It might seem like quite a basic thing but my experience is that it doesn’t come naturally to all of us and can definitely be neglected. In my first year of medicine I muddled through but with no real plan of how to look after myself and believe me, it’s just as important as getting through the degree itself! This IS the end goal, but your health (and sanity) is a priory too!
Here’s a list of things that I do that might help you if you haven’t already got a strategy:
1- Exercise. I use to do this when I was really stressed and go running at ridiculous times of the night but these days I go as often as I can and it helps to relieve me of stress before things get bad.
2- Talk to somebody. It really helps me to talk about what I feeling am stressed about. I have been lucky to have supportive flat mates but if you want someone to talk to your university are also there to help. At Bristol you can find support at http://www.bristol.ac.uk/student-counselling/services-offered/need.html
3-Have proper breaks. For me this means going home. I use to think that this was a waste of time but now I see how important this is. There is only so much work you can do before you NEED a break. Medicine will NEVER tell you to have a break. There is always more to learn. But you need to give yourself a breather.
4- Allow yourself to question if Medicine is for you or not. In my third year of Medical school I hated clinical Medicine. So I took a year out an intercalated. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I missed medicine a lot and this was the confirmation that I needed that this WAS what I wanted to do. Medical School is a hard and long process and if you have doubts it’s OK. Most people I know have questioned why they are doing medicine at some point or another. Give yourself a chance to change your mind. It’s not the end of the world. I think it would be a travesty to get to 5 years of Med school and have hated it all along.
5- Get a bit of perspective. This can be hard at the time. Our work can take over our lives, but in the grand scheme of things, if your biggest problem in life is your medical school exams, you are doing ok in life. (Well, this is what I tell myself anyway!)
6- Don’t suffer in silence. People don’t write Facebook statuses saying “I failed my exam and I feel crap about life”. But they do. These things happen. A lot. And if you do fail an exam, or feel really stressed, hear me when I say YOU ARE NOT ALONE and this crappy period in your life WILL pass and you will be better for it.
7- Treat yourself. I have a mantra that I say to myself which is “gotta look after number one”. That’s you! My Mum has drilled this into me and in an all consuming emotionally, mentally and physically draining profession this is crucial. How you define this is up to you but make sure you do look after number one! Medicine is important, but at the end of the day, you should come first.