Stress is something we all deal with in our life. Especially if we’re under pressure to perform well or reach a certain goal, like passing all our exams in order to secure tuition or finalize our studies. Stress or any other emotional burden can lead to depression, so everyone should be aware of the dark side of stress. Medical students are high on the list of those who go through challenging times during their studies. That’s why learning how to cope or stress less is an essential survival skill. Here’s how a medical student or any other, can struggle less during their education.
Goals and objectives
The main reason students struggle during medical education is unclear goals and objectives. If your goal is to pass all the exams then that will be your main objective. Each exam requires you to set up a number of small goals like studying for two hours and revising an hour before bed. Write a list of academic goals important for the current academic year and you’ll increase the sense of control over your academic success.
Time management is something we learn how to do. Setting up priorities and sticking to a schedule is discipline. Discipline will get you through the toughest times even when you lack motivation. So, work on your time management skills. Limit distractions so you’ll be able to focus on studying. Include regular breaks in your schedule and also time off from work.
Strategy to anticipate peak stress times
You won’t feel stressed all the time if you set up your goals, learn how to manage your time, prioritise tasks that are in line with your goals and find time to rest. We feel stressed at certain times, which we can call peak stress times. A week before the exam might be a stressful period. So, anticipate that and start learning as early as possible. Learn your triggers, define your distractors and eliminate them. Lastly, know that each peak in stress will pass, you just need to go through it.
Support from your friends, colleagues and fellow students can help you overcome burdens and issues. When you know that you can discuss exam problems with someone who’s going through the same, you’ll be and feel seen. Not only that, but peer support can be crucial during times of low motivation. Your peers can motivate you to push through the hard moments either through just talking, relaxing together or holding you accountable.
When we struggle with something, like preparing for a GAMSAT exam, we may feel like the effort we put in isn’t enough. You might get discouraged or convince yourself that you’ll never pass this exam. This only leads to more stress and relying on your coping mechanism. The solution is to find expert support by signing up for GAMSAT preparation. Support systems are out there, all we need to do is find those that can help.
You need to carve out time for your needs, passions and activities that spike your dopamine levels. We’re talking about making me-time a non-negotiable part of your schedule. Whether it’s just 30 minutes during your peak study days, it will be worth it. We retain more when we take regular breaks from studying than when we cram the entire day and night because we fear we might fail otherwise.
No, you did not fail because your professor dislikes you. No, you won’t be able to prepare for an exam in a day. We can go on like this forever, but that is not the point. The point we want to make is that you need to take responsibility. If you failed an exam, be honest about why and take responsibility. When you take responsibility, you see a situation differently and learn what you need to do to change the outcome.
Joining a study group
Study groups offer support, motivate you to achieve your goals, they help you stay disciplined and accountable. There’s also a healthy competition going on which you can use as fuel to work hard. You’ll perfect your communication and social skills. You won’t feel isolated, because you’ll interact with people who share your goals and objectives. Someone in your study group might explain something to you s you finally understand the concept. Or, you might be the one explaining things to others. Either way, there’s a lot of camaraderie going on in a study group, so find one that suits you.
Calling your parents
When you feel low, stressed, and lack motivation, just call your parents. Call anyone whose voice will feel like a warm hug. If you don’t have a close relationship with your family, you can seek support from a professional. Psychotherapists are well aware of students’ struggles during their education. Don’t be afraid of going to a therapist when you need support and guidance.
Eat, diffuse stress, exercise, sleep and repeat
If you want to be at a capacity to study and get ready for your exams, you need to take care of yourself. You need to fuel your brain with all the goodies it needs. You need to eat well and regularly. Diffuse stress with activities that have a calming effect on you. Exercise at least three times a week to release these feel-good hormones. Sleep well, because sleep gives you energy and increases your retention rate. Lastly, repeat all of these things regularly.
Mental health support
Your mental health will take the biggest hit during your studies. Poor mental health is the common reason why many students never finalized their studies. It was even noted that 14% of students drop out because of their mental health. Seek mental health support, even if you just need someone to tell you it will all be okay.
We can all agree that the struggle is real. But, that doesn’t mean that we need to come to terms with this and accept that we need to suffer. The goal is to struggle less, so implement these tips into your daily routine and you’ll feel more confident in your abilities as a medical student.