Medical school can be overwhelming, but sometimes stress flares up in specific periods, such as when exams are approaching.
As most students report, one of the most stressful events in med school has to be USMLE step1 preparation. The tension in the air almost becomes tangible as everyone tries to do their best.
However, this usually leaves most students physically, emotionally, and mentally tired because self-care will likely take the back seat. While adequate preparation is essential since USMLE step 1 is a significant determinant of your residency application, it helps to give it a reasonable effort and know when to take a break. Here is how you can maintain sanity and still optimize your exam preparations.
Study with other med students
It is okay to study alone but break the monotony; you can create or join a study group. Being part of a study group will help you have a designated study time and avoid procrastination. Your group members can also be your accountability partners and vice versa. You learn faster than you would when doing it alone as you study with others.
It also allows you to observe other study methods that you may even like more than your original ones. You can also chit-chat with friends during breaks, an excellent way to relax your mind and refocus. The benefits of group study are numerous, so you should consider it as you prepare for your exams.
Create a schedule and stick to it
Usmle step 1 covers multiple topics meaning that you will have a lot of workloads. Therefore, it is easy to get caught in a web of confusion, miss out on an important topic, or even run out of time. For this reason, you should have specific study hours and breaks in between. Your study periods can be short or lengthy, depending on what works for you best.
For example, you can study for 30 minutes and take a 5 minutes break or an hour with a 15 minutes break. Remember to do something that resets your mind during that break. It could be walking around or stretching for a little bit.
Your score on Step 1 is essential, but that should not make you lose your sense of self. Try to understand that there is more to life than this exam and that it is not the end of the world. Determine how much you are willing to sacrifice to maximize your score. Try talking to other med students if you find it hard to maintain perspective.
Some who have had other experiences such as clinical training could take the exam in strides. Hearing the different perspectives of people may help you be realistic. You may probably learn that it is not worthwhile to give up sanity for a one-time test which is undoubtedly not a matter of life and death.
Adopt a set of minimums
These are boundaries you set to protect your physical, emotional and mental health. For example, ensure you sleep at least seven hours a night and allocate 30 minutes for exercise every day. Engage in an activity that makes you smile, which could be one of your hobbies. Your diet should also consist of healthy meals such as whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
Your minimums can also be basic things such as household duties and personal hygiene. You can customize your boundaries to meet your needs.
Take a break
Breaks are essential for your mind and body. Reading volumes of books every day and night without a break puts you at risk of burnout. Instead of studying through burnout, you can take an hour or a day off to relax and do something that makes you happy. You can do this weekly to avoid worsening fatigue.
You can use your day off to go swimming, watch a movie, or catch up with friends and family. Look at it as a time to recharge rather than a waste of time.
The ever-growing pressure during this time may push you to envy quitting. Remember your goals and motivation to pursue medicine whenever such thoughts cross your mind. Think about how your office may look in the future and how proud you will be of yourself after graduating from school.
Looking out for your well-being is essential during Step 1 preparations and every day. Put the above tips to practice and watch how everything else becomes seamless.