Janani Ahmed
Janani Ahmed
Medical Student, Western Michigan University School of Medicine

The “drinking from a firehose” analogy is often made to describe medical school. There have been more than a few times when I’ve felt that I’m not so much drinking from the firehose, but drowning in its unforgiving stream.


It is easy to get caught up in the stress of the everyday of medical school and lose sight of what we need to stay healthy and successful. As I’ve progressed through medical school, I’ve found a few things that keep me grounded and my head above water.


  1. book and coffee.jpgWork smart, not hard (well, actually, you need to work hard too)
    You won’t have time to outline every recommended textbook and meticulously memorize every detail. For many of us, the way we used to study simply doesn’t apply anymore, and this can be frustrating.

    Figuring out a way to move through material efficiently is key and it is important to identify what methods work best for you.

    Personally, I like to look over major topics in review resources before I dive deep into course materials. This method saves me time because I get the “big picture” more quickly, and can work through the details with some context.
  2. Commiserate with your peers
    Your classmates, whether your best friends or casual acquaintances, are your most important resource. A 10-minute break to lament on how you’ll never get through this week’s reading or laugh over the awkward thing you said to a standardized patient can do wonders for your morale. Medical school challenges you in new ways, and realizing that others feel the same way is helpful.
  3. Celebrate big and small wins
    “Today’s accomplishments are yesterday’s impossibilities.”  - Robert H. Schuller

    Medical students are notoriously hard on themselves and sometimes hold themselves to impractical standards. Whether your milestones are passing the next big test or getting through a difficult lecture, it is essential to acknowledge and celebrate these steps and keep yourself moving forward.
  4. Prioritize your downtime
    While medical school can take a toll on every aspect of your life, it is also a great time to learn to prioritize the things that are important to you and maintain activities and relationships that make you the person you are.
    Before I began medical school I swore I would stick to a routine where I cooked healthy meals and exercised every day despite the new workload. To be honest, I cook less than I used to and only sometimes do I half-heartedly jump on an elliptical as I review notecards. However, I can almost always find time to catch up with a good friend or get emotionally invested in competitive cooking shows with my husband.

    While I’ll always encourage cultivating a healthy lifestyle, I realized that the things that keep you sane are different for everyone and finding time for the things I care about keeps me positive and motivated.

What are your strategies for keeping your sanity amidst a huge workload? Share your thoughts in the comments below


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