Hi I’m Anusha and I’m Matthew and we are your wellbeing officers on the VMS Student Committee. Approximately every fortnight we will be posting blogs up about different topics related to mental health and wellbeing as well as discussing some in the weekly Virtual Medical Society meetings. We know that applying to medical school/dental school/ veterinary school can be very stressful and are here to help you all achieve the shared dream of becoming a qualified doctor, dentist or vet! We would love it if you could get involved by asking questions or suggesting topics you would like to see in future blog posts in the comments section at the end of each blog post. Please be respectful of each other- everyone is entitled to their own opinions even if they are different to some of yours!
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by everything you are doing? Whether this be to do with the amount of schoolwork you are doing, medical school preparation or the number of extracurriculars you are doing? Have you ever been worried about whether you can juggle everything? If you have, then you are not alone in thinking this. This blog post is going to be about exploring the problems with overcommitting yourself and how to deal with this.
As I am sure you are all very aware, the application process to a career in healthcare is very intense. You are expected to gain an insight into your chosen career, volunteer, engage in many extracurriculars, understand the ethics behind your chosen career, all while achieving the high grades required to be a successful applicant. It may at first seem an incredibly daunting, almost impossible task, but fear not. Thousands of students have all successfully gone through this process and you will too! With the recent lockdown many of us were worried that we would not be able to complete vital work-experience or volunteering. First of all, remember that everyone is in the same position as you and it is therefore about doing the best you can in your individual situation. Many virtual work experiences have started appearing, flinging deadlines left, right and centre. There have been and most likely will be many instances of people missing application deadlines and panicking, thinking that missing this one deadline means that they will never make it into their chosen career. This is not the case, especially as one of the benefits of online courses is that recordings can be revisited at a later date. While it is great to be offered all of these opportunities it can become very daunting, The key is to recognise when you are doing too much and to reassess your workload. While I would certainly advise that you apply for all the opportunities you can , don’t overload yourself.
In my opinion, generally one of the most overlooked parts of preparing for medical school is your extracurriculars. Universities are looking for well-rounded candidates who have interests outside their studies and can relax and have fun outside school. Extracurriculars can be a great form of relaxation and can improve your mental health. However, a big problem of this is that sometimes you can sign up to too many and ‘spread yourself too thin.’ I have personal experience of this as in Year 10 I signed up to so many clubs and societies I had no free lunch times left! Although, I loved what I was doing, which is always important, I felt very stressed and realised I needed to quit some before starting my final year of GCSEs.It is always good to do a wide range of different activities for example, I play hockey and the piano as well as occasionally trying something new however, doing too many clubs can lead to feeling overwhelmed and possibly not having enough time to study or even just relax. This can have a negative effect on your mental health which is why we really wanted to emphasise this point, as it is a common misconception that extracurricular activities should not be something to stress about!
As previously mentioned in the last paragraph, we really wanted to emphasise that healthcare schools look for well-rounded individuals, who will be able to successfully cope with the pressures that such a career entails. By isolating yourself from others you can easily start to feel lonely and anxious. It is therefore important to not spend every waking moment working on academics and improving your application. Don’t forget that your friends and family have and will continue to support you all throughout this process, so it is important that you maintain these relationships. Not only will spending time socialising with others reduce your stress and improve your mental health, it will make you more productive. By spending time socialising, you will be able to have a form of release from all your tensions and will be less likely to burn out, a problem that many doctors are now facing especially in the current, unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important throughout your application journey to not alienate yourself from others
In conclusion, your medical application journey should be exciting and as stress-free as possible. It’s important to do as much you can and grab every opportunity but it is also just as important not to overcommit. Leave some time for yourself to wind down if that’s listening to music with both earphones lying on your bed (a guilty pleasure of mine) or even just reading a book for 20 minutes for pleasure. Most importantly enjoy the process and your final years of school- they will go by quicker than you think!