cooking (like during exams), then avoid the drive-thru and instead buy fresh salads or sandwiches from your local deli. Apps like Pepperplate can help you plan out weekly meals and compile shopping lists, while Calorie Counter helps you make healthy food choices.
You can’t afford not to exercise. Working out can clear your mind, reduce stress, and contribute to better sleep. Even thirty minutes of light exercise three times a week will help keep you on an even keel.
Tip: you can multi-task by listening to recorded lectures while you work out. A Fitbit or other fitness tracker can be invaluable in helping you keep a good exercise schedule, while Darebee can teach you a variety of simple, effective workouts.
Countless studies have proven over and over again that we’re only at our best when we get good sleep. While pulling all-nighters may seem productive, in the long run going without sleep impacts alertness, cognition, and even the ability to learn effectively. For best results, go to bed at around the same time every night.
Having healthy relationships is one of the major keys to longevity, so don’t neglect your friends and family. Your fellow students can provide you with an invaluable support network, but make an effort to form and sustain friendships with people outside your school sphere.
You can also get an accountability buddy – someone who encourages you to form and keep healthy habits. And don’t neglect the value of pets or even plants.
Use good study tools
To truly excel in your studies, find and use the right study tools. Many online services, like Lecturio, are here to help you keep your grades up and prepare for the USMLE step 1.
When you develop good study habits and have the right tools, you’ll feel more confident in your knowledge and abilities and thus experience less stress. And ask your fellow students what works for them! Share your resources with each other – that also helps form social ties!
Keeping a clean living space is hygienic, of course, but there are other benefits to organizing your home. You’ll be able to find what you need faster, and will generally just feel more relaxed and calm when at home. Plus, housework burns calories, so you get a bonus workout!
The KonMari method is a popular system for organizing your home, especially if you are living in a small space like a dorm or shared apartment.
Keep up your mental health
With as much attention as you’re paying to physical health, don’t neglect your mental health, either. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or depressed, reach out to your school’s mental health services office. Alternatively, you can access therapy online, through services like TalkSpace.
Proper hydration is another keystone of good health. Get a Nalgene water bottle, fill it up in the morning, and make it your goal to have it empty by dinnertime each day. Drink sugary sodas only as a treat (and remember that many fruit juices have just as much sugar as sodas). If you find water too boring, add a few drops of calorie-free, vitamin-infused water enhancer.
Set realistic goals
Of course, there will be weeks when you don’t have time to cook or go out, and projects you’ll need to stay up late to finish. Remember that good health is a marathon not a sprint. If you don’t live up to your ideals one week, be forgiving of yourself and resolve to do better next week. Do what you’re capable of, and respect your personal limits.
In summation: eat right, stay hydrated, move around, and keep in contact with your loved ones to stay healthy while in medical school. It may seem like a lot, but remember that good health is just a series of small choices you make every day. So take it one day at a time, and you’ll find yourself acing your USMLE step 1 in no time!