Stress. We all experience it from time-to-time. But for medical students, the everyday demands of their rigorous schedule can push them—and their stress levels—to the maximum.

This month, Xavier University School of Medicine (XUSOM) Aruba discusses the importance of managing stress during medical school and also offers helpful tips to keep students focused, happy, and mindful.

Finding common ground

If you are planning on a career as a doctor, there’s no denying that medical school can be stressful. So, the first thing to keep in mind is that you’re not alone. In fact, when asked, most medical students revealed that they shared similar stresses with their peers. The reality is that medical school is a game changing experience where—for the most part—students engage on a level playing field.

Here are some common sources of stress experienced by medical students:

  • Facing the reality of not ranking at the top of class (as accustomed)
  • Pressure to perform in clinical rotations
  • Faster-paced curriculum (which requires increased comprehension)
  • Financial concerns over student loan debt
  • Lack of sleep from studying
  • Relationship pressures from family, friends, and significant others
  • Limited social life and downtime
  • Preparing for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE)
  • Choosing an area of specialty
  • Landing a residency

Recognizing the signs of when to get help

Even the brightest and best medical students can feel overwhelmed and experience increased anxiety and depression. This type of stress may not only wreak havoc on your studies but have a serious impact on your mental health. As part of XUSOM’s dedication to its students’ success and well-being, the university offers counseling services for those who are feeling depressed, overwhelmed, or just need someone to talk to.

Here are some signs to be aware of that you may be working beyond your limit:

  • Feeling anxious, depressed or experiencing panic attacks
  • Binge-eating unhealthy foods and binge-watching television shows
  • Feeling isolated or alone
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Trouble sleeping or experiencing insomnia

Creating a healthy mindset

Believing in yourself is the first step to creating a healthy mindset. Medical students are intelligent, high-achieving individuals. After all, you’re in medical school!

The good news is that there are fun, easy, and healthy ways to manage the stress of medical school. It all begins with creating a healthy school/life balance. By developing good coping and stress management skills, you’ll be prepared for success by maintaining your focus with a calm and healthy mindset.

Here are some helpful tips to keep you in a healthy and happy state of mind:

  • Seek the help of Xavier’s free, confidential counseling services which are available 24/7 to all students. Whether you’ve had a rough day or are experiencing high levels of stress, on-campus counselors are available to help.
  • Set aside some “me” time and do those things that bring you joy and calm.
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises for ultimate mindfulness.
  • Try cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) with a licensed therapist to replace unhealthy, negative thinking with positive, healthy thoughts.
  • Make a meal date with someone outside of medicine to reconnect with in the outside world. For example, have a meal over Zoom with a friend or family member from back home.
  • Maintain good nutrition by eating healthy and limiting caffeine. Meal prepping is a great way to ensure you’ll always have nutritious food on hand.
  • Schedule sleep. The figurative phrase of “burning the midnight oil” becomes an all-too literal example when students truly burn themselves out. Developing a pattern of getting good, consistent sleep is a must for strong concentration, focus, and retention.
  • Maintain a strong support system and cultivate meaningful relationships.
  • Join a student organization or study group.
  • Engage in volunteer work outside of medical school.
  • Exercise or play tennis or volleyball with some friends to clear your head so you can return to your schoolwork with a fresh perspective and clear mindset.
  • Listen to a podcast about something unrelated to school.


The power of healthy stress

This may sound counterintuitive, but there is such a thing as “healthy stress.” Medical experts agree that a small degree of healthy stress is necessary and can benefit medical students by preparing them for making high-stakes decisions in emergency situations. Here are some other examples of how healthy stress can be a good thing for medical students:

  • They remain engaged at an optimum level.
  • Their attention skills are sharpened.
  • They perform their best on exams and in the clinic.
  • It nurtures their desire to be their best selves.

Are you feeling the stress of medical school? We hope our blog inspired you to try some of the helpful tips to keep you relaxed and focused. Pursuing a medical degree at XUSOM can turn your passion into a reality. Apply today.