As the fall semester draws to a close, and as finals approach, I thought I would compile a list of things to do to really make the most out of the fall season, my personal favorite. It is that period when outside is not too cold and not too hot. The days can go from feeling like summer to below freezing in the Arctic, and having that contrasting atmosphere just makes me feel more connected to the world around, since everyone dresses warmly and spends more time with friends and family. It is a transitional period of introspective reflection, of tranquility and serenity, building one’s sense of self one leaf at a time, looking into a transitional future that will give birth to a new period of growth, until it is time to catch one’s breath, shed old inhibitions, and continue the progress of growth for the next available round, bigger and brighter, blossoming like violet spring.
All profundity aside, here are some of the things I managed to do during some of the best fall seasons, and what can also be done for the pre-med students to not neglect their crazy workload (I’m also talking to me here).
- Watch a movie
As cliche as it sounds, watching a movie actually has shown to reduce stress and improve one’s mental capabilities of handling uncomfortable situations. The mind can only handle a certain load of tension before it starts to take a toll on the health of the individual, and so transitioning temporarily into a different world of various characters may actually help unwind the loops the mind has made with all the information that it collects in a short period of time. So, next time you’re stressed for an exam, as long as it’s not the night before, don’t be afraid to take a few hours to watch that comedy you’ve always wanted to see, or see how the affair between those two characters is resolved in the sequel. The fall weather, when it gets too cold outside, offers the best time to plop down and escape into a virtual reality, especially when it gets dark a lot sooner. A word of advice: stick to comedies and dramas if you can, since if you watch horror movies when stressed it can lead to more stress, and possibly to jump scares at the slightest unfamiliar thing in your room afterwards.
2. Grab a cup of coffee (or tea)
Personally, I’m a tea guy. I have it everyday in the morning, and in the evening when I come back, but the most enjoyable time to sip a cup is none other than that of the colorful descending lateral appendages of the tree branches. It just soothes and relaxes on those freezing Arctic days, and it really calms your mind down when you’re forced to study at such a beautiful time. The caffeine, when not taken based on psychological dependence and the spurious belief of improving performance when drinking in large amounts, actually can stimulate the nerves and generation of synaptic connections, improving focus and keeping one occupied with the important task at hand. The stress of exams can make one overlook the benefits and natural beauty of the surroundings, but to be honest, that beauty is accentuated when those times are limited. In other words, this particular break had made me enjoy the fall weather even more because it was a short break, and so I would not take such a season for granted otherwise. A cup of coffee, or tea, can do wonders for one who aims to retain his focus or simply enjoy the natural collapse of the previous season. However, be careful that one of the leaves does not accidentally fall into your cup!
3. Enjoy time with friends (and Friends)
The theme song has started to buzz into my head now (So no one told you life was gonna be this way…).
Watching Friends on Netflix, while enjoyable, is not exactly what I meant. Instead, go to your friends house and enjoy what people call a Friendsgiving. If any of your friends cook, great (if the food is good), or their parents can do it for you. Or, you could try your hand at it yourself. There are some basic recipes that are not too hard to follow, even if you don’t even know the first step of cooking, which is getting all the utensils together. I have helped prepare penne vodka, roast turkey, and cornbread stuffing as part of the feast at my closest friend’s house. Eating it was the easy part, but coordinating with the family and getting all the guests to come over, I understand, can be quite a daunting task. The number one concern: what to do with all the food. Personally, that was never a problem for me, the “vacuum” who can suck up all the leftovers in an instant. The best part is, after eating, you all can relax and play some card games like Cards Against Humanity, That’s What She Said, among others. If you think that’s too much effort, go back to Tip #2. It applies well for a group just as much as individuals! For those crazy pre-med majors, a time with friends is exactly what you need to keep yourself sane. If there is any time you don’t have to memorize the Nucleophilic Substitution reactions, or the distinction between Photosystem I and II, please take advantage of it as much as you can!
If there are any other fun, cool party games that you play at Thanksgiving feasts, as long as they don’t involve too much memorization, please don’t stop the fun!
4. Study for MCATs (for prospective medical students mainly)
Yes, unfortunately, it’s true. Sorry to end on a less fun note, but the breaks are the best times for those of you who have struggled to keep up with the intense load of material while struggling to maintain your GPA during the semester. It really gives you time to at least formulate a solid plan for when you think you want to take it, if you haven’t already done so, as well as which areas you think you need extra practice and/or tutoring for. I am taking mine in the Spring the week after Spring Break, since that will be the best time to gather up any last minute gaps and address them through review, and most importantly, not through study. By then, I should already have seen all the material at least once and have practiced most of it enough times to be confident when encountering it on the exam. This Thanksgiving break, honestly, I have only had time to go over part of the Psychology section, and I was planning on going to the hard science sections now and focus on those for the remainder of the few months I have left, considering they are the bulk of the exam. It is not too late for those of you who haven’t started preparing or planning yet, but doing so as soon as possible will allow you to go in with more certainty when you’re actually ready. Do not simply focus on the MCAT. Instead, focus on where you’re headed with it. What school are you aiming for? What do you hope to get out of studying? How badly do you want to go to med school? Are you ready for this application cycle based on your current position?
As a member of the Eboard for the Alpha Epsilon Delta Prehealth honor society, I can find ways to help any of you get in touch with the Health Professions Office and seek directed advice, as well as for myself. It is better to take a step back and analyze your situation now. Be objective. Do not blindfire with no clear goal in mind. You will do better if you plan. I know it sounds cliche, but when you are stressed, it can be easy to forget to brush your own teeth, let alone follow advice that could benefit you (quoting my earlier post “Pre-Med: The Fair Side”).
Use the time of the breaks, and the beautifully introspective fall season to really propel yourself forward with your future plans for medical school, or your future career in general. At the very least, use it to at least get you started on the right path towards your goal, and leave yourself time to enjoy. But you will enjoy more, if you have a clearer plan in mind, which you can of course modify along the way.
To keep yourself from burning out, follow tips 1-3 closely. Enjoy the rest of the Fall season, and remember: stick to comedies and drama, not horror (you might already be suffering enough of that).