There are a few, if any, educational institutes that can compare with medical colleges when it comes to the academic pressure and stress that they entail. It would not be wrong to assume that every medical student has experienced being completely stressed out at one point or another during their medical school. Not only is the syllabus itself very challenging, but the medical degree is also one of the longest professional degrees out there! Add these factors to a cauldron that is already brimming with the sheer academic competition between the top-most tier students vying to be the best and you will have a potion which will make any man lose his sanity.
To cope with this nerve-racking stress, medical students often resort to a myriad of ‘de-stressers’ that may offer instant gratification but are counter-conducive to their physical and mental health. These unhealthy coping mechanisms include smoking, drinking, recreational drugs, binge eating and social withdrawal to name the big bad ones. Since a budding physician can’t afford to be careless about his health, allow me to help you out with the right type of ‘de-stressing’ which won’t take a toll on your mind and body. So let’s get started!
- Put things into perspective
A person must review regularly what the forces are that are driving them. If the only factor fueling a person is competition, it can soon become overwhelming. Since the medical field is already both physically, and mentally demanding, one should learn to prioritize very early on. On a personal note, I find that having good relationships to rely on, whether family or friends, really causes a person to thrive. Having a side hobby that brings you joy can often prevent you from spiraling.. In my free time, I resort to reading books on subjects that improve my understanding of spiritual healing. Not only does this prove to be very soothing, but it also equips me with the tools to get out of a pessimistic slump when I encounter one.
- Let rest and meditation heal you
According to a survey conducted recently, it states that 67% of medical professionals say they are likely to stop practicing within the next five years as a result of burnout. This is a frightening consequence of a vicious cycle that was never cured. This is precisely the reason why finding relief in daily, non-work activities are so important. A great way to abate stress is primarily regulated by the human body in the form of sleep. American Psychology Association has found that sleeping 60 to 90 minutes more per night can make you happier and healthier. This could be a hint that the time spent on social media instead of sleeping is a bad trade. Your brain tricks you into thinking that it’s relaxed while what you are feeding it, in reality, are only temporary dopamine hits. A better alternative is using that time to sleep. Accompanying this with meditation is a cherry on the top. Meditation has repeatedly proven that it marginally reduces stress, controls anxiety, enhances self-awareness and lengthens one’s attention span. As practicing medical professionals, we all know that we are in need of all the good we can get.
- Choose healthy snacks over sugary snacks
Snacking is inevitable when stationed for long hours during one’s job, or even at home when the time between two meals has significantly increased. At this point, it becomes a person’s responsibility to differentiate between healthy snacks and sugary snacks, which do more harm than good. Dark chocolate, nuts, avocado slices, berries, and whole-grain crackers are some prime examples of healthy snacks which are not only convenient to carry around but also pack a punch of nutrients and benefits.
Furthermore, they have been reported to boost energy levels, increase cognitive function and improve focus. These benefits come in quite handy for all the medical professionals who are often running low on energy due to long, demanding hours. In contrast to sugary snacks which promote lethargy, pose risks to cardiovascular health and encourage depressive tendencies, a study conducted showed that foods rich in nutrients such as folic acid, vitamin C, magnesium, and B-12 can have both short and long-term impacts on a person’s mood. This goes to prove that healthy snacking greatly impacts one’s stress levels and significantly aids in improving overall health. So the next time you feel down in the dumps, feel free to munch on!
- Physical activity is the best activity
The correlation between reduced stress and excercise is a tale as old as the tale of practicing medicine, if not older. With surveys conducted regularly, this notion has been perfected through facts and figures. For over a decade, the American Psychological Association (APA) has commissioned an annual nationwide survey as part of its Mind/Body Health campaign to examine the state of stress across the country and understand its impact. Their findings conclude that 53% of adults say they feel good about themselves after exercising and 62% of adults who exercise or walk to help manage stress say the technique is very or extremely effective. Walking, swimming, strength training, Zumba and aerobics are all exercises that can be easily done with a lot of time to spare for other activities. They successfully boost endorphins and effectively lower stress. Accompanied by the benefits of improving quality of sleep, reducing risks of chronic diseases, and improving memory. The benefits, frankly, are endless, but the best part is that while exercising daily, it is only a matter of weeks before people start seeing improvement in their mental and physical health.
All in all, chronic stress will end up interfering with your ability to function normally, and productively. It’s far better to abide by the saying, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ managing your stress effectively through these small steps.
Now that you know that these small tweaks in your lifestyle can make a significant change in your life, I hope you get to experience the thrill that stems from putting yourself first and cherishing your health.