DEPRESSION & MEDICAL STUDENTS – stay mentally healthy during your journey to becoming a doctor

Medical school is mentally and academically demanding so it is not surprising that rates of depression and burnout are higher than in other schools. Not only are there a considerable number of depressed students but those who are, believe that they would lose the respect of their future colleagues and professors if they spoke out.

A research published in Journal of the American Medical Association shows that out of 505 med students in Michigan, at least 1 out of 10 were depressed which is almost three times as many as in the general population of the United States.

Yet, more than half of those who were depressed felt that telling a counselor would be risky and that other medical students would respect their opinions less if they knew. Based on that, here are three pieces of advice to stay healthy mentally during your journey to becoming a doctor:

Do physical activity to get rid of stress

Stress is a common problem: it affects negatively not only med students but also the general population. It can lead to sleep problems, irritability, weight gain, and put you at a higher risk for burnout. All around the word medical students report multiple stressors in their lives, many of which are linked to academics. There are many effective stress management techniques that do not take much time. Exercising is a critical technique—not only does it help to control your weight; it is also good for nearly every bodily system.

It is worth mentioning that medical students often forget about it due to their hectic schedules and little time. Yet, it is feasible to reach healthy activity levels during your med studies. The key here is to be multitasking, that is: combining exercise with other activities. For instance, prefer the stairs over the elevator and you might be surprised about how much extra activity this gives you. If possible, walk or bike to university instead of taking the car. When you are shopping, park at the end of the parking lot so that you must walk in. Bring your book with you to the gym or fitness center, place it on your treadmill and start walking. Try to bring friends to make something regular out of this. These tips can help to fit activity into even a busy schedule.

Make friends and you will not regret it

Friends are an invaluable resource for keeping you on top of your med studies, as well as providing vital stress relief. There are a million opportunities available for you to meet new people right from the start of the first year. As you will be studying together for many years, there is a good chance you will be making some life-long friends. Be proactive: hang out with your peers after lectures, start a conversation with whoever you sit next to in class, sacrifice a few bucks and buy someone a coffee. The important thing to remember is that everyone is in the same situation: nervous about starting med studies, often new in town, and shy about sparking up a conversation with a stranger.

Isolating yourself is one of the worst things you can do in med school. One of the best pieces of advice I got from my friends who studied medicine was to not neglect the community surrounding you. Spending quality time with others will also help you find reasons to be thankful and remember why you decided to go for med school. Just try to avoid comparing yourself to anyone. “He is already doing research and I am not.” Rather than being jealous, try to appreciate them. You may think that some med students have everything put together but everyone is struggling.

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Be consistent but have some rest too

Finding your own way to study is pivotal. Are you a flashcard person? Or do you like making outlines? Maybe you are all about doing as many practice tests as possible and for that, question banks like QUPI are worth to check out. Regardless of how you study, do not be too stubborn to not change your ways if you realize that the one you chose is not effective. You might have heard/read this before but here I go again: being consistent by sticking to your schedule is important. However, do not beat yourself up when not doing that perfectly. Schedule study time but also know when to take breaks. And do not forget about scheduling time for rest. Rest does not just mean sleeping or lazing around. It also means finding rest for your mind and soul which is different for each person. Some people (for example myself) let loose and find rest by going clubbing and dancing the night away. Others like to have Netflix marathons and ordering food in.

Whatever you go for, resting well is just as important as both studying and working hard. If you love yoga or going to the gym, do not start neglecting these activities just because you are in medical school. Keep doing the things that make you happy! Just remember to prioritize wisely and remember that they are just as important as doing well in school.

What do you think about these 3 tips? You can leave your comments below and also join medical students from all over the world who use QUPI to practice their medical knowledge and prepare for their exams.

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