We were learning about healthy ways to handle stress and appropriate ways to use humor in medicine.
These students had just had their psychiatry final exam the day before, and they were understandably nervous about both their grades and catching up with studying everything else. In addition, most are counting down the weeks until their first board exam (Step 1) and feel overwhelmed.
I shared what I had learned about avoiding burnout as a third-year medical student: I only work six days a week, five if I can. As a graduate student without a lab or office on campus--and being too cheap to pay for food to work in a cafe--I wrote my dissertation at home. I felt as if I were "always" working. But I easily gave into distractions, so really I was always "working."
Now that I am doing clinical rotations, I work five to six days per week in the office or hospital. There is some but not much down time, so I feel more productive during the day. I try to study at least two hours in the evening. On weekends, I do household chores and work on side projects, like presentations. I told the second-years, "I cannot be a medical student seven days a week. I don't want to be a medical student 24/7. For my sanity, I need to be not-a-student on the weekends so that I look forward to resuming clinical duties on Monday morning." In other words, I have discovered the necessity of a Sabbath, thereby saving me from burnout. And I still pass all my tests.
However, with the next set of board exams just months away (Step 2), let's see how much of my own advice I take!