While your dream of getting accepted to medical school probably involves countless nights studying, hundreds of volunteer hours, and a very long application process, taking time for yourself may not always be at the top of your priority list. What many aspiring doctors tend to forget is that taking some time to relax can actually boost your productivity once you get back to work.
We asked a few of our pre-med interns here at the AAMC to share their favorite ways to wind down:
1. Take study breaks
Studying is essential, but make sure you schedule short breaks every hour or two. Allowing yourself this time for a small distraction will actually keep you more focused during the rest of your study session. It can also help to break up assignments into smaller, more manageable chunks. However, it’s important not to let your breaks extend too long, so set a timer and get back to work when your time is up. You may find that you need less study time overall if you manage your schedule effectively.
2. Stay in shape
A healthy body contributes to a healthy mind, and can help you manage stress. Taking an exercise class, playing sports, or going on a jog or walk with a friend can also double as social time to break up your busy schedule. Even small opportunities to add activity to your daily routine can have a big impact. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park a little further away, or leave the car at home when you need to run errands and walk instead. Besides the obvious physiological benefits of staying active, spending time on your feet can also be a great mood booster.
3. Rest up
Research suggests that adults need about eight hours of sleep per night in order to perform to the best of their abilities. Juggling extracurricular obligations on top of academic commitments can make getting a full night’s sleep a challenge. If you can’t get a full eight hours, make short naps a priority. That may mean saying no to something else, but remember that quality is more important than quantity.
4. Eat clean, but acknowledge cravings
Eating healthy food and staying hydrated is the key to maintaining your energy throughout a busy day. Start your day off with a well-rounded breakfast, drink lots of water, and make sure to keep nutritious snacks with you so you’re less tempted to buy junk food while you’re out. However, it’s okay to reward yourself with a treat sometimes. After a long review session or finishing an exam, order the burger you’ve been dreaming of or splurge on some ice cream after dinner. You deserve it!
5. Explore other interests
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everything you do should be focused on your career or enhancing your resume. You may find that you’re more motivated and happier if you make time for other things you’re interested in. This may mean taking up a creative hobby, getting involved in advocacy or politics, or taking time to travel. These other things will make you a more well-rounded person, a more interesting applicant, and possibly even a better doctor.