6 Ways How to Keep Your Mental Health in Check While Preparing for an Important Exam (like USMLE)


Most nursing or medical schools require students to sit for USMLE Step 1 towards the end of their second year.

Preparing for this exam is not a walk in the park unless you are among the few that quickly or immediately memorize stuff.

Your score for the assessment test determines both your residency programs and specialty choices.

For this reason, most students spend sleepless nights going through volumes of books.

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Depression and anxiety rates heighten during this period due to fear of failing, competition from peers, lack of rest and self care. Unfortunately, studying under such conditions may be counterproductive in your learning.

While the test is essential, nothing is of the essence than your mental well being. The following guiding principles will better your exam preparation experience.

6 Ways How to Keep Your Mental Health in Check While Studying:


1. Create a reasonable study schedule.

Much like running a marathon, you need to pace yourself as you study for your exam.

The temptation to read or learn more than your mind can handle will be there.

However, resist that feeling as it may lead to burnout and limit your information retention.

For example, studying for 10 hours each day the entire week is not reasonable.

When creating your study plan, be sure to include a day or two off and breaks in between your timetable.

Setting aside at least 2 hours each day to study is fruitful and an easy plan to stick to.

2. Engage in physical exercise.

Setting aside 30 minutes of exercise each day may feel like a waste of time for any medical student. However, exercise helps you unwind, relax and recharge. It is also proven that it promotes good mental health.

Running on a treadmill makes you less anxious and more focused.

Consider going to the school gym for some yoga sessions or circuits.

When you take some time off to meditate, you come in touch with your feelings, including negative emotions and stressors.

Looking at the 30 minutes spent on exercise through a different lens will help you decipher the importance of exercise in your study routine.

3. Ask for help.

Most med students shy away from asking for help due to the fear of appearing weak or incompetent. However, your school peers may help you understand a particular concept better and easier than you would by yourself.

Besides course related help, personal issues such as a strained relationship affect your mood and interfere with your learning ability.

Keeping your mental health in check includes asking for professional help from a therapist or counselor.

A session with your specialist helps you become self aware and come up with a solution to your predicaments. Asking for help allows you to be in the right headspace as you prepare for your exams.

4. Maintain a healthy diet.

Most medical students opt to eat out or resort to processed foods due to the demanding nature of cooking. Unfortunately, added sugars may affect how you concentrate as you study.

The role of nutrition in the optimal functioning of your body cannot be overstated.

Keeping a healthy diet can be challenging for any medical student as preparing food can be time consuming.

However, tips such as setting a day to prepare meals to last you a given time can be helpful.

To completely evade the stress of cooking, you can move to your parents’ home. Doing so will save you much time and keep you healthy.

5. Talk to someone close.

Talking to classmates may not be a good idea as it could be a source of more stress.

Other people like parents, siblings may be an option when you need to vent out.

You may also express your feelings to a nurse who went through the process before.

Seeing that they went through the same gives you confidence and motivation to go on.

6. Take a break.

It is easy for medical students to forsake rest as they prepare for the exam.

However, lack of rest puts you at risk for burnout.

The brain can only take much information for a set time, exceeding that makes your learning counterproductive.

Ensure you get adequate sleep at least 8 hours each day or more when need be.

Other ways to obtain rest include setting a day off your study routine, engaging in your favorite sport in the evening, or scheduling some fun such as a movie night out with friends.

What You Should Remember?

Preparing for a serious exam is stressful, there is no going around that. However, that stress doesn’t have to stay within your system or harm your mental health.

While the exam preparation period can be stressful, prioritizing your mental health keeps you on the safer side and improves your productivity.

Try the advices we shared in this article and maintain a good mental health.

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