Achieving a healthy work-life balance as a medical student

Amana Qayum, a fourth-year medical student from Manchester, discusses the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

As a fourth-year medical student, I'm constantly learning and still finding my feet. In fact, it feels like only yesterday I was dreaming about studying medicine - now here I am!

I wouldn't be where I am without the encouragement of my wonderful family who have supported me every step of the way and allowed me the opportunity to enter the medical profession.

With their support and through my own personal experiences, I have acquired numerous skills and lessons which have helped me create a healthy work/life balance. As such, my top work/life balance tips are below...

Build a supportive social circle/study group

Creating a good social circle allows peers to share their thoughts, notes and advice with one another. It also enables people the opportunity to speak up about any aspects of the course that are worrisome, rather than keeping it to themselves and becoming stressed or anxious.

Personally speaking, I find it a little difficult to understand things at first glance, so often I have to break information up to understand it properly; this is because I am dyslexic. When I am in these groups and social circles, it allows myself and others the chance to learn, explain and absorb information in our own way.

I believe this is where the doctor in me comes out, as I just want to help others, and for my colleagues to help me.

Allow your mind and body to rest

There comes a time when you must put studies, work, and other commitments to the side and look after yourself. This includes your mental and physical wellbeing. Your body and mind need to rest and refresh.

You are a human, you are a person, you are running on a limited amount of fuel for your body. After that fuel is depleted, no amount of coffee, energy drinks or pills will keep you going, because your body requires rest and peace.

So make sure you take time out to relax and enjoy yourself, whether that's going out or just a good old movie night or lazy spa day. Focus on your health, focus on your mental peace. Personally speaking, as soon as I get an opportunity, I go and see my family, or they come and see me. This is my favourite time because there is no place like home.

Organise your day

As students, one thing we can forget to do is organise our day, and that leads to us wasting time!

In my experience, organisation of your work and studies is a must for you to have a peaceful and successful journey in the profession. I would advise everyone before finishing up their day, to just sit down for an extra twenty minutes and plan the next day. This will then push you to be more efficient, better organised, achieve more goals and get your tasks done rather than sit and procrastinate.

Don't give up on your hobbies

One of many things I have witnessed whilst being a medical student is that a lot of people, who in first year had all these amazing hobbies and interests, have since abandoned them due to the demands of medical school. I understand the pressure and demands of the course, but it's important to take out at least some time to enjoy your hobbies.

I love sketching, painting and calligraphy, so whenever I am in my comfort zone and taking a break from everything, I engulf myself in my hobbies because they bring me joy.

Your hobbies can teach you a lot without you even knowing. They help reduce your stress and pressure you have built in a beautiful way.

Don't be scared to take risks

It can be a good thing to push yourself and question your decisions. To push yourself out of your comfort zone, you must understand there are certain things you do in life where you do not know the outcome, but you must stand strong and stick by your decision because you feel that it's the right thing to do.

Often, our biggest and most life changing decisions are the ones where you fear to take risks and it is not what has happened that will count; it is what you will do after.

Never be afraid to take risks as they are an opportunity for growth and development regardless of whether your plan is successful or not.

This page was correct at publication on 09/02/2023. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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by Amana Qayum

Amana Qayum is a fifth-year medical student from Manchester, currently studying at the Medical University of Sofia (MUS). Amana is aiming to pursue a career in surgery, as this specialty has always interested her the most.

Amana is co-founder of her MUS clinical skills society, and when she is not studying or documenting her medical journey on Instagram or her blog, she enjoys sketching, painting, calligraphy, badminton and tennis, and can be found spending time with her family.