“I was a little excited but mostly blorft. “Blorft” is an adjective I just made up that means ‘Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.’ I have been blorft every day for the past seven years.”
― Tina Fey, Bossypants
I believe I have spent much of medical school fairly blorft. Elevated levels of stress seem to be a universal medical student experience. Studies looking at medical students around the globe – from Pakistan and Malaysia to Greece and India – show we all struggle with elevated levels of stress1. Stress, as it is used today, was first defined in 1936 by endocrinologist Hans Selye as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”2. That definition highlights the point that not all stress is bad – a certain level can actually be useful during medical school. Knowing the importance of Step I board scores was stressful, but undoubtedly drove me to study harder than I would have had I treated it as no big deal. However, sustained, elevated levels of stress can be detrimental to both mental and physical well-being. For example, stress levels have been found to be correlated with depression and anxiety amongst medical students3. The good news is that there are steps you can take to reduce and manage your stress.
Signs of stress
Megan Riddle, MS MD Ph.D., is board certified in both adult psychiatry and consult liaison psychiatry. She attended Western Washington University and received a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish with minors in Latin and English before deciding she wanted to pursue a career in medicine and research. She received a Master’s in Biology at Western Washington University with an emphasis in genetics and then went to Weill Cornell Medical College where she earned a medical degree as well as a PhD in neuroscience. She completed her residency training in psychiatry at the University of Washington, where she was chief resident, before completing a fellowship in consult liaison psychiatry, also at the University of Washington. She is currently a Courtesy Clinical Instructor with the University of Washington Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and enjoys teaching and supervising residents.