Hacking Medical School Stress

Hey everyone, long time lurker/ podcast listener, first time poster here.


As you may be able to tell from my username, I'm a (fairly new) medical student, meaning that I have less time to do any hacks, though I still do some basic supplements (Vit D, C, K2, Tryptophan, Collagen) and BP coffee. I live on campus and eat at the cafeteria, so while I try and pick the healthiest and most BP choices I am far from any semblance of a BP diet.


We're about to take our second round of tests in two days, and just like with the last round the stress and tension has ramped up about a week prior to the test-- I find myself subconsciously tensing my jaw practically all day, tensing my shoulders, tapping my feet, and some other usual anxiety/stress tics. I do HRV training (though not religiously, thanks again to med school) and a mindfulness meditation-type thing before bed most nights, but when test time rolls around this goes to the wayside most of the time.


Med school is supposed to be stressful, I know that. I even like a tiny bit of stress, but too much makes me lose focus and makes it so I can't retain information. My main goal is to keep the stress level constant, whether it is a test week or not. Do any of you have any ideas? My sleep is not really an issue as far as I can tell per the SleepCycle app. I'm definitely going to be more religious with my HRV/ MM, but any other suggestions?




  • edited October 2014

    This won't help so much for this round of tests but I think the best to avoid stress (at least for me) regarding big tests is being prepared and really keep on top of your studying.  Basically, study every day.  I think some people even try to read material before class that day.  


    Also, don't sacrifice quality sleep and getting some physical activity.


    Magnesium helps with muscle relaxation.  Glycinate is a good form.  0.5 mg (max 1 mg) sublingual melatonin to help go to sleep if you are staying up being stressed instead of sleeping.  Theanine is also good for stress management but I never noticed much of an effect from it.


    Good luck!

  • Try and have some fun.  Exercise consistently but not so much it wears you out.  Try to be effective and efficient with studying.


    Have you tried the headspace app?  HRV training is good too.

  • bulletproof_alexbulletproof_alex Bulletproof Team Member

    Set up your school workflow into a manageable system. Higher education teaches you two things: 1. How to be in debt & 2. How to be stressed out. In this way, college does actually prepare you for the "real world." :)

    Keep your homework and studying time scheduled off. Use your calendar on your phone to schedule this time as well as time for exercising and social activities. Keeping things managed is crucial to having them not manage you. Stress can be reduced immensely if this stuff isn't constantly in your head. Your brain isn't a very good Evernote/Google Calendar alternative.


    If I were to go back to school, I wouldn't mess around with constantly keeping important stuff in my head. Write that stuff down and forget about it. It will free up a lot of headspace and get rid of decision fatigue. I'd also make a point to sleep at night time. I didn't have a consistent sleep schedule during college, and it messed me up. I'm still recovering from it more than a year later. Limit daytime sleeping to less than 2 hours. Wake up early, get some exercise in, chill for a bit, go to class, take a nap, study, hang out with friends, and get ready for bed.


    On the biohacking side of things, limit carbs in the cafeteria, buy your own butter to make sure you have enough fat in your diet. Also remember to move & walk a lot.


    If you want to try out nootropics, CILTEP is great for studying. It's seriously worth the money.

    Marketing Communications Coordinator | Bulletproof

  • Thanks for all the tips guys! I definitely am a huge fan of writing out a schedule for the day the night before so that I dont use any brain RAM storing that info. I get to the gym 3 times a week normally (HIIT, lifting, sometimes abs) but again during test week this doesn't always happen. I have a consistent sleep schedule, which has DEFINITELY helped.


    Food-wise, I dont eat any carbs in the morning, but its normally still a pretty nutritionless breakfast-- powder eggs, greasy sausage patties etc. Or, if god forbid, i wake up early enough I can get an omlette packed with bell peppers and sausage. sometimes I have carbs in the evening only because sometimes the food choices are horrible (or are running low) and the main priority becomes filling my stomach with enough matter to not be hungry when I go to bed (this never works though).


    I'm looking at nootropics but am not at all educated in them. the racetam family were looking pretty interesting, but when I told my mom (who's a pharmacist) that I was looking at them she freaked out a little cuz she gives these to strung-out soldiers with PTSD all the time. CILTEP looks pretty awesome but expensive, maybe itd be worth it to not feel this way and maybe get a few more points on my tests :)

  • I wish I had been a BP med student.  Unfortunately, it was probably my most unhealthy time in my life.  I ate terribly (lived across the street from Wendy's), stayed out too late, drank too much, procrastinated more than ever before in my life, the list goes on...  


    Med school == stress.  There are no two ways about it.  Just by being mindful of the challenges you face is a step in the right direction.  I really like Alex's advice.


    If I had it to do all over again, more than any one thing, I would wish that I would have been into self-experimentation.  Trying experiments is how you learn about yourself.  The more you do, the more you learn.  This is both in how you design your experiments, how you measure your results, and what type of experiment to do next.  You are a scientist by heart, or you wouldn't be in medical school, right?  Use the scientific method.  Make a hypothesis, test it, measure results.  Quantify and qualify.


    I'll share one last pearl of wisdom that I wish I'd learned sooner.  Your brain works like a "Bayseian engine".  I'm currently in the process of launching a tech startup, and a business mentor that I am working with was talking about using Bayesian inference to make better decisions.  It is "a method of inference in which Bayes' rule is used to update the probability estimate for a hypothesis as additional evidence is acquired."  I'm not going to explain it all here, but there are plenty of youtube videos on Bayes' rule, or you can check it out on Wikipedia.  My friend has done work with IBM on Watson and AI, so I trust his advice and credibility.  You could use this for all kinds of advantages in medical school.  I've been playing around with using it to make better decisions in my practice.  It does require a level of brutal honesty with yourself if you want the most benefit.  I can imagine using it to choose better study partners, make better guesses when you don't know the answer on multiple choice tests, using it to decide the optimal length of time to study before taking a break, there are probably too many possibilities to list.  I'd love to hear if you try one and get some interesting results.



Sign In or Register to comment.