5 Stress-Reduction Tips for Med Students – Guest Post by Health Writer Issy Fuller
- Jul 15, 2020
- Reviewed by: Amy Rontal
Got med school stress? Don’t sweat it! Health writer Issy Fuller has some ideas for you.
The pressures of medical school can have a significant impact on the mental health of students. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, med students report higher levels of psychological distress than their peers. Much of the stress experienced by medical students can be attributed to challenging course content and the fact that it can take between 7 and 12 years to become a qualified doctor in the specialty of your choice. Given the rigors of medical training and how long it can take to complete it, it’s easy to see why so many medical students have trouble managing their stress.
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If you’re a medical student who feels like your stress levels are getting the best of you, remember you’re not alone. There are literally thousands of other students in the exact same position, battling their demons on a daily basis. Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your stress levels and get through med school with your mental well-being intact.
Here’s 5 tips for reducing stress during your medical training:
1. Understand the role of cortisol in the body.
As a med student, you are undoubtedly already familiar with the role cortisol plays in the body. While a spike in cortisol can be of short-term benefit in a taxing situation, prolonged stress can result in unhealthy cortisol levels that can be detrimental to your health. In order to regulate your cortisol levels, it is essential to steer clear of the things that can stimulate its release. For example, although consuming caffeine in moderate amounts can be beneficial, it can also increase cortisol to the level it would be at during a full-blown panic attack. Too much alcohol and sleep deprivation can have a very similar effect. So, to reduce your cortisol levels, avoid having too much caffeine or alcohol, and be sure to make sleep a priority!
2. Contribute to your community.
When your stress levels are sky-high due to your med school workload or looming exams, you may find relief by doing some volunteer work in your community. Whether you volunteer your services at a community clinic or help out at a soup kitchen, these kinds of activities are bound to make you feel more focused and invigorated. Even if it’s only for an hour a week, volunteering will also remind you of why you decided to become a doctor in the first place. You clearly have a great passion for people and want to help them. This reminder is bound to help you put your stress into perspective and provide you with new motivation to deal with it effectively.
3. Get enough exercise.
As you may know, regular exercise is an excellent stress reliever. Not only does regular physical activity reduce cortisol levels, but it also stimulates the production of endorphins. Although you will certainly benefit from vigorous exercise, such as running marathons and partaking in powerlifting competitions, even moderate physical activity can help reduce your stress levels. Find an exercise you enjoy and aim to be active for at least an hour every few days. This may seem like a difficult feat to achieve when you’re always running between classes, but it’s important to remember that any exercise is definitely better than none at all.
4. Pay attention to your spirituality.
If you are spiritual or religious by nature, you may find that engaging in relevant activities can help lower your stress levels significantly. Studies have shown that adults who are spiritual are prone to lower cortisol levels in the face of stress than those who do not conform to any form of religion or spiritual belief. While prayer is often associated with a lower prevalence of stress and depression, engaging in spiritual endeavors such as yoga and meditation can also help diffuse stress.
5. Don’t forget to have fun!
When you are in med school trying to make your way through a heavy workload, finding the time to have fun may seem impossible. While having fun does not necessarily have to entail getting raucous at an off-campus bar, chances are you may experience a reprieve from your stressors while doing something you enjoy. Simply sharing a few laughs with friends can lower cortisol levels substantially, and having a hobby can act as a long-term stress reliever. Research has shown that fun derived from engaging in a hobby can reduce the impact of chronic stress by providing a positive outlet for pent-up emotions.
Med students are often faced with almost unbearable amounts of stress. Luckily, making a few simple lifestyle changes can help stabilize cortisol levels while improving overall mental health and well-being. Follow these five tips, and your stress should become more manageable!