Cameron Werner
Cameron Werner
Medical Student, Western Michigan University

The sheer volume of demands on today’s medical students, and the amount of information they must master, can be unsettling for even the most calm and collected of future physicians. Practicing wellness is a strategy to keep you balanced, happy, and enthusiastic throughout medical school. By doing this you will be less likely to encounter burnout, and more likely to remain happier longer into your career. Below are some suggestions of how recovery breaks, physical activity, developing friendships, and pursuing a passion can help you decompress as a medical student.zen garden.jpg


1.   Discover and capitalize on activities that help you recover from long days.

Consider whether you are an introvert or extrovert, as these two personality types may have different needs for decompression. Introverts generally enjoy solitude after a busy day. Therefore, napping, car rides, or Netflix binging may be the best way for an introvert to recover. Extroverts, on the other hand, are energized by interacting with others. Talking and listening to classmates is a great way to reenergize an extrovert. It is important to note that everyone is different, but it is essential to identify how you recharge; being strategic and efficient during your downtime is just as important as the time you spend studying.


2.   Find a way to stay physically active.

Exercising has many benefits that include the release of endorphins, a state of meditation that relieves stress, and over time it can cause your mood to be more positive with reduced levels of anxiety. Breaking up studying blocks with exercise can also help you maintain concentration, which will improve your productivity and longevity. And, most importantly, you can make exercise enjoyable by choosing activities that fit your schedule and interests! I have seen classmates thrive as weightlifters, rock climbers, marathon runners, ultimate frisbee players and so on. Having a regular exercise schedule gives you guaranteed daily time to decompress, and these habits will benefit you long into your career as a physician.


3.   Take time to foster friendships.

Developing peer support in your medical school class is a great way to fight burnout. You undoubtedly spend countless hours with your classmates during didactic lectures, labs, team-based activities, or in the clinic. Without their support, medical school can become exceptionally isolating. Therefore, cultivating relationships with your classmates can help you deal with the stresses of medical education. These relationships are particularly powerful because of the common struggles you will endure, and they offer opportunities to decompress if you need to talk a frustration out. Additionally, it is just as important to have friendships with individuals who are not in medical school. Spending time with friends who are not medical students can round out your personal and professional life, as well as provide new perspectives on issues that are affecting you and your schoolwork.


4.   Pursue extracurricular activities that you are passionate about.

Lower levels of burnout are associated with medical students who get involved and take on leadership roles. Cultivating a passion through your leadership experiences is an avenue to staying excited through the rigors of medical school. You can do this by volunteering in the community, joining student interest groups or school committees, or finding research opportunities. Remember, the quality of your leadership experience is more important than the quantity of roles you take on. It is essential for you to be interested and excited about your extracurricular activities, rather than just completing them for recognition. Furthermore, choosing select activities you are passionate about will allow you to build meaningful relationships with classmates and faculty. These individuals will be a part of your support system throughout medical school, and more importantly, they will be able to attest to your personal attributes and qualifications.


How do you maintain your well-being as a postgraduate student? Let us know in the comments below.


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