Studying at home is no longer new to many medical students, given the COVID-19 pandemic. Just because you may be used to your new study space and have developed new routines to adapt to your circumstances doesn’t mean that you can flip a switch and be as productive as usual at home. Here are a few tips to help manage your mental health at home:
Plan out your studies and create a schedule for yourself. You might not have this all figured out from the beginning, but taking the time to get yourself organized and figure out a study-life system will set you up for success. Experimenting with different studying techniques (block scheduling with the Pomodoro Technique, for example) can also help you determine how to best organize your study schedule.
Separate “study” from “living” space
Part of organizing yourself includes organizing your home study space. Keep your workspace clean and free of distractions, and take a few minutes at the end of each day to tidy up. When possible, separate your “study” from your “living” space, or at least have a dedicated study space. Maintaining this separation between where you study and where you relax will help you get into the right mindset when it comes time to really focus.
Emulate your normal routine
Do you usually wake up early to go to class or to get your favorite table at the library? Stick to those routines while you’re studying at home. The regularity of your routines will feel familiar and make studying at home less of a change or upset for you to wrap your head around. Didn’t like your previous routines? Now is the perfect time to develop new routines and habits.
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Revise your routines
Studying from home doesn’t always allow you to keep up the same routines – in this case, you may need to look to different resources to enhance your studying. While you can’t be in class, that doesn’t mean you are completely on your own. If you’re a medical student and preparing for a difficult exam like the USMLE Step 1, I recommend trying Lecturio, an all-in-one resources for medical students, it can help you bring the classroom to your living room and maintain some normalcy.
Take short breaks while studying
Studying from home opens the door for easy break time… as long as your break time doesn’t continually increase, that’s great! Taking a break allows you to recharge and decompress from the stress of studying. Give yourself time to relax as well as study.
Get enough sleep
Just because you’re at home most of the time doesn’t mean that you suddenly need less sleep. In order for our brains to function and commit accumulated data and information to memory, we need sleep. Maintaining your mental health also requires maintaining your physical health, and physical health requires adequate sleep.
There are numerous foods that have been linked to brain function, such as avocados, berries, leafy greens, nuts, and whole grains. Of course, treat yourself as well – but make sure your treats really are special when you have them. Keeping up your energy with healthy, brain-friendly foods will also contribute to your productivity, success, and overall well-being. Taking care of your physical health contributes to taking care of your mental health.
Studying at home for extended periods of time likely means that you’re spending more time than usual sitting down. Even if you also usually study for hours on end at the library or in a coffee shop, you usually have to get there first. Get moving by going on a walk, on a run, doing yoga, or doing another activity. You can also use some of your break time to bring some movement into your day. Make sure to stretch between study sessions as well – even if it’s just a little bit, it will help you stay awake and focused.
Participate in anxiety-reducing activities
Studies have shown that certain activities, such as coloring, can help reduce anxiety. Choose a creative outlet (or a few) and take a little time each day to engage in that activity. Meditation is also a popular option, if you’re not such an artistic person.
Stay in touch
Keep in contact with your classmates and friends. Just because you’re not physically all together doesn’t mean you have to stop studying together. Set up a virtual study group via a platform such as Zoom or Google Hangouts and work through material together. You can even quiz each other and make it fun!
Studying at home and spending so much time there can be very draining for your mental health, but there are many ways to stay positive and make the most out of your current situation. Taking care of your mental health while studying at home is essential for having successful study sessions.