It isn’t unusual to hear people discuss burnout, especially when you study an intensive course such as medicine. You are usually in 5 days a week, and when you aren’t on placements or in lectures, you are making your way through a mountain of content in the hopes of passing your exams.
So, how do you fit in time for hobbies and a social life and still pass your exams?
The following ways have helped me enjoy my first year of medicine:
1. Get organised: You will get sick of hearing this; however, there is no way around it. If you want to keep on top of a busy degree and have a social life, you must be organised. This goes beyond the basic ‘to-do’ lists. Schedule everything in and then make a list for priority/urgent tasks.
The way that I do this is by breaking down my life into categories:
- University: Timetable, placements, study time/revision and assignments
- Work: Part-time jobs
- Life admin: Shopping, bills, cooking, cleaning, exercise etc
- Social life: Hobbies, going out, society events etc
- Career: Conferences or extracurricular activities to enhance your learning and future career prospects
Your university timetable and work rota will be non-negotiable so work around it. If you prefer having evenings to yourself, schedule revision in the morning. If you are more of a night owl, make sure you take time for your hobbies/yourself during the day. Don’t particularly enjoy food shopping? Consider booking an online delivery slot and meal prepping.
2. Protect your downtime: This is vital. Studying such an intensive course can make you hyper focussed on your degree but it is important to remember the other aspects of your life that make you who you are. If you enjoy playing games on your X-Box, do it. If you like travelling, plan a trip. Enjoy life outside of medicine.
3. Exercise: Whether you go on a brisk walk twice day or spin classes 4 times a week. Movement is good for the soul and will release those feel-good hormones and give you a boost of energy.
4. Eat well: Nutritious food goes a long way. It has taken me years to realise that a poor diet during exam season contributes to my stress and tiredness. Quick and easy meal preps were a lifesaver during my year 1 exams. It also meant I did not have to worry too much on what my next meal would be.
5. Use the support available: It is okay to ask for help. Being able to recognise when you need support is a great skill and helps with feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed. At ARU we have a great student services team. Including counselling and wellbeing, financial advice and our disability and dyslexia team who are all on hand to provide us support if needed.
6. Study techniques: Figure out what works best for you when it comes to learning and revising. Are you an active learner? A passive learner? Do you prefer visual cues or reading a textbook? With revision I know spaced sessions and recall work best for me. I also know that I cannot study 12 hours a day, so I break my revision into more manageable chunks. Figure out your preferred methods and it will help with managing stress levels, especially during exam season.