In the UK, it is well established that Wednesday afternoons are for sport and recreational activities. Unfortunately, most medical schools don’t take this on, so most medical students are stuck on the wards or in class on those coveted Wednesday afternoons. My medical school has actually started to timetable free Wednesday afternoons for us. This is great! I am loooooving it! Don’t get me wrong – I love medicine and being on placement, it’s a fantastic place to learn. But I am also a huge believer in relaxation.
I burnt out badly after my finals last year – to the point where I couldn’t focus on anything remotely stressful, even writing a reflective piece for placement. It took me months to rebound back to my usual self. I learnt the hard way that you just cannot power through studying for ~12 hours a day for months on end. While I surpassed my expectations in the exam, I struggled afterwards. As I didn’t have any major deadlines, I was lucky enough to be able to just take some time to slowly relax and bounce back, we don’t always have this luxury. Taking time out to have fun and destress is important in medicine, it’s a difficult career, and you need to look after yourself. Relaxing is different for everyone, for me sometimes it’s just lounging around in my pyjamas and having a cheeky Netflix binge or going to the gym for a bit of tumbling (I’m a gymnast and love to flip!). Whatever you choose to do, make sure you’re getting in some me time every now and then!
It's also important to know when to ask for help – your university does care about you. There are so many avenues to choose from if you just want to talk to someone. Most schools will have:
· Medical school welfare services
· University counselling services
· Your own GP
· Peer support services – these may be in your medical school or university wide
· Online mindfulness services
Sport at university is just amazing, I can honestly say that my life wouldn’t be the same without it. I’ve made friends that I know I will be friends with for life, I’ve won national titles, and best of all – I know how to do a backflip! Most medical schools have their own sports clubs that work around our busy schedules which is great. These are usually part of MedSoc. I chose to do cheerleading and gymnastics at university. Before I started university I had no experience in either sport, but now I can’t imagine my life without them. I highly recommend university sport – but of course sport isn’t for everyone. Most uni’s have hundreds of societies, so I guarantee that you will find something that you absolutely love – and if you don’t, get together with a few friends and create a society!