To Stress or not to Stress…

By-Madhav Bansal

3rd Year MBBS, Institute of Medical Sciences & Sum Hospital, Bhubaneswar

19 dreaded subjects, 5.5 years of journey, frantic clinical postings, and encountering death up close are enough caveats to reflect how stressful MBBS is as a degree. From the freshly minted enthu cutlets of first year to the swivel-eyed and overwrought interns, the shift happens in no time! As a third year med student I am a part of this transition and I must say that the experience has been nothing short of a tumultuous ride.

You’re probably asking why I’m stating the obvious. Aren’t we all aware of the stressors that come with this terrifying yet exhilarating journey?

We’ve all heard the phrase “Get out of your comfort zone,” and it’s led us to believe that taking the difficult path is the way to go. It is said that not all anxiety is bad anxiety, which is somewhat true, but how can one tell when the ‘good’ anxiety is knocking at their door? After all, aren’t quotes and sayings too generic?

Medical schools have a continual pressure environment, resulting in a rigid system that emphasises competitiveness over camaraderie among students.  Stress may be constructive and aid progress; but, if it is dejecting rather than encouraging, failing to respond appropriately to problems can have serious physical, social and emotional repercussions.

We kind of set too many objectives from the start in this rat race that we’re all in, indulging in cutthroat competition. Trying to balance academic achievement, research papers, medical fests, clinical postings, and keeping a check on one’s hobbies (which is seldom the case), it’s all too utopian to get everything perfect. We don’t realise that the tasks listed above are no longer ‘learning experiences’ that must be enjoyed while being performed, but rather something to check off the ‘Ideal Med student List.’

There will almost likely be individuals in your class who are more adept at dealing with the changing course than you. If you’re having trouble coping with medical school stress and find yourself squirming and writhing through, remember you’re not alone.

There is no one stressor event characteristic that causes stress. Personal coping strategies and social assistance are also important.

Many students go from a comfortable home environment with a large number of friends and familiar circumstances to distant place and unfamiliar social settings. Many students will take some time to form connections and create their familiar social networks. A natural sensation of homesickness might creep in for those who struggle with this or take longer to form social groups. Feeling homesick is natural and will subside over time. If the pressure doesn’t go away, students may grow increasingly concerned about their surroundings and how it isn’t what they desire.

A ‘short fuse’ is one of the unfaltering revalatory indications of stress among medical students. Students who are under a lot of stress for a long period typically feel that they are running out of energy and mental space, and they have trouble controlling their emotions.

In a medical student’s life It’s kind of ‘prudent’ to compensate for hectic timelines by skipping sleep, but this usually only makes anxiety worse. A poor sleep pattern can result in greater physical and mental health problems, as well as increased stress.

Discuss your issues with friends, seniors, and your parents. Even if they haven’t gone through medical school stress, chances are they’ve gone through something comparable. An outside view point can frequently provide a whole new perspective.

While staying up late is a part of campus life, it’s critical to prioritise your health. It’s not worth the risk of being unwell from exertion and fatigue. Always prioritise your physical and mental wellbeing, so don’t be afraid to take a break or seek help if necessary.

Finding a mentor is one of the most effective stress management techniques. A competent and credible mentor can make one ready to face potential stumbling blocks.

Journaling- When your surroundings feels chaotic, keeping a journal can help you bring in clarity. By expressing your insecurities, emotions, and experiences, you learn more about yourself. Journaling is a  chance for you to blow off steam. If writing isn’t your thing, make a video journal folder.

Decluttering- As we’re often told to make space in our life for what matters, similarly our surroundings should be breathable too. Decluttering is a form of self-care. Spending a few minutes to organise your desk before you get down to studying can go a long way. It is rightly said “You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterdays junk”

Finding your ‘Spot’- Medical colleges usually have sprawling campuses. Finding a spot that makes you connect to yourself the best can be helpful.

Revamp that playlist- With countless soulful playlists accessible on Spotify, it can be useful to experiment with other musical genres on occasion. Combine this with a nature stroll and Voila!

Podcasts- Wise words do show the path ahead… From Spirituality to Mindfullness and Slam Poetry, you’d find your groove if you start exploring. Guided Meditation Apps can help you get started with focus building.

Keep that phone away! – Ever heard about stress-scrolling? It’s actually a thing. We don’t realise when we over indulge on social media and let it consume us.

For pet lovers- Every campus has a litter of pups or kittens that the watchman bhaiya feeds. If you’re someone who enjoys feeding the strays , this can really help you forget your worries for a little while.

Joining support groups (online or offline) can help one meet like-minded people and make one a part of a safe space. Such Therapeutic communities can go a long way in making one cope with stress.

So my fellow Medico friend, I know it’s not easy. There will be times you’d question yourself as to why you chose this field. On some days you’d even envy your non-medico friends for having it easy. But I’m sure there will be days too wherein you’d be tremendously pleased with yourself, for being closer to your childhood ambition of becoming a doctor and it is your duty to remind yourself of this great feeling on the unfortunate days. Remember, You are your best friend, teacher and fire-brigade! Try not to block outlets of stress. Do whatever it takes to fight what’s stressing you and don’t be afraid of what people may think, they aren’t the ones trying to make it through medical school.

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