The pressures of everyday life can leave you feeling like you can’t cope. Revising for your medical exams is a particularly stressful time, says Charlotte Hudson. Here are some tips to manage stress.
Photo by JixarThe symptoms of stress vary, from feelings of anxiousness to outbursts of temper, and during times of increasing pressure or when something is important to you – like passing your exams – you should follow some simple advice to help keep yourself grounded.
Dr Fiona Donnelly is chair of the Doctors’ Support Network (DSN), which is a confidential peer review support forum for doctors with mental health concerns. These concerns include stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, psychoses and eating disorders.1
She says: “Unfortunately medical student exams are only the start of your exam career – once qualified there appears to be a never-ending stream of exams, and it is important to learn techniques to deal with the stress involved.”
Looking after yourself and maintaining a good ‘work/life balance’ is very important.
Below, Dr Donnelly has provided some useful advice on how to handle stress:
- Make sure that you eat properly and have a regular sleep pattern.
- Exercise can be a really good way of switching off from the pressures of revising, and if you don’t normally exercise simply going for a walk is enough.
- Timetabling social outings is also important, and although medical friends are good, they can be stressful as they always seem to know more than you. It may help to try and spend time with non-medical friends socially prior to exams.
- On the subject of socialising, while the odd alcoholic beverage may be relaxing, too much leads to a significant lack of revision the following day – so drink in moderation!
- Students prepare for exams in different ways. For those steady revisers make sure you take on board the above advice and timetable in breaks, food and exercise.
Last minute revisers
“In an ideal world we would all prepare well in advance; however, I have to confess that I am a bit lastminute.com,” says Dr Donnelly. “For those in a similar position, ensure that you have left enough time to prepare; the night before is generally too late.”
Doctors have among the highest rate of mental health problems of any profession, but often feel isolated and unsupported.
Dr Donnelly advises that although caffeine may seem like the answer to all your problems, taken in excess it tends to increase anxiety and reduce productivity, so drink in moderation.
Don’t be late
The day before your exam ensure you know where you are going, how you are going to get there, and when you need to leave the house. Being late is one of the most stressful experiences and is not conducive to a good performance on the day.
If you find that your stress levels are going beyond those of other students, you are using illegal substances or are drinking too much, then contact your local student support service or GP as soon as possible for support.
MPS offers a free confidential counselling service to all members who are suffering from the effects of an adverse outcome or a medicolegal issue, and are experiencing emotional or psychological difficulties as a result. More information can be found on this service here.
1Visit www.dsn.org.uk for more information.