Sunday, 13 March 2016


One thing that medics seem to be very good at doing is balancing work and downtime. Studying and clinical placement are obviously important, but so is socialising and relaxing - otherwise I think we'd go mad.

When I was in my first couple of years at medical school I would work almost constantly, with no breaks, and learn far more than I needed to to pass my exams. Over the last couple of years I have learnt how to have more of a balance - and have realised how important that is for my mental health.

I will admit that I do work hard and still like to learn as much as possible, but I know that there are limits and I'm never going to know everything. More recently I have begun to understand what is most important to learn, clinically and for exams, and what I could skim over a little bit more. I used to go into so much depth about the pathophysiology of diseases and which enzymes or genes were involved, but would never actually use that knowledge. I mean, who cares about the gene HLA-DRB1 when I could be learning the treatment for rheumatoid arthritis? Certainly not anyone at medical student level.

I think this has stemmed from GCSE and A-level, where I could literally memorise all of the facts for exams as there was only one book for each subject to learn.

So now I divide my time between studying and relaxing. Today I spent some time studying neurology, and the rest of it sleeping or watching Netflix (or eating Veggie Percy Pigs). I am so much more productive when I reward myself for studying and let myself have a break, and find that it's really important for my mental health.

I guess what I'm trying to get across is, whether you're a medical student or not, it's essential that you give yourself time to do the things you enjoy. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the medic culture of working really hard and comparing yourself to how much others are studying, but that's just not healthy or sustainable.

As with everything else in life, it should be balanced. And after all, you're never going to look back and be happy about spending your life studying constantly - you want good memories of socialising with friends, or even just watching a film by yourself (okay, possibly with Percy Pig). Your health is more important than your degree or job, and that includes your mental health. That's what I've come to realise over the last couple of years, anyway :)
Do what you love, love what you do.

1 comment:

  1. This was a great post and definitely something I can relate to. At school it was definitely possible to learn every single fact on a syllabus... at medical school we're lucky if we've even got a syllabus! Balance has been critical to staying sane(ish) over the past five years, especially around revision time. I could definitely have fitted in more hours of work, but I don't know that it would have done me any good. I don't regret taking time out to watch tv, go out for meals or just go to bed early. It's kept me happy and still enabled me to pass my exams :)
    Jennifer x
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