I think it is somewhat of an understatement to say that with medical school comes a certain amount of stress. We had our second anatomy practical last Friday and our fourth block exam this Monday. I basically lived at the school that weekend. My stress level was–to put it lightly–significant. I think Tina Fey said it best (in her great American novel, Bossypants): “I was a little excited but mostly blorft. “Blorft” is an adjective I just made up that means ‘Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.’ I have been blorft every day for the past seven years.”
Honestly, I don’t even expect you all to feel sorry for me. I asked for this. I was the one who decided to go to medical school, after all 🙂 But it did make me want to write a blog post about how to deal with stress.
The advice I was given the most often at the beginning of school was, “Make time for the things that you love.” And I will pass on that advice to the first years next year because believe me, I wouldn’t be sane right now if I hadn’t taken it to heart. I love science. Spending all day learning about medicine is–and I am not even being sarcastic–fulfilling and exciting. But there are times that if I have to spend any more time reading about biochemistry, or memorizing lists of antiviral drugs, my head would just explode.
I’ve got televisions shows that I keep up with. I play ultimate frisbee twice a week. I hang out with friends and talk with my family as much as possible. I take frequent study breaks and make sure to get lots of sleep. But guys, I have this deep, dark secret. This one hobby that gets me through the hard times. Are you ready?
Ok, so its not all that intriguing. But it is true none-the-less. I loved to cook and bake before, but something about coming to medical school has made the simple act of creating food particularly cathartic to me. Even when I am really busy, I go out of my way to make my own dinner rather than just eating out. I’ve started baking my own bread; even just the smell of it calms me down. After the first block I came home and made a whole batch of cinnamon rolls from scratch. And I can’t tell you how many dozens of cookies I’ve baked since school began.
Yes, I suppose that I could have taken the time I was baking (or watching TV or playing Ultimate Frisbee or whatever) and studied instead. I might have better grades right now if I did. But I think I can safely say I would also be miserable. I would be burnt out on school, and probably seriously neglecting my personal relationships. As a second year friend of mine once told me, “If I get higher than a 95 on a section of a block, then I either neglected another subject, or my husband and I have a problem I don’t know about yet.”
I’m already struggling to keep up with friends and family. And many days I mess up the balance of work and play–I study until the words stop making sense, or I conveniently ‘forget’ to study and end up cramming later. But overall, I think I’m doing alright. My grades are fine, I still have friends and I talk to my family regularly, and–most importantly–I haven’t cracked under the pressure.
Everybody has something they do to relieve stress and keep sane. Some people run marathons; others do some form of art. I happen to bake. What’s yours?