How to Prepare Your Mental Health for USMLE Step 1 Preparations?By Ernest Hamilton
Mental health and happiness are two important things that get neglected during exam preparations. Some might argue that studying for a difficult 8-hour medical exam like the USMLE Step-1 exam does not leave much room for being happy. The stress, anxiety, and expectations of scoring well and getting into a proper college is high. But there are ways one can enhance their happiness levels and still prepare for the exams without disturbing their mental health. These are the few points one must remember during USMLE Step 1 exam preparations or any other exam preparation.
What makes us happy?
It is quite a common question, but most of the time, one has a wrong interpretation of what makes them happy. Most of the time, you might think that a good job, good scores/marks, good college, money, and other things would make you happy. But on the contrary, these provide you with a temporary happiness level as you would not get any happiness from them after some time.
This phenomenon is called hedonic adaptation. The process where you return to the stable state of happiness despite the positive or negative events occurring to life as you get used to them. So, even if you think that getting the highest marks would make you extremely happy and getting low marks would result in terrible sadness, in reality, it won't affect the happiness level as such.
The mind does not think in terms of absolutes; it judges to relative reference points. You reference something which you see or hear more. For instance, in a track, the winners have been declared, but each winner's happiness level is different. The person who came first is very happy but the person who is in second place is extremely disappointed. But the third person is extremely happy and maybe even happier than the 1st person.
This is because the 2nd person is referencing himself to the 1st person, and he is disappointed since, in his mind, he thinks if he could have worked a bit harder, then he could have beat him. But the 3rd person has reference to not coming in the top three. He is happy and content that at least he is in the top 3, which is better than nothing. Similarly, if you have people constantly comparing you with a person with better grades, then unwantedly, your brain would reference you with that person every time. So, if that person scores more, then you feel sad and disappointed. So, before referencing yourself to someone else, try to reference your success and improvement levels.
Adopt a Growth mindset over a stable mindset
Most people have a stable mindset rather than a growth mindset. Most of the people are much more invested in the marks they have obtained rather than the mistakes they have made. In a growth mindset, the person encourages himself to learn from his mistakes and have a hunger to strive more for knowledge, not because of the reward (like scoring more) but because he wants to learn.
Whereas in a stable mindset, people are inclined to work hard only if they know the reward. You can adapt a growth mindset by continuously practicing and telling yourself to become more conscious about your mistakes and reciprocate more to positive criticism.
Implement SMART and WOOP
Implementing the SMART and WOOP technique is a sure way to achieve your goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. So, while aiming for a goal, make sure the goal is specific, measured, relevant, and achievable, and achieved in a fixed time. Like scoring 200 out of 300 in USMLE in 6 months of prep time. WOOP stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan.
After you have Wished for your goal using SMART, make sure you vividly imagine the Outcome of the goal. This enhances and puts you in a positive loop of working hard towards the goal, as vividly visualizing creates the possibility of it being achievable. After visualizing the Outcome, think of the Obstacles that come, like you being tired and not studying, or you are using the phone and watching movies instead of studying. Make a Plan, how you would tackle such an obstacle, and stick by it.
Think why you want medicine in 1st place
One of the biggest motivators is not the score you get or the college you get into, but the concept of why you wanted to study it in the first place. In most cases, the why is related to the character strength of the person, and once you know you are working towards enhancing your character strength, you instantly become happier in working for it. If you are studying medicine and trying to be a doctor, you want to help people out, and your major character strength is kindness. So, even if you do not get the marks you hoped for or get into the college, you wanted you could still nurture your character strength in your way every day.
These are a few ways you can ensure that you could achieve good marks while preparing for USMLE examinations or any other medical examinations. One of the great ways to prepare for USMLE is enrolling in a prep course. For instance, Lecturio's USMLE prep course that uses spaced repetition technique to improve memory recall can help you in remembering the small details that are often missed with difficult exams like the USMLE step 1 and 2. Except this, know that marks and college are not life's ultimatum.
You can still turn your life around with your skills and knowledge. Keep the above points in mind while preparing to help you achieve your goal. Also, make sure you keep practicing and be consistent about your study sessions, stay hydrated, exercise, meditate, take small breaks, and be happy. Make sure you keep interacting with the people who act as your support system and keep uplifting you no matter what-all the best for your exam and know that it will pass.
* This is a contributed article and this content does not necessarily represent the views of universityherald.com