Resources to Reduce Stress

Stress management help from the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences
photo illustration on stress

Working hard should not be confused with overworking at the expense of your mental health, physical health, or relationships.  As medical students, you are under a lot of stress from external and internal sources.  We know that your health, wellness, and well-being are vital to your success.

Here are some practical tips to help reduce stress and maintain well-being:

Self-care and a healthy lifestyle are critical in accomplishing your goals. Attend to your basic needs such as restorative sleep, healthy nutrition, movement throughout the day, etc. , so you have energy to focus on what you need.

Set SMART goals and manage your timecreate a realistic and manageable schedule that includes a combination of dedicated study time, breaks, and self-care activities. Prioritize tasks to avoid feeling overwhelmed, regularly assessing and adjusting according to your needs. Work smarter, not harder to do more with your time including working in teams / delegating / asking for help.

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques help to balance the autonomic nervous system, bring it to homeostatic “rest and digest” state, which turns energy drains into energy gains. The Headspace app is free for you as a GW student to help you get into a good routine.

Stay connected with classmates, friends, and family to share experiences and discuss challenges. Support and belonging are vital parts of your whole health, so use it to gain perspective, have a shoulder to cry on, or see the bigger picture.

Reach out for help early. If you're struggling with the workload or emotional challenges, reach out to professors, student support services, and counselors as soon as you notice it. Addressing issues promptly can prevent them from escalating.

The best rest may be a change of activity. Shifting things up in your routine from what you do all day every day to something different and new can improve brain functioning, and help your brain to gain clarity and sharpness.

Self-compassion. Be kind to yourself and recognize it is ok to not be perfect or to make mistakes. Avoid comparing, contrasting, and criticizing yourself. Accepting yourself for who you are, recognizing your strengths and taking mistakes as opportunities to grow can alleviate unnecessary pressure.

Maintain a sense of purpose. Take time to reflect on why you chose a career path in medical or health sciences to motivate yourself during challenging times. “If you know your why, you can handle any how” (Viktor Frankl).

Article: Mental Health Q&A with Dean Lorenzo Norris, psychiatrist and Chief Wellness officer for the GW medical enterprise–GW Medical Faculty Associates, GW Hospital, and the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS)–and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at GW SMHS. 

Video: Grand Rounds: Shame & Sentinel Emotional Events in Health Professions Learners

Stress Management Resources within GW