Finding Inner Peace During a Time of Turmoil
Published on Apr 17, 2020. Updated on Mar 17, 2023.
Today on the Osmosis blog, Osmosis Medical Education Fellow (and former social media intern!) Chinweoke Osigwe provides tips on how to deal with high-stress situations, whether that’s studying for the boards, or just trying to keep it real during quarantine.
Whether you’re trying to deal with the stress of studying for USMLE® Step 1 or the stress of finding toilet paper, having peace of mind is key. When I was in college as a budding pre-med student, I was obsessed with crafting the perfect application; I completely neglected my physical mental health, to the point I finished college completely burned out. Before I started medical school I vowed to myself that I would not neglect my health the way I did during undergrad.
I won’t lie: it hasn’t been easy. During the first semester I saw old habits creeping up. I wasn’t eating properly, I wasn’t getting enough sleep, and I would continuously marathon study without any breaks. I quickly again realized that this simply wasn’t sustainable, and I started to—and still am—make more subtle changes in my life to incorporate self-care into my routine.
Here are a couple of tips on how to achieve that!
1. TAKE A BREAK!Whether you want to study for 25 minutes and rest for 5, or study for 50 minutes and rest for 10, try to feel refreshed and recharged during each study session. The old “studying in medical school is a marathon not a sprint” cliché is a cliché for a reason: it’s actually much better for retention, not to mention your sanity.
2. Develop a routine
When establishing a routine, it’s good practice to set a start and end time for your daily activities. I am naturally a night owl, but after starting medical school, I quickly realized that it isn't feasible to go to bed at 1 or 2 AM and expected to wake up at 6 or 7 AM ready to seize the day.
When you don’t get enough rest, it interferes with your productivity. I know better than anyone that it’s difficult to resist the urge to stay up late, but it really is better to try to shift your sleep cycle so you go to bed and wake up earlier.
Having an established “stop” time is especially important while studying for Step 1. Even though it can be easy to fall into the trap of studying all day long, at some point you start to be unproductive. When you get to that point, you should call it a day.
3. Schedule some “Me Time”
To fully recharge for the week, it is good to take at least one day (or at least a half day) off so you can take care of yourself. During your rest day, you can do whatever makes you relax (as it does not involve you studying all day or creating stockpiles for the pandemic version of Armageddon).
For example, during one of my days off, I went to Dollar Tree and Target and purchased everything I needed to have an affordable spa day at home. Other activities that day included an at-home cycling workout and catching up on 90 Day Fiancé. Whatever you do during your break day, make sure it makes you feel refreshed and recharged.
4. Turn off the social media
When trying to find inner peace, you should try your best to stay away from things that distract you from that goal. When I started studying for Step 1, I deleted all my social media apps from my phone and started to notice that I was checking social media a lot less. This has allowed me to connect with my friends and family on a more meaningful level, and it’s also meant that I’m less preoccupied with what other people are doing and stressing about what I am not doing.
Taking some time to disconnect gives you more time to focus on yourself and learn how to not always compare yourself to others.
5. Stay goal-oriented
A wise person once told me that the best way to achieve any difficult feat is to stay goal-oriented. That means if your goal is to finish your UWorld questions set 2 weeks before you take Step 1, you need to make sure you complete the amount of questions that you want to get done before then, and track. If your goal is to run a 5K, you need to make sure you have the proper training plan to make sure you finish that 5K strong.
With any goal whether it is career- or life-oriented, you need to make a plan. You also need to learn how to adapt the plan when unexpected circumstances happen (e.g. the gym or library closing for a month due to a pandemic). When you are able to accomplish what you want in the day it will naturally decrease your stress.
Chinweoke “Chinwe” Osigwe is a second year medical student at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Originally from Austin, TX, she is interested in a career in either Emergency Medicine or Anesthesiology. During her study breaks, Chinwe loves watching trashy reality TV, shopping, yoga, and going to spin class.Try Osmosis today! Access your free trial and find out why millions of clinicians and caregivers love learning with us.