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Be Merry, Your Future is Bright!

In the midst of the most wonderful time of the year, many premedical and medical students are faced with making decisions beyond what gifts to purchase or how many holiday cookies to bake. Although another semester has successfully wrapped up and is a feat to be celebrated, many of us tend to get our tinsel in a tangle over wether to actually enjoy this winter break by recharging your battery and prioritizing self-care or to use this time as a chance to get ahead with your study prep for Step 1 or the MCAT.

Peace on Earth seems like a harder concept to grasp than our biomedical science curriculum, especially when anxiety creeps in with fears worse than being on the Naughty List - such as falling behind or wasting crucial study time! To that, I say Bah Humbug!

Our chosen career path ensures the gift of lifetime learning that will keep giving and giving throughout our years of practice. So let your heart be light in knowing that this break is allotted in your academic calendar for a reason. So, let's ensure chestnuts are the only thing roasting on an open fire this Winter Break and avoid burnout by finding ways to be both productive and rejuvenated during your time away from from academic responsibilities!

So here's my list of ideas and suggest you check it twice! Although it won't tell you who is naughty or nice, but it just might help you find ways to enjoy this holiday season with a little more peace of mind!

1. Be Present ~ Yes, scoring well on your upcoming exam is important - but the holidays are too. Is this the one time of year where you're able to spend time with family who live far away? Does the thought of missing out on your mom's favorite holiday tradition incite even more stress? When is the last time you were fully present and engaged in your conversations and relationships and didn't have a test lingering over your head? Remember, in the healthcare field you very likely will be working, studying, and on call many nights and weekends and possibly holidays. So, enjoy this dedicated break to spend time with your family and friends while it is easily accessible and scheduled in for you! The medical profession can make maintaining and nourishing relationships more challenging during both training and practice, but it is up to us for utilizing the time we have wisely, being intentional with the people in our lives, and not lean on our responsibilities/busy schedules as a crutch for being distant mentally or even absent entirely.

2. Walk in a Winter Wonderland ~ Whether you use physical activity as a stress reliever or procrastination method during the semester or have gotten out of the habit of exercising regularly with the rigor and responsibilities that come along with your academic and extracurricular schedules, winter break is a great time to make your health a priority! Perhaps over the break, you can pick up a new habit like outdoor walks or picking up an old love in a new light such as online barre classes for the former dancer. No batter what your physical activity outlet looks like, allow this break to be a time to find what works for you!

3. Spread Good Tidings ~ In a season that is well known for giving and cheer, consider volunteering your time in your community. With the ups and downs that have come along with 2020, there is so much need in the world now more than ever. Perhaps there is an animal shelter or soup kitchen or blood bank that could truly benefit from a few hours of your time. This could even be an opportunity for friends and family to spend time together while giving back to the local community. There are also virtual volunteer opportunities available to explore. Here is a website to explore some of those opportunities if you feel so inclined!

4. Enjoy a Silent Night ~ With less academic responsibilities, use this time to relax, rejuvenate, and your prioritize sleep. Use this time to catch up on some much-needed sleep. The time and effort put into learning and retaining information throughout the semester may even take a toll on both your physical and mental health to the point of sheer exhaustion. So if your rest looks like binge watching a new Netflix show or reading a non-school assigned book or cleaning that room in your home that you've been putting off, find your own way to incorporate self-care and rest.

5. One Size Fits All (NOT) ~ If you struggled with a certain organ system or simply cannot allow yourself to fully get out of the school routine, then find confidence in knowing yourself by balancing your time off by being productive and making time for relaxation. Perhaps that means incorporating your Anki cards and/or UWorld Questions into your daily routine or striving to listen to a few review podcasts on your car ride home for the holidays. Your break is for you, and just like your medical journey, each will look different! However, don't make others feel discouraged or guilty if they're not pouring over your First Aid or MCAT Review Books over the break!

So 'Tis the Season of Christmas Break! I hope everyone enjoys a change of pace from their typical school/ study routine, is surrounded by people who are supportive of their goals and hard work, and is able to recharge. With a new year and new semester right around the corner, know that this is your opportunity to regain focus on your WHY and replenish your motivation for what's to come!

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