From travel mugs to board games, here are a few things for your Christmas list that might help you survive the next year of med school.
Take a look at the calendar and…yes, it’s time to panic! Christmas is a week away, and if you’re like most med students, you barely had time to brush your teeth this morning, let alone shop for Christmas presents. But while you’re rushing to get everything wrapped up before the holidays, don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. Whether you’re putting it in a letter to Santa, sending some not-so-subtle hints to family members, or just putting something under the tree for yourself, here are some things you might want to ask for this Christmas.
Let us guess? You use your phone as an alarm clock? And, hey, we’re the first to admit that most mobile phones have great features when it comes to personalizing your alarms and tracking your sleep. But sleeping next to your phone can also fragment your sleeping patterns and lead to insomnia. So why not go old school: get a standalone alarm clock for your bedside table. You don’t have to go full Looney-Tunes with one of those brass twin-bell wind-up clocks (although some of them are pretty cool)—even a simple device that gives you some distance from your phone (and all of the stressful tasks it holds within it) can lead to better sleep. Many modern alarm clocks also double as white noise machines and can monitor your sleep patterns, and others that wake you up gradually (instead of with that terrifying buzz).
Something to Read
Sure, Netflix might be the easiest choice when it comes to taking a break (or Amazon Prime, or Disney+, or any of the other streaming services that have been created since you started reading this article)—but when it comes to achieving a true state of calm and focus, watching something on a screen has nothing on diving into a good book. You can check out our picks for best summer beach reads, or browse this list of the essential books every pre-med should read, or visit your local bookstore to get recommendations from the staff. For future physicians who want to learn how to communicate more clearly, becoming a voracious reader gives you a huge head start—doesn’t matter if your reading Kierkegaard or Jack Reacher, the truth is there’s more than one way to be book smart.
Coffee: it’s the fuel that keeps most med students going. And there isn’t always a Starbucks or Tim Hortons nearby. So why not kit yourself out with the gear you need to brew coffee first thing in the morning (aka. when you actually need it): a compact drip coffee maker, a French press, or even a single-cup Aero-Press, along with a nice travel mug that will keep your drink hot (or cold) while you’re on the go. And there are additional benefits to brewing your own coffee, too: it’s a great way to manage your budget—maybe you can even develop your own Latte Exchange Rate?
Medical-Themed Board Game
In the end, though, Christmas is for the young at heart, and who doesn’t want to wake up to find a fun new toy beneath the tree? Especially something you can play along with your friends—like a board game. Playing board games has been proven to facilitate teamwork, and, specifically for doctors, can help to improve health care processes. But aside from Monopoly, Risk, or Settlers of Catan, what board games are best for med students like you? Well, there’s Dr. Jargon, a variation on the game Taboo, where you have explain a condition, disease, or treatment without using all of the common jargon you’re probably being taught right now in med school—which may very well help you improve the way you communicate with patients later in your career. Defenders of Soma is an award-winning board game that teaches you about real-life antibiotics and bacteria in the context of a Game-of-Thrones-style fantasy epic. And there are speciality games like The Sepsis Game, which was developed by the UK Sepsis Trust to help clinical staff improve the identification and treatment of sepsis. Of course, you can always just invest in Cards For Humanity – you can’t go wrong there.
This might seem a little ambitious but hear us out. While not everyone has the time and money to pull together a weekend beach escape, the spirit of a vacation is always accessible to you. It’s a chance to disconnect from your day-to-day, relax, experience new routines, and reflect on your life from a new and different perspective. All of which are essential things for med students to do when the pressure reaches its peak. If you can’t actually, physically get away, then pick a date on the calendar – maybe an entire weekend – and treat it like it’s a vacation. Make no plans, turn off your phone, get away from the spaces and routines that dominate your day-to-day and free up some mind-space to think of other things. Whether it’s getting pampered at the spa, a yoga retreat, or even just exploring a new part of town, try to give yourself a mini-vacation from your own life and responsibilities—and then return to them with renewed energy and inspiration. Of course, if you start brewing your coffee at home, you might just be able to save up for a plane ticket…