Recently a user on Reddit asked me if I had any day-to-day advice for success and happiness in medical school. Novel question no doubt, I thought about for a second and realized – hell yeah I do.
When I give advice to medical students on my blog, I’m usually thinking of the big concepts:
- How To Study in Medical School: A Comprehensive Guide To Success
- 5 Essential Medical School Study Resources that Every Student Needs
- Do’s and Dont’s of Medical School
This is all good stuff, if I may say so myself. However, I often find myself thinking, damn, this is a good piece of advice I can give to my readers, but it’s not important enough to write an entire post on. So, I’ve decided to do something different. From this day forward, I will be Tweeting a daily small tip with the hashtag #dailydose to help you improve your day-to-day life in medical school. In this post, I’ll preview a few of those tips. If you find them helpful, follow me on Twitter for more: @JordanSoze
5 Tips to Improve Day-to-Day Life In Medical School
The Chemical Alarm Clock
Like anyone, the snooze button is both my best friend and my arch nemesis. I’m prone to staying up late doing something entirely useless (like researching spiders), so in the past, I’d often find myself pressing snooze until I had 15 minutes to get out of bed, rinse off in the shower, speed to class, only to the “that guy” who waltzes in five minutes after the lecture started causing everyone to turn and look in disapproval.
So, say you have an 8 a.m. exam and you want to wake up at 6 to get a couple hours of cramming in. Make yourself some coffee, brew some tea, or buy a Red Bull if that’s your thing. Put your caffeinated beverage of choice on your nightstand next to your bed before falling asleep. Set your first alarm for 30 minutes before you plan to wake up (so if you want to get up at 6, set it for 5:30). When that first alarm goes off, reach to your nightstand and grab your power drink of choice, chug it, and fall back asleep.
While you’re cozily dreaming of your crush, the caffeine you’ve just ingested is working its magic to block adenosine (sleep hormone) in the brain. When that second alarm goes off at 6, you’ll spring up out of bed ready to conquer your day, instead of thinking of all the heinous things you’d do to sleep in a little longer. Major “life hack”.
Avoid the Big Lunch
You are what you eat. This may seem trivial, but it’s important. You need to ditch the mindset that a filling lunch is necessary. When you eat large quantities of food, your body is using a lot of its energy to break down whatever you’ve just ingested. After eating a big lunch, your brain will be slower and foggier, leading to an afternoon crash.
As medical students, its important that we keep our brains sharp at all times, and slowing yourself down in peak study time is something you need to avoid. Eat a big filling breakfast, smash on a decadent dinner, whatever – just don’t eat a big lunch, and whatever you eat, make it clean.
Sure, sometimes I get hungry and I’m really craving a big burrito, and that’s fine once in a while, but I notice that it undoubtedly slows me down for an hour. Instead, eat a salad. Eat some fruit. Make a smoothie. A small chicken breast with some broccoli. Whatever you choose, avoid processed foods, salty snacks, sugar, and massive carbs. You’ll get more out of your day.
Ninja for Breakfast Smoothies
Aside from my new guitar, my Ninja Blender was the best purchase I’ve made in medical school. No matter how hard I try, I’m just not the type of guy to wake up super early and prepare a big breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, with fruit garnishes for aesthetic purposes. Before my Ninja, I’d either be surviving on an apple or I’d be going hungry all day.
You don’t need one of the big Ninjas, just get the smaller one that comes with cups that you can blend your smoothie in and immediately drink out of (anything to save me from doing more dishes). Takes two minutes to make a quick breakfast smoothie, which is perfect for when you’re on the go. Buy some frozen fruit, maybe some vanilla Greek yogurt, add some milk, peanut butter, quaker oats, and a scoop of protein. Two simple minutes and you’ve got a nutritious, tasty breakfast that will give you energy to make the most of your day. Here’s a link to buy the Ninja blender on Amazon: Ninja
“Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it, just let it happen”. Timeless wisdom from Agent Dale Cooper of Twin Peaks. As medical students, we are taught to be masochistic, ignoring our personal interests and friends, staying in on weekends to study instead of hitting the bars, as well as constantly agonizing about Step 1, finding a specialty we can tolerate, and making ourselves competitive to match. Every day we tell ourselves – no, no, no. So when you have an urge or a craving, tell yourself yes once in a while.
Medical school shouldn’t be a horrible time in your life. Sure, some days you’ll need to study all day, which is why it’s important to give yourself a gift once a day. That gift can be anything you choose. If you need an afternoon pick-me-up and you’re tired of your Maxwell House brew at home, grab a latte from your local coffee shop. If you’re sick of studying, watch an episode of your favorite show. Tired after a long of mandatory activities – take a quick nap on your couch.
I don’t mean to take a study break by spending $200 shopping online. Keep it simple and cheap. You work hard. Do one small thing every day that makes you happy.
Couch time is an essential tradition in my medical school career. Couch time keeps me sane. Couch time keeps me going. Couch time is love. Couch time is life.
What is couch time? Couch time is the foundation of zen and tranquility for a medical student. If you had mandatory labs from 8 to noon and you didn’t sleep well – couch time. If you’ve been studying and staring at a computer for 6 straight hours and words are no longer making sense to you – couch time.
Thirty minutes. No more, no less. Grab your phone, set an alarm for 30 minutes. Set your phone aside and out of reach. Cozy up on your couch with your softest blanket. Close your eyes. And do not think about school. Think about anything but school. Actually, try not to think at all. If you fall asleep for the entire 30 minutes, great. If you don’t fall asleep at all, that’s fine too. Whatever you do, just keep those eyes closed. And do not think about school.
I used to think that if I didn’t actually fall asleep and nap, it was a waste of time, which is nonsense. When you’re tired and you’ve hit that wall in your studying, simply closing your eyes, relaxing your brain, and not thinking about school for a half hour can be even more effective in improving your focus than coffee. When you’ve hit that wall, forcing yourself to push through and study will simply make you miserable, and you won’t retain much. Embrace Couch Time.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. This is a more fleshed out preview of the type of things I will be Tweeting, so follow my Twitter (@JordanSoze) for the latest.
Always remember to take care of yourself in medical school, physically & mentally.
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