Anyone who has their goal set on becoming a physician must commit to becoming a professional student for life. Students spend most of their waking hours developing their minds by studying, which broadens their knowledge base and sharpens their critical thinking skills. However, it is important for students to craft a balanced system that also devotes resources to developing their bodies and minds when they are in college and medical school. After all, physicians must maintain their personal wellbeing to sustainably provide care for others. Below we describe three key elements to optimize that will help you maintain your body and your mind.
Maintaining Your Body
It is important to learn how to shop for groceries and prepare healthy meals that will last an entire week. Making meals at home is generally healthier and cheaper than eating out. Furthermore, eating healthy foods imparts you with more wholesome energy and improves your long-term health outcomes. This may be difficult to manage depending on your schedule, living conditions and cooking skills. A viable option to solve all these issues simultaneously is to invest in meal delivery services like Blue Apron or HelloFresh. However, it is still worth it to learn how to cook from someone in your life (e.g., your parents, friends blessed with culinary skills).
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Sleep is extremely important to your personal well-being. Aim to sleep at least 7-8 hours per night, if not more. Practice basic sleep hygiene: don’t look at any screens at least thirty minutes before you sleep, only use your bed for sleeping, wear earplugs and eye masks if noise or light pollution is an issue, invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows if need be, and perhaps consider meditating before sleeping. It is also important to learn to sleep smarter: take short power naps, regulate your caffeine consumption, and reduce your alcohol intake.
It is well-established that regular exercise has a positive effect on your body and your mind, and can make you a better student. If you have the time and energy, try to engage in an hour or more of vigorous exercise at least three times per week. If you have little time or energy, try to do little things throughout your day (e.g., walking or biking to class, taking the stairs, going for a short run). The Scientific 7-Minute Workout is a personal favorite of mine when I am busy. If you are not able to motivate yourself to exercise on your own, find friends who you can exercise with or join classes that enable you to exercise in the company of a supportive network.
Maintaining Your Spirit
Engage in Religious Services And/or Mindfulness Meditation
If you are religious, finding time to visit your local place of worship can be a wonderful way of deepening your faith and connecting with a supportive community. If you are not part of an organized religion, regularly meditating can be a powerful way to center yourself and provide nourishment for your spirit. If you are new to meditation, Headspace is a good app that has guided meditation videos curated to every level.
Spend Time Socializing
It is important to maintain your bonds with family and friends, as well as forge new bonds with new friends and potential romantic interests. Call or FaceTime your parents and your siblings, keep up to date with your best friends on social media, and arrange for dates when you have time. Learn how to optimally organize your social life. It is a myth that physicians must completely sacrifice their social lives for their career. It is a fact that physicians must learn to manage their time and carefully schedule social appointments to maintain a healthy social life.
Indulge in Entertainment and the Arts
Entertaining yourself by watching TV, playing video games, painting/drawing, writing, or reading a book is important for rejuvenating your spirit and making you ready to face the challenges of tomorrow. It is likely that you have trouble keeping yourself focused on studying when entertainment is so readily available to you. The trick here is to allow yourself controlled amounts of regular entertainment (e.g., one 30-minute or 1-hour Netflix episode with dinner) that still enable enough time to comfortably finish all your work.
Learning how to balance school with your own physical and spiritual upkeep is a personal journey that all students must make. It is vitally important for aspiring physicians to develop such good life habits early on, as your available time and energy will be stretched to the limit at each step of medical training. Focusing on the elements we outlined above will help you stay healthy and happy as you study your way to success.