Studying Self-Care

Tis the season for studying…I’m currently knee-deep in preparation for my board exams, and I can tell you…the burnout is real.

In my field, the first round of licensing exams is all the basic medical sciences — the biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, etc. The second round of exams is all the clinical skills and diagnosis which is, in my opinion, much more exciting but a lot less straightforward.

Whether you’re studying for boards, finals, or just bogged down by work, I wanted to share some of the things that I’m doing in an effort to stay balanced during busy seasons so that I can perform my best, stay healthy, and keep my spirits up.

1. Sleep

Late nights and I have never gotten along well. Even as a teenager, I was usually in bed around 9:30 simply because I pretty much stop being functional after that time. I don’t even have fun if I’m sleepy, so it’s not just a matter of productivity. I have a hard time enjoying myself when I’m tired, and others probably don’t enjoy me much either, as I turn into an emotion-less zombie.

In this busy season, I’m really trying to honor my body’s need for rest by not pushing through the tiredness. I take naps when I need to, go to bed early, and try to avoid mindless scrolling on my phone as much as possible. (Wasting time on my phone is the #1 thing that gets me behind on my to-do list, which keeps me up later and eats up my free/relaxation time). I also use some sleep hygiene techniques/products that help maximize the quality of my sleep so that I wake up feeling rested and refreshed.

Weighted Blanket

My husband and I received this weighted blanket for our wedding and it’s a whole new sleeping experience. I’ll admit that it made me feel a little claustrophobic at first, but my sleep really is deeper/sounder when we use it. It’s also a really nice neutral color, but also works well with a duvet.

*As a tip, make sure that you order the size that fits your bed. If you buy one that’s too big, it hangs off the side and adds more pressure. You end up fighting against the blanket all night instead of being able to move freely.

Sleepytime Tea

I love winding down with herbal tea. This is one of my favorites, but I also enjoy the Traditional Medicinals Nighty Night, lavender/chammomile blends, and valerian root.

Brown Noise

A friend of mine told me about “brown noise” which is essentially a softer, subtler white noise. [The app I use is called “Sound Sleep” but I can’t find the google link. There are quite a few free ones out there, though, so find one you like!] Brown noise incorporates more of the low tones, which aren’t as harsh as those in white noise, which I find to be much more soothing and relaxing. My old apartment had a VERY loud upstairs neighbor who I’m pretty sure had no concept of “night time” and this app came in handy. It also helps with snoring spouses and sleeping with groups. I also have yet to become strangled by sleeping with headphones in, but use at your own risk…

2. Screen-Free Relaxation

Okay, I won’t say I’ve been totally screen free because…Candy Crush. But I’ve been making a solid effort to relax and unwind away from my phone. My husband and I have been listening to Harry Potter audiobooks on this website and we’ve also been playing a lot of board games together. Here are a few of our favorites:


I cannot recommend Pandemic highly enough. It’s a cooperative game, meaning that everyone works together to win. It’s also great for two players, but my husband and I each play with two characters. It keeps things more exciting. The added bonus is that it promotes a healthy marriage…I regret to admit that I can get a little too competitive with card games…yikes.

Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan is a classic, but needs more than 2 players in order to be fun. If you are new to the game, I highly recommend joining an experienced player for your first go. You can also get an expansion pack for a 5-6 player game, which suits larger groups.

Train Dominoes

I first played this game with high school friends. It’s pretty easy to learn, fun with folks of all ages, and is a great mindless game to play along with casual conversation, music, and drinks. No much concentration required.

We’ve also been loving puzzles lately, and have been borrowing from my sister’s collection. My brother-in-law introduced us to the concept of gradient puzzles, which we are a little afraid of still, but if you try it, let me know!

We’ve also been loving Parcheesi, which we discovered at a local brewery. Apparently this game has a long history, but it’s new to us. We love it!

I’ve also been trying to take breaks, follow my study schedule (so that I feel comfortable taking breaks) and protecting my relaxation time in the evening. Scoring a few points higher isn’t worth allowing my relationships or mental health to suffer.

How do you maintain work/life balance?


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