Balancing Mental Health and Academic Success in Med School

As soon as you get accepted into a medical school, the path toward that white coat and medical license opens.

But with the excitement of a new challenge comes a lot of stress and pressure. Medical school requires an enormous commitment of time and energy. Hours spent in the library, long shifts in hospitals, and stressful exams can take a toll on your mental health.

Good thing there are a few ways to ensure your academic performance doesn’t suffer while looking after yourself. Let’s take a look at the tips to help you balance your mental health and academic success in medical school.

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Why Mental Health Is Essential

It is not a surprise for most people that medical school requires dedication, resilience, and excellent time-management skills. With countless subjects to cover, intense coursework, and the added pressure of clinical rotations, it often feels like you are drowning in information.

The authors of a journal from the National Library of Medicine gave a quick run-through of their regular days in the medicine academe. The moment their alarms go off, at 6:30 AM, the endless amount of studying and lectures starts, and then, their days are often concluded with reviewing—this routine is then repeated the next day.

Rummaging through lecture halls and skimming endless amounts of paperwork and reviewers are just a few of what to expect in med school. Not to mention the sleepless nights to catch up on a few lessons, the pressure, and the stress medical students experience.

As much as you are packed with medical knowledge and intelligence, students going to med school or reviewing for the NAC OSCE and MCCQE1 examinations should be backed up with strong emotional and mental health.

Fast Stats on the Mental Health of Med Students

Common mental health issues among medical students are depression, anxiety, and burnout.

report feeling overwhelmed by their workload
currently seek professional care, with anxiety being the most common condition
meet at least one dimension for burnout

How Are You Dealing With Med School Stress?

Students in blue medical scrubs reviewing for an exam.

Going under intense amounts of pressure and stress will have its effects manifested physically. So, how are you dealing with it? What are your coping mechanisms to still balance life and med school?

A study conducted in 2014 about the factors associated with stress among medical students found that med students’ major stressors are the following:

  1. Environmental factors – these stressors are found in a student’s physical surroundings, e.g. loud noises, crowded places, etc.
  2. Tough study routines – given that a med student’s day is packed with loads of academic lectures, papers, reviews, and hospital duty for older years.
  3. New college environment
  4. Student abuse
  5. Personal factors

While everyone has their stressors and triggers, medical students often undergo intense amounts of stress, which has started to manifest in their physical health. The study concludes that most undergraduate med students “experience stress due to both academic and emotional factors”, which is why having a proper and effective way of dealing with those helps to minimize the risk factors.

Tips To Cope With Med School Stress

With the high rates of med students who are experiencing (or showing signs of) mental health issues, it is important to know how to effectively cope with med school stress. Here are some things you could do to help manage and healthily deal with stress, especially when preparing for the NAC OSCE and MCCQE1 exams, and med school per se.

1. Find Your Circle

Your circle will be your support system throughout the whole course in med school. Having people whom you can be vulnerable with, people who listen, and who can cheer you up on your worst days are helpful for your mental health and can help alleviate the stress you might feel.

2. Exercise Regularly

Exercise is a proven way to alleviate stress and improve mental health. It boosts the production of endorphins, the “feel-good” hormones that reduce stress and improve mood.

A quick walk or meditation are easy ways to engage your body physically.

3. Eat Healthy Foods

We understand that every minute counts in med school—whether you’re in class or at home—but eating healthy foods is beneficial for you.

A balanced diet is important to ensure good physical and mental health. Eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, and protein-rich foods can help keep your energy levels up and protect your immune system from illnesses.

4. Take Breaks

Taking breaks is crucial in alleviating stress levels. It can enhance productivity and clear your mind from endless coursework and reviews. You can take a few minutes to stretch or meditate between classes, go for a walk, listen to music, grab a quick bite with friends, or do what you enjoy doing.

Whatever works for you, as long as long as you take regular breaks to rejuvenate your mind and body.

men playing basketball in their spare time.

5. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is crucial to proper brain function and emotional health. But medical students often experience sleep deprivation due to the amount of work and studying they have to do.

However, getting enough rest and sleep is essential to keep your mind and body in top shape. Try to create a consistent sleep schedule and stick to it even during weekends. Aim for at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night to stay alert and focused during classes and exams.

Stress-free Ways to Prep for Your Licensure Exams

Preparing for your upcoming NAC OSCE and MCC exam can get stressful at some points, so here are some tips on how to make it a bit lighter:

1. Plan and Organize

Planning is key in preparing for your exams. Make a study schedule, set goals, and track your progress. It not only helps you stay on track, but it also helps alleviate any anxiety or stress you have about what to study next.

2. Use Practice Materials

A medical student writing on their review material

Take advantage of practice materials to help you prepare for your exams. Utilize online practice tests or resources from your school. It not only helps you identify areas you need to improve on, but it also gives you a glimpse of what to expect on exam day.

3. Enroll In a Review School

NAC OSCE exam prep and getting ready for the MCC exams are more bearable and done efficiently with the help of review school instructors. Typically, review schools like Abzi Academy have practice materials, do hybrid learning setups, and conduct regular practice exams to make sure you are physically and mentally prepared for your exams. They can also give you tips and strategies on how to approach certain scenarios or questions in the exams.

Wrapping It Up

Balancing mental health and academic success may be challenging, but it is not impossible. With the right mindset, coping mechanisms, and support system, you can get through the rigorous coursework and exams in med school and still maintain good mental health.

Med school can be tough, it is best won when you finally get your MD license with strong and stable mental health.

Abzi Academy is home to nurturing medical students who will be taking their NAC OSCE exams, MCCQE1 exams, and other medical licensure exams. Built with a wide array of knowledge and teaching strategies, we ensure that you will be equipped with the right things to help you ace your exams! Enroll in any of our courses today!


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