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How to Balance Medical School with Hobbies

By Annie Nguyen, @sliceofannie

At my medical school orientation, I was told that I need to put medical school and my studies first so that I can graduate as a great physician. To be fair, balancing the medical school course load on its own is already extremely challenging. Exams cover 10x the material you learned in undergrad, and you need to be diligent about studying in order to pass and provide patients with optimal care.

But, your overall well-being is equally as important. Is studying 24/7 worth the risk of getting burnt out and harming your mental health? We can't be great physicians if we're pouring from an empty cup! This is where balance is key.

The #1 tip I tell pre-medical and fellow medical students is to make time for your hobbies and non-medical passions in order to keep yourself sane.

For example, I am currently a 2nd-year osteopathic medical student who has probably too many interests outside of medicine haha. The hobbies I prioritize are: funneling my passion for nutrition + wellness + educating into my Insta food blog @sliceofannie, practicing art by screenprinting t-shirts for my small Etsy business @saguaroinkco, and making time to run, practice yoga, travel (although this has greatly decreased during the pandemic) and catch up with friends when I want to decompress.

Here are 5 tips on how to balance medical school with hobbies or a job:

1. Try to incorporate time for at least one hobby per day for balance. It's not realistic to do all of these activities every week due to changing workloads, so you can try rotating the hobbies or do whatever you feel you need that day! Be flexible, but diligent in putting yourself first.

2. Maintain organization by writing in a planner or a calendar. This way you can see all of the necessary school tasks you have each day, then plan in time for hobbies to give yourself breaks.

3. Set boundaries for yourself! Examples are:

  • I will study or work until [insert time] then take a break for the rest of the day

  • Prioritize adequate sleep by trying to stick to a regular sleep schedule

  • Say "No" to anything that will not serve you positively or fit your priorities

  • Limit your time on social media if you feel it's draining you or affecting your school performance

4. Find friends who enjoy one of your hobbies so you both can help each other balance everything!

5. Remember that your health, which includes physical, mental, and spiritual, comes first!!

To touch on working while in medical school, I'm not going to lie it's very difficult, and I commend anyone who can do so. Running my small business works for me because I established its foundation before medical school and it doesn't require work each week. I've heard of a couple of people working side jobs during the first two didactic years, but I would be cautious overcommitting yourself to anything more than a part-time job because you need the energy to study for boards.

Working during your 3rd and 4th year would be even more challenging due to different rotation schedules and more studying. This is why most medical students live off of loans and accrue over >$100,000 in debt by the time they graduate!

Overall, I think I've hit home enough that balancing studying with your personal interests is crucial to maintain your happiness and prevent burning out. I hope these tips help you!

Take care of yourself,

Annie @sliceofannie xx

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