Maintaining a Work-Life Balance as a Medical Student

The journey through medical school is incredibly difficult. The overwhelming workload put on highly-driven students often forces them to pursue academic endeavors at the expense of their personal lives. Ironically, students that are able to attain a solid balance between the two are more likely to attain academic success.

Many academic programs recognize this, and are encouraging students to form social groups outside of academic pursuits. These groups focus on common interests like literature, movies, or some form of group exercise. Make sure to encourage any medical students you may work with to follow some of the tips below!

Tips for success:

  1. Manage your time
    • Make a weekly to-do list
    • Prioritize your work
    • Break larger tasks into their smaller ones
    • Set goals and deadlines for projects
    • Honestly assess the amount of time you waste
  2. Beware of stress signals
    • Anxiety
    • Panic attacks
    • Feelings of being pressured, hassled, and hurried
    • Irritability or moodiness
    • Physical symptoms such as stomach problems, headaches, or even chest pain
    • Allergic reactions, such as eczema or asthma
    • Problems sleeping
    • Drinking too much, smoking, overeating, or using drugs
    • Sadness or depression
  3. Set goals that are attainable and realistic
    • Set standards that are high but achievable
    • Enjoy the process, not just the outcome
    • Monitor your positive and negative thoughts
    • View mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning
    • React positively to constructive feedback
  4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle - this helps alleviate stress and increase well-being.
    • Exercise and sleep regularly
    • Eat healthfully
    • Make time for yourself
    • Enjoy and spend time with friends and family

Andrea Tooley, a resident in ophthalmology, shares her stories throughout her journey from undergraduate through residency. Watch this video to see how she and many other students are making it work!