5 Healthy Ways for Medical Students to Reduce Stress

Stress is a natural human emotion or physical tension that happens to everyone. In fact, the human body is built to cope with and respond to stress.

Stress can be beneficial in that it keeps us attentive, motivated, and prepared to avoid danger. A stress response, for example, may help your body stay awake longer if you have an important deadline coming up. But when stressors persist without moments of relief and relaxation, stress becomes a problem. Anxiety, sadness, panic attacks, aches, and headaches are some of the physical and emotional symptoms that may appear.

While stress cannot be eliminated altogether, there are some daily strategies that can help to reduce it. Here are 5 of them:

  1. Smile, it makes you happy! When you smile, your brain releases neuropeptides that help reduce stress. One study by the Association for Psychological Science showed that smiling, whether it is genuine or not, reduces the intensity of the body’s stress response. As a bonus, smiling can be infectious! Those around you can feel happier just by seeing your smile.
  2. Accept that you cannot control everything. Psychiatrist Aaron Beck pioneered research on cognitive distortion and identified 10 common distorted thinking patterns that cause individuals to view events in a negative way. For example, “should” and “must” statements are often used by negative thinkers. Try to remain flexible; not everything “must” be done today!
  3. Social support is particularly important, especially since classes now remain mostly online. Various studies have shown that social support of high quality can enhance resilience to stress. Keep in touch with your family and friends.
  4. Exercising lowers stress hormones such as cortisol and helps release endorphins, the chemicals that improve your mood. Besides that, regular exercises may help you sleep better too.
  5. Avoid procrastinating on tasks that matter. Procrastination can build up your workload, causing you more stress later when you need to catch up! Try to manage your time well.

Stress is a natural and normal reaction that happens to all of us. Untreated stress can affect your physical and mental wellbeing, so try applying these strategies in your daily life. At Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia (NUMed) there is always ongoing support to students during these trying times. Contact the Student Support Services if you have any concerns about your wellbeing. If you still feel overwhelmed, consult your doctor on the best course of action.

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