11 Ways to Protect Mental Health of Medical Students during the Pandemic

The life of every medical student right now is far from standard. Because of the pandemic, the daily routine of medical students has been drastically affected. Staying inside a house within the four walls can be really frustrating. Besides taking care of physical health by wearing masks and social distancing, medical students must take care of their mental health too! Being a medical student, coping up with studies amidst all this is a real challenge. So today, I am going to tell you a few ways in which you can take care of your mental health right from your doorsteps.

1. Volunteer

This may sound intimidating to read. As medical students, we do not get a lot of time for such activities. In this pandemic time, volunteering does not only mean getting on the grounds and working. There are also social media campaigns for covid patients, which require you to collect information regarding hospitals, providing free food for quarantined people, and many more. You can just be a part of these campaigns and help them out in any way you can. Serving those in need gives the best form of satisfaction. Just two to three hours per day would be ideal. More than watching news or sharing WhatsApp forwards, this is better.

2. Connect with people

Even before the pandemic, medical students were often held up with their study schedules and assignments by the end of which they almost forget to socialise.

Man is a social animal. He can seek happiness only by socialising with fellow human beings.

But now, it’s not the time to host get-togethers or meet-ups; I get it. We must stay inside to fight against the deadly virus. However, being distanced from our loved ones can be stressful. To manage this, we can connect with people virtually. Talk to your loved ones over the phone or even get on a video call with them. Nothing makes me more enthusiastic than connecting on a group video call with my friends. Isn’t that all we need during these times?

3. Plan your day ahead

For a medical student, it is not easy to manage work and play. Looking at your pending to-do list can be stressful and overwhelming during online classes. Planning the day ahead makes it so easy to get things done. As soon as you wake up, grab a notebook and list down all the things that you need to complete for the day. In fact, I recommend doing it the night before. Roughly calculate the time required to complete each task, and assign timestamps next to it. Prioritise your tasks in order by organising them from most important to least important. It’s okay if you don’t complete one or two things on the list. Don’t be hard on yourself. You can also do this digitally. There are many apps in the market that help in managing your tasks. Some of them include Google keep, Notion, etc. After completing each task, just tick them off. Ticking off is my favourite part as it gives me so much satisfaction. 

4. Set smaller goals

As I mentioned earlier, planning your day and setting goals to make you relieved. However, it will not help you if you are not setting realistic goals. For example, do not set “Complete Carbohydrate Metabolism” as your weekly goal. I am not saying it is not possible, but it is vague. You will start with a lot of pressure. At the start of the week, you will probably spend 5 hours studying straight and then you will experience burnout. So always set smaller and easily achievable goals. Divide Carbohydrate metabolism into subtopics and then further divide these subtopics in the days of the week. The ability to achieve what you desired will keep you happy everyday.

Smaller goals = Faster achievements = Mental satisfaction. Makes sense, now?

5. Take breaks

Be it a study session or work session, it will be overwhelming if you do it continuously for hours. Breaks are the gems that make your work effective. Don’t think of breaks as a waste of time. Instead, breaks will prevent mundaneness. So it is always good to take a 10-15 mins break during work. During this break time, you can do some relaxation like listening to pleasant music or going for a walk. It can be anything that makes you feel happy and refreshed.

6. Stop watching the news

After reading the heading, you may wonder, What?

Should I stop watching the news in these times?

Are you kidding?

But yes, you read that right.

The news channels keep posting flash news regarding the number of cases and deaths that make us freak out. I agree it helps to stay updated, but it is not worth it if it affects your mental health. A friend of mine watches the news for one hour and worry about it for three hours.

My reply to such people would be – Please do not watch the news.

For the next time, if you need to know about anything, contact me. I will give you the updates. The reason is, after watching this news some people just can not keep quiet, they talk about these to their friends or family members making them stressed too. Suffer and increase the sufferings of others!? NO.

Why watch it and then worry. Would not it be better if you do not watch it at all? If you can not avoid it holistically, limit your time to 20-30 minutes max.

7. ME Time

Before the pandemic, our life was literally a running race. All we did those days was to run from home to college and then back home. We had little time to indulge in a routine for ourselves. But now, it’s not the case. During this lockdown, besides all those online lectures, we get a lot of free time, which we spend chilling on Netflix. It is good to watch something you like, but doing it for hours literally drains your mind. All you feel is tired after getting into that rabbit hole. Isn’t it?

Does anyone feel refreshed and enthusiastic after watching Netflix for hours? I bet not.

Instead, spend some ME time with yourself away from all these gadgets. Do some skincare, apply face masks, or just take a hot shower. 

After all, who doesn’t love all this? We just don’t allocate time for it in our busy lives.

8. Eat healthy

Mindful eating is something that we forget most of the time. We medical students are often so busy that we don’t consider eating as a separate action. We often combine it with other activities like studying or surfing over the internet, which is a blunder. I understand you need to prepare for the anatomy assessment tomorrow, but do you think working amidst your dinner is fruitful? Whenever you sit for a meal, be conscious of what you are eating. This will not only prevent overeating but also avoid eating unhealthy junk. Eating loads of junk food out of stress is the common mistake most people commit. Mindful eating helps to circumvent this practice. Another good way to keep yourself sane is making food prep a fun activity at home. Team up with your mom and sibling to prepare new recipes. It will not just help you rejuvenate, but you will also avoid ordering from Zomato.

9. Exercise

EXCERCISE! EXCERCISE! EXCERCISE!

I can’t stress this enough. Who said that regular exercise is good for your physique alone? 

It’s great for your mental health, too. You are already a vibrant medical student who knows about the endorphins released during exercise.

But let me put it in this way, exercising helps us stay fit, right? And if we are fit and healthy, it makes us feel happy and positive. Anything that makes us happy is obviously good for our mental health. Hence proved!

Even if you cannot go out to gyms to work out, do some simple stretches inside your home or on your terrace. The amount of contentment you will get after sweating can’t match anything. Trust me! You will not regret it once you start.

10. Practice journaling

If you are struggling with overthinking or your brain is just popping with so many thoughts, journaling is the one for you. It helps to calm your mind, and at the same instance, organise your thoughts. You can do it at any time of your day. You can write about how your day went. You can also maintain a gratitude journal where you can write about what you are grateful for. It can be about anything. It helps in uplifting your mood to a great extent.

11. Seek Professional help

And last of all, seek help when needed. Most medical schools have professional counsellors or psychiatrists. Researches say that most people who have mental health problems don’t talk about it openly. 

I hear you! We fear that what if we are being judged. But, this can also become a reason to worsen your condition. Surround yourself with at least one person who acknowledges what you feel, who is there to listen. Talk to them, discuss your problems, anything that comes to your mind. Just don’t be hesitant. Your courage to speak might motivate someone else to speak up as well. During the pandemic, a lot of webinars and workshops are being held to cope up with the mental trauma. Indulge yourself in such opportunities.

So which one of these you are going to do today? Remember, your mental health is IMPORTANT. 

Written by – Bhargavi (Instagram)

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