So you got accepted into medical school!! HOORAY! Congrats on this amazing achievement, seriously, be very proud of yourself. You’ve chosen a career path that is extremely rewarding, challenging and teaches you more about people and life than you will probably find in most other careers. I know you have a lot to do before your big first day, and I want to be there to help you through every step of the process. Having gotten through my first year of medical school, there’s a lot of information and things about myself that I’ve learned in these 365 days.

That’s why I’ve written this post, to show you the aspects of my life I wish I gave more attention to, and the aspects that I learned I can dial it down a notch or five. I hope that you enjoy reading this list and that you learn a trick or two from me. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts!

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Prioritize health above everything else

Being a medical student requires a LOT of mental and physical energy. You’re in class from 8 to 5 as well as studying an extra 4 hours plus a day beyond those in class hours. It’s extremely important that you keep your health managed before even trying to open a textbook.

This was the main reason why I wanted to start this blog honestly, was to talk about balancing health while in crazy stressful situations like this. I’ve broken down health into three major categories:

A healthy mind

Maintaining a healthy mindset while in medical school is absolutely crucial. If you are spending most of your time stressing or worrying about the next exam or keeping up with the lecture material then you’re wasting your time on the worry than actually staying calm and getting the work done.

Practicing good mental health is definitely easy as a medical student – the secret is keeping yourself organized and on a schedule (which I’ll go into more detail below). You can maintain a healthy mental status by engaging in meditation in the mornings, taking time for self-care activities, utilizing tools like aromatherapy or music designed to help you relax, spending time with people and animals that bring you happiness and joy, and most importantly spending time in nature!

I’m blessed as a medical student in the Caribbean because if I ever need to unplug and get away my mini vacation is literally a 10 minute walk from my house. However if you’re back in the states you can always take advantage of the beautiful greenery or bodies of water near where you live. Make life an adventure worth living!

A healthy body

Setting time aside to get your sweat game on is a great way to keep your mindset cool while in medical school, but there are also major physical benefits that working out can help you achieve.

In the beginning of your medical school career you will be spending most of your time with your butt in a chair hunched over your notes. My anatomy professor lovingly referred to this scenario as the “Butt in Chair Syndrome” or the “Cheeto Syndrome” (patients present with a hunchback posture, orange stained fingertips, glassy eyes and a foggy disposition… because you’re constantly snacking while studying too, get it?). This posture is so horrible for our bodies that media is dubbing it “The New Smoking”. Other physicians like this one discuss the need for regular integration of exercise during the working day to avoid the risk of obesity, cardiovascular morbidity, and so many more ailments that come from living a sedentary lifestyle (seriously check out that link, it’s a short read but funny!).

So what does this look like for medical students? Getting regular exercise while in a classroom or lecture setting is a bit more difficult, but in my school we get ten minute breaks every hour. I use this as an opportunity to do some yoga stretches, run a few flights of stairs, anything to get my blood moving so that I can stay awake during lectures and even be productive during them too.

A healthy spirit

Maintaining your own sense of faith is, surprisingly to some people, absolutely necessary while in medical school – and even beyond your school days. I’m not going to tell you what to believe in, that would be unethical of me. Rather, I encourage you to continue practicing your faith if you’ve already developed your own before coming to school. If you haven’t, I encourage you to start by just having a sense of wonder, a simple curiosity about how and why the world works the way it does.

For some people their spirituality can reflect laws of science, following the rules of evolution. I know students here at my school that practice a spectrum of religions and belief systems, some they grew up with and some they’ve built for themselves over time. Students will incorporate time to research and practice their faith into their regular weekly schedule – so it is important to have that time set aside to help you remember exactly why you are in the place you are today.

Don’t reinvent the wheel, work with what is already here

If you believe you’re going to come into medical school and have time to make flashcards every day and create a Quizlet profile for each and every lecture… you couldn’t be more wrong. I tried that my first semester and it backfired on me big time. Utilize the resources given to you by other students, and pay attention to what the professors are using. If they follow a specific review book in their lectures then you should follow that specific review book as well.

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Get to know the upperclassmen and ask them for suggestions or resources to help you succeed in your classes. You can also check out my Resources Page here where I include free downloads, Youtube Channels, free question banks and more that will ensure your success at your first try.

Schedule, schedule, SCHEDULE.

You’re going to get overwhelmed, you’re going to feel like there’s 50 bagillion items on your to do list for a single day, these things happen! Invest in a planner that brings you joy and worship that thing like the little green men worship The Claw in Toy Story.

Because I enjoy having a daily planner that is customized to my liking and my day, I created my own daily planner sheet that allows me to keep track of my day in a simple day to day function with boxes for to do’s ranked off of priority, meal planning, and a reflection for the day. You can download this printable here!

If you’re looking for an entire planner that keeps you on track, helps you focus on your dreams and making them a reality, and is super cute then I highly recommend checking out the Deluxe Law of Attraction Life Planner. It comes already packaged with a dream board, monthly reflections, weekly views and incorporates the healthy lifestyle I’m a huge fan of balancing the mind, body, and spirit. I love this planner because it feels like the outward reflection of who I am and where I want to be going in life. My only reservation with the planner is that I’d like to be able to move around pages, add pages and have more space to get detailed about my plans or even journal a little bit if I’m in the mood. So if this were in a printable format that would allow me to insert the pages into a cute binder then it would be absolutely perfect!

Utilize the power of Self-Care Sundays, and NO STUDYING

That’s right, I said it. You need at least one day per week (a full 24 hours) in which you don’t open a single textbook, look at a note set or lecture slide… nothing! This was mentioned briefly in the healthy mental status section above, so you know it’s important.

Self-Care Sundays are the days of the week I sometimes LIVE for, especially if I’m going through a Hell Week of four exams, two quizzes and a presentation (yes, this actually happened). I need that full day to do absolutely nothing if I want, pamper myself with a spa day if I want, or clean up the house and prep for the week if I want. Did you notice a pattern there? You got it! The words “if I want”. Self-Care Sundays are all about following what makes me happiest in the moment, it’s like intuitive eating but for the entire day… so intuitive living?

A typical Self-Care Sunday for me involves sleeping in and waking up without an alarm, I get up and I make my traditional biscuits and gravy breakfast that I share with friends and anyone that stops by. We all enjoy our meal, chat about the previous week and the upcoming one. If I’m not in the mood to cook we’ll go out for breakfast. Then I’ll clean the floors and do the scrubbing kind of cleaning and meal prep you can’t do during the week because you don’t even have time to breathe and after that I do as I please. I might choose to binge watch Netflix shows, or lounge by the ocean, or I’ll Skype with friends and family back home. That’s the beauty and importance of Self-Care Sundays, it’s the day when you get to hit reset and take some well earned time for Y-O-U.

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Share your thoughts

Are you an incoming medical student, or are you already in the grind? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below! If you’re new, what questions do you have beyond this list? If you’re a veteran, what are other tips and tricks you might have for incoming students? I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Like the read? If you did, please share this post to Pinterest!

After making it through my first year of medical school, I've reflected and created a list of the things I wish I understood before starting my medical school journey. Learn from my mistakes and pick up a FREE daily planner template!

Kate Maplethorpe

Kate Maplethorpe

Kate is an empathic healer and free spirit currently studying medicine in the British West Indies. She enjoys spending her free time reading tarot for friends and sipping rum punches on beautiful white sand beaches.
Kate Maplethorpe

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