Stress Spiral

I never thought I would be that girl.  You know, the one that worries about getting enough points in a class to pass.  But this last semester, I found myself going into finals with a C–the horror!–in one of my classes.  I wasn’t failing, but the final exam counted for so many points that I started to get concerned.  Last semester I went into finals worried that my grades would drop, but unconcerned about failing–the finals didn’t count for more than 10% of my grade, so I only needed a handful of points in each class to pass.  This semester was a little different, and because the finals counted for so much more, they were much more stressful.

In the case of my low grade, that particular class had very few points offered, which meant the final exam counted a great deal towards my final grade.  A few days before the final, I counted up how many points I needed in order to pass and I panicked.  It seemed like I needed so many points that I would surely fail.  I was under so much stress that I spiraled until I was sure that not only would I fail this class, but that I would be made to repeat my first year of medical school.


I will ruin the surprise right now and tell you that didn’t happen.  In fact, looking back I feel incredibly foolish for freaking out as much as I did.  At one point I was crying in the study room while my perplexed boyfriend–bless his heart–tried his best to remind me that I am intelligent, I knew the material, and wasn’t going to fail.  As much as I fretted and panicked, I ended up with good grades.  I got a high C in the class I was worried about, but otherwise got B’s.  Its embarrassing the amount of stress I gave myself over an outcome that didn’t come close to occurring.

It was a terrible week, imagining the worst about something that didn’t even happen.  I am usually fairly calm, and am proud to say that other than this particular week, I do a really good job of keeping my stress to a minimal.  However, that week I lost it.  I don’t know how, but I went from having a normal healthy amount of anxiety, to panicking about having to repeat my first year of medical school (an outcome that would have required me to actively try fail).


I was not doing badly enough that failing should have been such a worry to me, but I lost myself in irrational “what if’s”.  Its hard to successfully manage stress when you are barely sleeping, studying 16 hours a day, and can’t maintain your normal schedule.    And after a long semester of stress slowly building up, I was met with a final week of trying to relearn all that material. I guess I should have seen my minor freak out coming!

We get bombarded with information, day in and day out.  We are tested constantly.  The hardest thing about medical school isn’t necessarily the complexity of the information, it is the shear volume of it.  With only a few days to reacquaint myself with the information before the final, I began to feel as though I would never get through it all.  This only added to my anxiety as I shut myself in the library and overwhelmed myself with information from past exams.


But after all that worry and heartache, my grades were fine.  I spent so much time last week in a panic, and it was absolutely not worth it.  I work hard, and in general, I get great grades.  This semester, I got a C.  The world didn’t end.  I’m still going to be an amazing doctor.  I’m never going to stop trying my best, but never again am I going to let my stress level spiral out of control like that.

I’ve been home on break for a week now, and I’ve done nothing but read novels and re-watch episodes of Parks and Recreation.  It has been glorious.  I really didn’t realize how stressed I was until I had the time to just do nothing.  I know that I can’t have this kind of freedom during the school year, but hopefully I will be able to hold on to some of the perspective.  I don’t want to be one of those people is miserable in medical school because I put too much pressure on myself.  I’ve got a few weeks of summer to recover from the stress of my first year of medical school–hopefully that is enough time to refuel before starting the next semester.  But in the mean time I will just relax and bask in the satisfaction of being 1/4 a doctor!


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