With boards coming up quick, and extra time in your schedule dedicated to studying, how are you making time for yourself? This is your reminder to treat yourself as your primary patient in the time leading up to your exam. Self-care is vital to help you #StudySTRONG and retain information for easier recall. Good physical and mental health are essential for the memory process—stronger memory encoding happens when you sleep well, eat well, and exercise!
Plus, when you feel good, you’ll be a better doctor to your patients. Here are 5 ways that you can prioritize and care for yourself before your exam day:
Get Some ZZZ’s
When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain cells communicate differently, which can lead to mental lapses, affecting both perception and memory. Leading up to a big exam, prioritize getting 8 hours of sleep so your brain can effectively learn and remember the information you’re studying.
Everyone knows it’s important to get a good night’s sleep before learning something new. But did you know sleep is just as important (maybe even more so) after learning? That’s because a vital part of learning—consolidation—happens while you sleep.
Neuroscientists haven’t yet pinned down the mechanisms involved, but consolidation appears to include an interchange between the hippocampus and the neocortex, two parts of the brain that are particularly active during sleep.
Make sure to get a good night rest in before your exam too, you’ll feel more refreshed and ready to take on whatever comes at you before your exam.
Dr. Huynh describes the importance of sleep before exam day.
Avoid Stress Eating
We’re sure you’re familiar with the term emotional overeating or stress eating. The more that’s “on your plate,” so to speak, the more likely you are to eat as an outlet. When you're spending a lot of time studying for exam, you might find yourself reaching for that bag of chips more than usual. Avoid stress eating by:
- Pack healthy snacks to eat throughout the day, we recommend dried fruits, nuts, and granola bars!
- Drink plenty of water. When packing your healthy snacks make sure to pack a reusable water bottle as well.
- Bring your lunch with you to work. You won’t be tempted to grab fast food (or worse, vending machine food!)
This MedStudy contributor lends his advice on the important of avoiding stress eating.
Focus on Fitness
It’s amazing how a good work out can help you to relieve stress and anxiety—exercise boosts your endorphins, giving you a physical outlet for pent-up, pre-exam stress. And exercise helps you build long-term memory. #StudyTips
Whether it’s a simple walk around the block (with your Audio Pearls) or a session of kickboxing, making time for physical activity will serve you well, especially during exam prep.
Mark Yoffe, a MedStudy contributor, gives pre-exam advice.
Dedicate a specific time in your day to practicing mindfulness. Take 5-10 minutes out of your day to:
1. Sit outside while enjoying your morning cup of coffee
2. Take a 5-minute walk outside
3. Turn off the radio during your commute, use this time to reflect
Dedicate a few minutes of each day to being present in the moment, and feel your stress levels decrease.
Pro Tip: If your Apple Watch tells you that you need to breathe, don’t ignore it!
Sage advice from a seasoned exam taker and MedStudy contributor.
Find a Mentor
A good mentor will help guide you (like, with tips for exam day!), support you and inspire you throughout your career. Go to this person and set up a time to get coffee or lunch and talk openly about your anxiety leading up to the exam. Chances are, they’ll be able to ease your fears and tell you about their personal experiences with exams. Ask them for their best self-care tip while you're at it!
This physician contributor suggests that finding a mentor might be one of the most helpful things pre-boards.
Remind yourself of the hard work you have put in studying for your exam and go into it on exam day with confidence. You’ve got this! No negative or degrading self-talk!
Dr. Ovalle describes the importance of a positive attitude.
Prioritize self-care before your exam day so you can go in to your exam feeling refreshed and confident! Follow MedStudy on Instagram for more inspiration and study tips to help you #StudySTRONG. Don’t forget to tag us in your #SelfCare pics!