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Staying Healthy During Step 1: 3 Tips for Medical Students

Yusuf Mehkri, BS

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November 17, 2022

Despite becoming pass/fail, the Step 1 exam is still incredibly difficult to pass. For someone who isn't reviewing content regularly or working through question banks throughout the preclinical years, the dedicated study period can easily become a dark time.

Studying can become consuming to the point of crippling isolation and depression. Many begin to lose friendships and their physical and mental health begins to suffer. This is simply because there not being enough time in the day to get through all the content that one needs to get through.

Students begin to put everything else on the backburner and put 100% of their time and energy into the books and screens in front of them. Interest in anything else is temporarily lost because the only thing that comes to mind is what you just learned and what you still need to review. Stress levels and the fight-or-flight state is constantly on. Therefore, it's important to be intentional with maintaining healthy habits.

Here are three tips to help guide you:

Accountability

It's the same advice you'll hear when it comes to fulfilling your new year's resolutions. Without someone or something to check in on you, you'll easily fall apart.

One easy way to stay accountable is to tell the people around you your goals, or plan to have a buddy. For example, getting into a workout routine with a classmate. Or telling someone at home to remind you that at 11 PM, it's time to hit the bed.

You can also use other measures such as reminder apps. A couple that I have had success with are Wunderlist and Due. By putting into place accountability measures, it'll be difficult to skip on the healthy habits you need to be your best version.

Cook and eat smart

Ensure that you're eating healthy, feeling your best, not missing out on meals, or breaking your bank by eating fast food every day.

My biggest tip here is meal prep. Find the few healthy dishes that you love and can make in large quantities. Whether that's pasta, meat, rice, wraps, or salads. This helps you drastically cut down on time spent preparing, cooking, and cleaning every day. It also ensures that you have a meal ready as soon as you're feeling like you need the energy boost.

Another technique is to get into the habit of eating a good breakfast. You will probably eat a good breakfast on the day of your exam, and you don't want that to be the first time you introduce your body to a meal that early in the day. Train how you play. That means to start preparing in conditions like test day, which includes the energy that you feed your body. 

Scheduling

It can be easy to get sucked into spending the entire day learning the one thing you can't seem to figure out. Although you might now feel confident in that one topic, you now pushed off everything else that needed time as well.

Scheduling allows you to make sure you're dedicating the proper amount of time to everything that needs your attention. It also allows you to ensure you're getting breaks at regular increments. Many fall into the trap of thinking they can't stop for a break because they're overwhelmed or have a lot to get through. However, this can lead you to burnout quickly.

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About Yusuf Mehkri
Yusuf Mehkri is a second-year medical student at the University of Florida (UF). After attending Carnegie Mellon University for undergraduate studies, he was accepted to the accelerated BS/MD program at UF in Gainesville. He has interests in academic neurosurgery, specifically neuro-oncology and spine surgery. He enjoys research, mentorship and community service — all of which allow him to give back to his community in varying capacities.

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