Med School Survival Guide: 5 Tips to Help You Survive the Stress of Medical School

Medical school is a challenging educational pursuit that requires students to be resilient while flourishing in a stressful environment. This stress can be overwhelming if you don't have strategies in place to help you cope, so consider some of these stress-reducing tips to help you survive your medical training.

1. Set Reasonable Goals for Yourself

It is important to establish daily goals that are practical and achievable. Remember to pace yourself. You are in it for the long haul and need to focus on daily tasks and not worrying about having to master all of medicine.

2. Lock Down an Effective Study System ASAP

Medical school can make your brain feel like you are trying to stuff 40 pounds of flour in a 10-pound sack… so much information in a short period of time. This makes it critical to have an effective study system in place if you want to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the amount of material you have to cover.

  • Be sure to keep organized with an agenda that shows exactly what you are doing at each timepoint you establish.
  • Discover which techniques and structures work best for you, then make that your universal study system. Do you learn best with group study, mnemonics, memory palaces, chunking or visual learning? Based on what works for you, create a standardized system that can be applied consistently regardless of what you are studying. This can be especially useful when it comes time for clinical rotations where blocks of study material, specialty journal reviews, and board review questions will be continually visited.

3. Schedule Some Down Time

Every intense schedule needs some downtime, so it is important to establish timed breaks throughout the day. When you take these breaks try involving yourself in an unrelated activity to help you decompress.

  • Meditation and mindfulness can be practiced anywhere and can be especially beneficial to decompress during breaks. These techniques have many physical, cognitive and emotional benefits that can improve mood and decrease anxiety and fatigue. Begin by practicing a few minutes a day and gradually increase the duration of your practice with each passing week. You may also want to try guided meditation or mindfulness apps on your phone.
  • Listening to music or playing games on your phone can be a quick and easy way to disconnect and relax for a few minutes.

4. Be Sure to Exercise

Exercise has many physical and psychological benefits that can be especially important for stressed-out students trying to navigate medical school. To help decrease anxiety levels and let off some steam you should integrate a regular exercise schedule into your day. If getting to the gym is problematic, consider trying stair runs, wall sits, chair dips, burpees, mountain climbers or an at-home exercise App.

5. Reward Yourself

Surviving med school can be challenging and exact both a physical and mental toll. That's why it's important to reward yourself when you meet your goals. These rewards don't have to be elaborate or expensive, they should simply make you feel better and act as a special treat as you edge closer to your goals.