Stress is ever present in our busy, frantic lives. Premed students juggle heavy course loads, extracurricular activities, and clinical experiences–sometimes with a job or two thrown in. Medical students are under a considerable amount of stress, having to master a large volume of material and learn clinical skills in four years. And that’s only the beginning: internship and residency training are stressful, as is being an attending physician or running a practice. We’re all under a considerable amount of stress. Figuring how to control stress—and to decompress—is an important skill for premeds and med students to learn as it’ll make your professional and personal life both more enjoyable and manageable.
The Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital offers tools on managing stress, many of which premeds and med students might find useful. Some medical schools are even incorporating stress relief classes into their curricula or as an add-on optional feature for students. Michigan State University used therapy dogs during exam week to help med students de-stress. Professors at Georgetown presented information on using mind-body skills to reduce med students’ stress. At Virginia Commonwealth University, med students got involved in a specific project to help relieve their stress. And at GW Medical School, students engage in a range of activities to help them minimize stress. At Wake Forest students learn meditation techniques to manage and ease their stress.
Learning to manage stress—as a premed student—will help you enjoy your courses and more easily balance competing responsibilities. Set good habits now that will go with you through medical school and your professional life. Refer to the tips from the Benson-Henry Institute for excellent suggestions. Remember that it’s important to weave breaks into your study routine—decompress from studying by spending time with friends and family, exercising regularly, and maintaining your hobbies, which will enrich your life and give it balance.
Finally, Dr. Leana Wen, a former attending physician at George Washington University Hospital and now the health commissioner of Baltimore, has some outstanding tips for controlling stress in medical school in this podcast.
–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting