Staying Fit and Healthy During Your Grueling Residency
Wellness is the trendiest of terms right now, and it has been such a cultural focus. Going through medical school and residency can certainly be taxing. There are numerous times where I have let my personal wellbeing take a backseat to my career responsibilities.
As I go through residency, I have come to the realization that it is important to maintain your health throughout your journey to becoming a physician.
By doing so, I’ve noticed an improvement in my outlook, which my patients have benefited from as well. I’m more focused and patient – and I believe not only does it provide short-term benefits for my medical practice, but also long-term health benefits.
In the article below, I highlight some tips to keep fit, healthy, and sane during the grueling years in residency.
Here are some tips on how to maintaining wellness through residency:
1. Meal prep will save you time and money.
Since medical school, I have been prepping my meals for the week. Usually, I’ll buy all the ingredients on my day off, and dedicate an hour or two to make about 8-10 meals for the week. I’ll usually incorporate a clean, unprocessed protein and tons of vegetables.
Not only do they save you money and time, meal preparation keeps your cravings at bay. When I’m stressed out, I immediately crave comfort food – french fries, hamburgers, fried food, etc.
It’s difficult to combat, but if you have ready-to-go meals waiting in your fridge, you are less likely to order takeout. On top of that, eating a healthier diet prevents me from feeling bogged down and tired throughout the day. Here are some tips I swear by to make meal preparation that much easier:
- Buy some glass snap-lock containers: I have about 10 meal-sized containers that have been going strong for 7 years! It may be a bit of a pricey investment at first, but it definitely pays for itself after just a couple of lunches/dinners.
- Buy frozen vegetables and meats: Frozen vegetables are such an easy way to prepare a meal quickly. For example, if you keep peas and carrots along with cauliflower rice, it makes it so easy to convert that to fried rice in about 10 minutes!
- I also buy a ton of protein and just place it in my freezer for when I need it. Then there’s no excuse to prepare a meal since you have all the ingredients available!
2. Make your own coffee!
This again speaks to saving money – which in my eyes, is a big part of wellness! Living in New York City, small drip coffee can reach $3-5. For someone like myself that needs a coffee to start the day, this can get expensive if you become dependent on someone else for your coffee fix. It can get upwards of $150 a month if you need a coffee daily.
Buy a coffee machine, and get a couple of coffee travel mugs to make it easier to bring your caffeine on the go.
3. Treat yourself.
I know, I know. This seems more like a ‘how to save money’ article more than a focus on wellness. But this is where all that money-saving pays off. I usually have a sizable chunk of money (at least in my eyes!) that I can save for, however, I wish to spend it.
Spend it on things that make you happy. For me, it’s traveling internationally. I have been able to take awesome trips throughout my residency from all the money I’ve saved up by not over-spending the rest of the year.
Other things that help me stay resilient through residency are investing in massages, unique workout classes, and dinners with friends. Spend that extra time determining whether your desired purchase will make you happy before buying things on impulse.
4. Hang out with your resident family.
No anecdotes or advice can prepare you for residency. You’ll work some ridiculous hours and see some crazy cases. Lean on your co-residents when you feel like you can’t handle what’s being thrown at you – it can be comforting to know that other people are going through the same thing as you.
5. Get help when you need help.
Residency can be extremely stressful. I’ve seen the most level-headed people lose their cool in situations. One of the things I’ve found helpful is to routinely check in with yourself to see how you’re doing.
I’ve found the most solace in a therapist, which is provided through my health insurance. She has been so helpful, and honestly, it is nice to be able to vent to someone that’s not within your social circle so you don’t have to feel guilty placing a personal burden on a friend or family member.
6. Make time for your workout.
Residency often takes the majority of your day. You get home after a 12+ hour long shift, and the last thing you want to do is be on your feet again. My remedy for this is to start your day with a workout, rather than end with it. My shifts often start at 7 am, and I’m up by about 4:30 am to get a 45-minute workout in, and still have enough time to have an unhurried morning. Also, pick a workout that you LOVE and that is within close proximity to your place. I invested in an exercise bike that I keep at home – which makes it all the more simple to get a workout in.
I also recommend spending the money on something that you love and can work on over the course of time! Picking up something like boxing allows you to hone your craft in a skill, while getting a great workout at the same time.
Not only are these things I live by in residency, I feel a lot of these tips are things that I will try to continue after as well. Is there anything you find helpful to maintain your resilience to stress? We’d love to hear your comments on how you combat stress. staying healthy during residency