How to Find Balance as a Premed Student
Prioritizing mental health and self-care can help premedical students
Having study groups and relying on the support of their peers can set premed
students up for success.
Premedical and Caribbean medical school students are under an immense amount of pressure. They must be ultracompetitive among their peers, study months on end for critical exams and apply massive amounts of knowledge to drastically different scenarios.
In addition, clinical practice, even as a student, can be emotionally draining. You must be objective and compassionate without letting emotions take control of actions.
This fierce environment begins during a premed education, and given the intensity, it is not a huge surprise that many premed students meet criteria for clinical depression. As these doctors-in-training move on to med school, the number shoots up, according to various research studies.
In residency and beyond, depression continually affects clinicians, with suicide rates among doctors remaining notably higher than the general population, according to a study published in Psychiatry Research, a peer-reviewed medical journal, in April 2022. Further, suicide in the medical profession tends to come later in life and is more prevalent among women than men, according to the study.
Use School Resources
As more awareness is raised regarding the mental health of students, Caribbean
medical schools across the country have begun implementing student wellness
Although many of these formal programs are for med students, undergrad institutions often have similar resources or premeds. Learning techniques for stress reduction, mindfulness and self-care can help students establish good habits that they can carry through med school and beyond.
Hone Study Skills
Many say trying to consume the full volume and depth of information one is
expected to learn in Caribbean medical school is analogous to drinking from a fire
hose – it can be overwhelming. Although a high MCAT score and strong GPA can
set a student on a strong path to med school, it is also critical to develop effective
study habits as an undergrad.
The exams in med school are stressful. To ease this burden, students should focus on developing sustainable study plans that don't involve cramming. Learning bits of information at a time, over a long period of time, is the key to minimizing the stress associated with grueling medical exams.
Have a Support System
In addition to student resources, having the support of family and friends is crucial. A support system can take many forms and doesn’t always have to be other premed students. Having study groups, sport activities or regular calls with relatives can be great ways to connect with others and to create balance.
Take Time for Yourself
Between studying, patient care and clinical rotations, taking time away from the
demands of med school can seem impossible. However, it is important to have
time to enjoy the things you like to do outside of school.
Arrange time in your schedule to be with friends and family or to participate in hobbies that are fun and relaxing. Developing a work-life balance early in your medical career puts you on a trajectory for success.
Prioritize Physical Health
With academic demands and extracurricular activities, premed students often
neglect physical self-care. It has been repeatedly shown that regular physical
activity has many positive effects on the body, including improved mental health.
Sometimes maintaining a balanced diet and adequate sleep are compromised
during the premed and Caribbean medical school years, so premed students
should focus on building healthy physical habits.
Exercising regularly, eating well and having plenty of restful sleep can go a long way. An adage of med school training is, "Eat when you can, sit when you can and sleep when you can." Learning to prioritize physical health will optimize your overall wellbeing while decreasing your risk for depression and other illnesses