I was told from day one of medical school to take time for self-care. I am regularly encouraged to exercise, eat well-balanced meals, and maintain contact with friends in and outside of school.
I did make time for self-care during the first month of school. This was partly because of the reminders, but mostly because I refuse to spend the next four years completely miserable.
After my first set of exams in September, self-care became non-existent. I stopped working out in the morning and instead used that time to study. I began to stay up later and wake up earlier, putting in another hour of studying before lecture. My 15 minutes of reading before bed was replaced with 15 minutes of extra studying. Daily journaling sessions turned into writing a line or two every few days. My library books remained untouched and were returned unread. I stopped responding to texts and phone calls from family and friends from home, thinking that isolating myself would help me be more “focused” on school. I knew neglecting my wellness routine wasn’t good, but at the same time, I couldn’t stop. All I wanted to do was study and any moment I spent not studying was met with an intense feeling of guilt. My anxiety reached another all-time high and I wasn’t doing anything to help alleviate it.
At the same time, I was making changes to the way I studied. I analyzed what went wrong for my first exams and made a plan that addressed those weaknesses. I worked with tutors and spent a significant amount of time in anatomy lab. I was absolutely terrified going into my second exams, but also knew that I have done everything I possibly could to perform better.
I found out earlier this week that I passed my most recent set of exams. I’m relieved and grateful that the changes I made to my study habits paid off. It’s nice to have evidence to remind myself that I am capable of doing well in med school. Doing (much) better this time around has given me a little bit of my self-confidence back.
I hope to figure out a sustainable study routine by the time I take my finals and starting now, I’m recommitting to regularly practicing self-care again. I’m hoping to start out with working out once a week or creating more time to writing on here or in my journal. I’m relearning not to feel guilty about taking breaks from studying.
Slowly, but surely, I’ll create some balance in my life again.