How to cope with the stress of medical school

10th August 2022

Medicine is one full-on, all-consuming roller-coaster of a journey and that’s before you even
start considering the usual stresses which come with starting university – moving away from
home, trying to make new friends, fending for yourself for the first time. Medicine is one of
the longest degree courses out there but it does not need to nor should you let it take over
your life.

After all, medicine is something you are going to be doing every day for a very very long
time, so you may as well take the time to enjoy all the other things which life has to offer as

“Stop competing with others. Start competing with yourself.”

Being accepted into medical school is a feat to be proud of in itself and is a hurdle which
many people fail to jump over. So chances are you were used to being top of most of your
classes throughout school. But at medical school, so was everyone else. Which can come as
a bit of a shock especially to notoriously competitive medical students, when suddenly
you’re no longer the best but instead you are just like everyone else. So turn your
competitive nature on yourself and try not to take too much notice of what everyone else is
doing as this can be a major hindrance for your own progression.

“Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward.”

Medicine can be extremely overwhelming at times especially when you have assignments to
write, exams to revise for, pre-reading to get through, clinical skills to improve and all on top
of 9-5 lectures every day. It can sometimes seem that applying for medical school was the
worst decision you ever made. But if you take a moment to put things into perspective
these moments of stress are just fleeting, and realistically panicking will only make the
situation worse.

“Balance is not something you find, it is something you create.”

Balance may be key, but it is also a very elusive creature to find and even harder to tame.
And so planning is essential. Planning out when you should be studying and also when you
have the time to take a break and enjoy doing your other hobbies.

‘You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.”

This may be something which is hard to accept at first but it is also very true. For every
minute you spend hanging out with your friends, at the gym or whatever, it is more than
likely that someone else will be in the library studying. But this does not necessarily mean
that you are any worse of a student or deserve to be at medical school any less. And so,
realising that breaks are just as essential as studying is key, and prioritising when and in
what order you do things becomes a skill which will be valuable throughout your medical

“You have only one life, make the most of it.”

Whatever you may decide to spend your time doing, make the most of it. Life is going to
continue whether you are stressed out or not. So figure out what things are most important
to you and find a way to make those things work. Sometimes even balance requires an
element of sacrifice