Five Ways To Keep Your Brain Alert In Medical School

Reading a Fast Company article this morning,  I was inspired to consider the ways I can keep my brain alert for the long haul. As a student, I do study most of the time so one could argue that my brain is constantly alert. It’s true that I do have to make a conscientious effort to relax my brain.  But, the suggestions in the article were very helpful. I’ve slightly modified the five daily habits that were recommended to the general public to be more school friendly. With a schedule as busy as ours, the following five suggestions may not be feasible to do on a daily basis. I think weekly is more manageable.

Change your diet. I recently made changes to my own diet by drinking more water. If you’re anything like me, spending money and investing in a more expensive product such as the trendy Swell bottle could motivate you to drink more water. Or, adding fruit like berries, or lemon slices, or herbs like mint, help to change the flavor of plain water. Take inventory of what you could benefit from the most. For example, if you order Domino’s 3X a week, perhaps making home cooked meals would be an appropriate swap to incorporate more greens and vegetables to your diet. I have also found that switching the grocery store you shop for food adds some variety to otherwise monotonous week.

Add more physical activity to your daily routine. Some of my classmates can study on a treadmill or reading while running. I have tried this and it just doesn’t work for me. I can only focus on one task at a time. It’s easy to add steps to my day by taking stairs when I can, choosing the longer walk to class, and walking outside if I’m on the phone during lunch or after classes. Ideally, cardiovascular exercise 2-3 times a day is ideal, but during busy weeks that seems like a luxury. Another suggestion is seeing a chiropractor for regular adjustments. That helps a little in reversing the damage of sitting in a chair all day.

Be uncomfortable. I feel uncomfortable in school everyday. Constant stress and looming deadlines always keep me feeling on edge. For me, for example, breaking out of my comfort zone would be to attend a social event after class.  I prefer to get out of class as quickly as possible and go home to relax if I can. Unless an event is for professional or leadership development purposes, I typically opt out. When I have a free weekend and no exams the following Monday, I always get out of town. For me, socializing with my classmates and meeting new people would be a good change.

Focus on sleep. This is the biggest change I have changed in my own life. In my first year, I was running on empty by staying up late. When you are chronically tired and falling asleep on your notes at night, that is a good sign that you need more rest. It’s OK to sleep. I know a lot of people who consider themselves stronger if they run on little sleep. Get as much sleep as you need to feel well. Weeks I don’t sleep as much I get sick easily and wake up in a not-so-friendly mood. Naps during the day (if your schedule allows) and sleeping in on weekends are glorious.

Have a social life. Having friends in school helps, but I’ve found having a support system outside of school is most important so you have someone to vent to.Unfortunately, I attend a school that is not in the same city as my closest friends and family which makes hard days even harder. On the other hand, I always have something to look forward to when I know I’m expecting a call from a friend (or owe someone a phone call).

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sonal-kumar

Sonal Kumar

Sonal Kumar is passionate about combining science and storytelling. She has vast experiences outside of healthcare including marketing and advertising, print and broadcast journalism, including TV/radio production. Sonal is an alumna of Columbia University. She tweets @sonalkumar2011.