Striking a Healthy Balance of Work, Activity and Fun is Key in Med School

I believe it’s absolutely necessary to take care of your own wellness, especially as a medical student.

As a medical student, sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in studying and responsibilities. It can be hard to slow down and recognize when I’m not prioritizing my own health, but as a future physician I know wellness is important for my personal and professional success.

To me, wellness is a state of positive health in all aspects of life, including physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and professional. Once you strike the balance between these parts of life, you’ve reached a level of healthy wellness, but that’s definitely easier said than done! Sometimes you have to focus on a few areas that are most important to you.

I personally put a lot of focus on my physical, social, and spiritual health. Physically, I try to exercise every day, even if it’s just a fast walk or something small that will get my heart rate up, for even just 20 minutes. Sometimes, I’ll do flashcards on the treadmill so I don’t feel like I’m losing valuable study time during my workout. Socially, I really enjoy keeping up with my family and loved ones via phone calls or video chats. I find that regular contact helps keep me focused and happy. Spiritually, I am a Christian, and it’s important to me to go to church each week to stay connected spiritually and keep what’s most important in focus.

Yusi and Sam, Carle Illinois College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Yusi and me putting our rock climbing skills to the test on a break from the demands of medical school.

Carle Illinois also takes our wellness very seriously and supports us through a great wellness program. This year, I’m serving as a student member of the wellness committee, so I get to play a role in planning some of the wellness events. The main facet of the wellness program is the Wednesday THRIVE lunches. During these weekly lunch meetings, we get to listen to speakers or participate in activities that promote wellness, including everything from meditation to career building. It’s so nice to have this break in the week to take a second, have a meal together, and think about something other than schoolwork. 

Our Innovation Pods, another part of the wellness program that stays consistent throughout all four years of medical school, make it easy to focus on wellness with our classmates. My pod likes to spend time together stepping away from campus to explore the Champaign-Urbana area on the weekends, as a way to get our minds off of our schoolwork. Last year, my whole class went on a wellness retreat at Allerton Park in Monticello. We had a great time doing an outdoor low-ropes course and other team building activities. Over the winter, we also went on a ski trip in Wisconsin. It’s nice to be reminded that we’re all in this together and that none of us are facing any of the challenges of medical school alone.

No matter which activities work for you, I believe it’s absolutely necessary to take care of your own wellness, especially as a medical student. When I make time in my day to do things that I love, I’m more focused when I return to my work. I encourage everyone in my position to find something that really calms them and incorporate that activity into their schedule. I truly believe that the more effort you put into your wellness and building healthy habits when you’re at Carle Illinois, the healthier and happier physician-innovator you will be in the future.

Samantha Houser