Staying mentally strong and positive during the USMLE Step 1 preparation is probably one of the biggest challenges students face. The fear of the unknown might be one of the causes of anxiety that puts a student in a downward spiral. Here are a few tips students should follow to keep their anxiety and fear at bay:
- Your scores do not decide your fate: It’s a misconception that your scores decide your future. Although good scores open many doors for you, your residency application depends on not just your USMLE Step 1 score but a lot of other contributing factors. Your attitude and your drive to continually better yourself can be few of the deciding factors. There are quite a lot of programs that are keen on accepting students based on the qualities of the student, not just the scores. There is more power in you than in your score. Just keep it at that.
- Be task oriented, not ego oriented: Setting goals is a way of working towards bettering yourself. These goals are classified into task-oriented and ego-oriented. Task oriented individuals are self-motivators. They enjoy the task and strive to put in their best. Ego oriented people are extrinsically motivated. They keep their peer performance as a benchmark to measure their own performance that includes success, self-validation and happiness. It is best for you to be task-oriented and not ego-oriented. By letting go of your ego and focusing on you, you can be a better version of yourself.
- Listen to motivation in a repeat mode: While studying, it is important to revise and repeat till the concept sinks in and occupies a permanent place in your brain. It is an effective technique of learning however it is often neglected when it comes to own mental health and positivity. Listening to inspirational audios/videos or music in the background gives you a boost to learn. This motivational content doesn’t tell you anything new, rather it reminds you to be more positive and tackle your goals with more optimism and confidence. Find what type of motivation works best for you, and then do it every day.
- Stay social, keep your friends and family around you: USMLE Step 1 is a humongous task for those who write it. If you have people who care about you and encourage you, the task becomes a bit less gruesome. Having a solid support system, whether it is your family or friends, is of extreme importance. Support systems not only help you find solutions to improve a difficult situation, it is proved to decrease anxiety and stress levels among people. Support systems can be your colleagues too. Who can understand you better than your colleagues? They can relate to your highs and lows because they themselves go through the same experience. Hence, venting out your frustrations is vital for your mental well-being.
- Be spontaneous, but schedule spontaneity: Spontaneity is good, but you need to channelize it while you study for the most important exam of your life. However, you can make room for scheduled spontaneity. Decline an unplanned outing with friends. However, you don’t need to deprive yourself some fun time with friends. Schedule a date and time for your outing. Now that you know when you would be taking a break, you tend to work extra hard to compensate for the time you would lose enjoying with your friends. Once you are back from the outing, you’ll be mentally refreshed and ready to take on more.
- Oh yes, there is more to life than Step 1: You might have worked hard for the USMLE Step 1 exam, but the truth is Step 1 exams or any other examination for that matter is not your life. The test scores do not prove your worth; it’s just an exam and you have so much more to you, so much more to see, so many experiences to go through. Yes, there is life beyond Step 1.
Keeping your mental health in check throughout your USMLE Step 1 preparation is paramount. Have fun, take a break, do the things you love, talk frequently to your family and friends, work hard, stay focused, motivated and positive and you will confidently earn the score you deserve.