This week's Heart to Heart conversation: Maintaining balance
At this point in the semester when you’re fully immersed in your fall courses, it may be a good time to check in with yourself and ensure you are making time for self-care and wellness activities. In his latest Heart to Heart Video, AAMC President and CEO David Skorton, MD, shares tips for maintaining balance amidst a heavy academic workload. Dr. Skorton also reveals his two favorite ways to destress: practicing mindfulness meditation and playing music.
Heart to Heart is a weekly conversation series on Twitter and Facebook that gives premed students, medical students, and others the opportunity to connect with AAMC’s Dr. Skorton to see how things are going and discuss timely issues. Previous Heart to Heart conversations covered:
- Challenges during the first month of medical school,
- The importance of mentorship,
- Books that have made a difference in your journey to becoming a doctor, and
- Favorite non-STEM courses and why.
Some additional tips for maintaining balance as a premed are:
Use school wellness programs.
As awareness around student mental health increases, medical schools across the country have implemented student wellness programs. Undergrad institutions have similar resources where you can practice techniques for stress reduction, mindfulness, and self-care designed to help you establish good habits that will carry to medical school and beyond.
Prioritize physical activity.
Exercise brings physical, mental, and emotional benefits. Regular physical activity increases cardiovascular activity and burns extra calories, but most importantly, it releases endorphins in the brain — which have a role in reducing stress and managing depression — as well as decreases the stress hormones in the body, like cortisol.
Journaling does more than just help you record your memories or self-express. It’s good for your health. Writing about stressful experiences can help you identify patterns and manage difficult situations in healthy ways. One study showed that expressive writing (like journaling) for only 15 to 20 minutes a day, three to five times over a four-month period was enough to lower blood pressure and improve focus.
Connect with peers.
Make time to connect with friends and family. Even a quick Skype call or text chat with a long-distance friend can be an effective distraction from school stresses. Engaging socially provides a way to create distance between ourselves and the demands of school, providing a recharge for the challenges ahead.
An occasional all-nighter may be okay, but research demonstrates a link between insufficient sleep and stress. Not getting enough sleep can affect your mood, energy level, and concentration.
What are your tips for staying balanced as a premed student? Let us know on Twitter at @AAMCPreMed.