Transitioning into medical school, studying for the USMLE STEP exams, completing clerkship rotations, and preparing for Match Day are stressful times for all medical students. Stress is a common reaction to the everyday challenges of life. There are many things that can contribute to feelings of stress, and it is important to note that no one is immune to its impacts. We at the Department of Mental Health Services (DMHS) would like to remind you of some helpful stress management tips that can assist you during these challenging periods.
When stress goes unmanaged it can result in the symptoms listed below. Check in with yourself, are you experiencing any signs of stress?
- Headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, fatigue
- Depression, anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation, or anger
- Lack of productivity, procrastination, impaired concentration
- Changes in eating, increased substance use, inconsistent sleep
- Social withdrawal, irritability, outbursts
Ask yourself the following questions to get a pulse on your current mental and emotional wellbeing:
- How am I feeling right now?
- Have I provided my body with its basic needs today (e.g., water, food, sleep, movement)?
- Does anything in my life feel unmanaged or unbalanced?
- What am I doing to experience rest and rejuvenation?
Coping with stress doesn’t have to be difficult. Need a place to start? Try one of the strategies below.
- Practice active relaxation through grounding exercises, meditation, or deep breathing.
- Square (box) breathing involves inhaling for 4 counts, holding your breath for 4 counts, exhaling for 4 counts, resting for 4 counts, and then repeating.
- Be aware of cognitive distortions (e.g., negative self-talk, catastrophizing, all-or-none thinking) related to perceptions of self, others, and the world.
- One way to identify negative thinking/cognitive distortions is to practice journaling. Consistent journaling will help you not only identify patterns of thoughts but also provide insight regarding appropriate next steps to counteract them.
- Engage in activities that allow for rest, creativity, movement, and purpose.
- Self-care is mainly about finding intentional ways to connect with yourself. Sometimes it’s as easy as taking a break from your electronic device and spending 5-10 minutes outside. No matter where you are in your medical school journey, we at DMHS recognize that stress can be a hard thing to experience and manage. If you need support in learning how to better cope with the challenges of medical school, then please do not hesitate to reach out for help.
Need to talk?
For trainees: The Department of Mental Health Services is available to provide mental health and personal counseling services to all students, residents, and fellows. There are a few ways to access services:
- To request an appointment with the Department of Mental Health Services, send a secure message via the online portal at indianamedportal.pointnclick.com or call 317-278-2383 during normal business hours (Monday – Friday, 8 am to 5 pm).
- For urgent matters, call 317-278-HELP (4357), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A licensed clinical health specialist will provide an assessment and help direct you to appropriate treatment options based on the situation. You may also call on behalf of a trainee if you are a family member, friend, or colleague concerned about their well-being. You may call anonymously if desired.
For IU Health employees:
- Indiana University Health Physicians Employee Assistance Program
- IU Health Spiritual Care and Chaplaincy Services; call 317-962-8611 • National Crisis Hotline; call or text 988 (available 24/7) For IU Employees:
- The IU Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides 24/7/365 access to licensed mental health counselors via SupportLinc or 888-881- LINC (5462) for IU School of Medicine team members and their households.
- Access to Anthem LiveHealth Online is included with your IU-sponsored medical coverage. This service allows you to engage with a mental health provider via telehealth using your IU insurance provider.