When I was waiting to hear back from schools, I was dealing with a lot of anxiety. Just worrying and worrying. I had trouble quieting my mind at night when thoughts like “What if you don’t get into medical school” or “Why I have I not heard from School X or School Y yet” flashed across my mind. I later realized that worrying doesn’t help, it doesn’t make the situation better, and it’s really up to the schools at this point. When I realized this, I felt renewed, like I could “re-claim” my life again and move on to other things in life that made me happy. I adapted this from a chapter in the book Managing Anxiety with CBT for Dummies. It was is a useful reminder to live your life even amidst waiting to hear back from medical schools. Save losing your sanity for medical school!
1) Reclaim a lost interest: What are somethings in life that you enjoyed doing, or made you happy? Are those things that you can do, but aren’t currently doing? Why not start those activities again that you enjoyed. Taking a little time to engage in something that you enjoy everyday can make a positive impact on your mood. It can help take your mind off of the wait from schools, or be a nice balance to writing all those secondaries! Shifting your mental gear once in a while is important for being able to re-focus and write those secondaries.
2) Do something new: Try something that you’ve always wanted to try. What’s holding you back? Take this time to take up a new activity or hobby. The new experience can be refreshing and add richness in your life. Maybe try a new kind of food, take an interesting course that you didn’t have the time to take before, or travel somewhere new. This certainly beats sitting around and waiting to hear from schools.
3) Make little changes for a big difference: even making the smallest changes to your everyday routine can have a positive effect and make you feel renewed. Plus it makes life a little more exciting and helps you feel more confident. Some examples: take a different route to work or school, change your shampoo or soap, or read a newspaper or magazine that you don’t normally read. I found that changing my hair color and hair style made me feel refreshed and excited about life, even though applying to medical schools was a real downer.
4) Eat well, sleep well, exercise well: this is so so important for your physical and mental health. If you’re not feeling all that well mentally or physically, it can be reflected in your application to medical schools. It can be the difference between writing a mediocre secondary, or writing an effective one that may get you an interview. I remember when I was knocking out a seemingly endless stream of secondaries, I often sacrificed my sleep and exercise. I would go to work, come home and work on my secondaries until the late hours of the night, and then having to wake up early the next day for work. Looking back, I think some of my secondaries could have been better if I wasn’t so tired and eager to get them over with.
5) Practice mindfulness: practicing mindfulness can help direct your focus to the present-moment. How often (especially us premeds), are worrying about, and thus living in the future? Practicing mindfulness can help you tame your anxiety by not letting your thoughts run your world. Scientific evidence supports its effectiveness in reducing anxiety. Why not give it a try? Before I tried this, my med-school-anxiety would run into other areas of my life. It seemed to diminish the quality of my life. But by remaining mindful, I remember to enjoy the flowers in front me, the tea that I am sipping, the conversation I am having with my friend, or how much fun I am having NOT worrying about med schools.