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March 7, 2024

Navigating Stress During Your MSMS Program

Our Master of Science in Medical Sciences (MSMS) programs are rigorous graduate degree programs that mirror the first year of an LCME-accredited medical program. While our university partners provide supportive learning environments for you to study in, it’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed and under pressure from time to time.

Stress will be a fact of life throughout the rest of your medical education—and your career. Learning to cope with it productively is essential for maintaining mental well-being during your MSMS and beyond. This article looks at some of the stressors that may come up for you during your MSMS program and offers practical tips for managing that stress.

Academic Stress

The academic rigor of medical school is unparalleled. You’ll need to master a vast amount of complex material in a short period. The fear of falling behind or not meeting academic expectations can be daunting. To manage academic stress:

  • Prioritize tasks and create a realistic study schedule
  • Seek help from professors, tutors, or study groups when needed
  • Practice self-compassion and understand that it's okay not to know everything immediately

Earning your MSMS with a Tiber Health university partner offers you an additional resource for managing your stress. Our predictive analytics-enhanced program helps you understand exactly where your strengths and weaknesses are at all times. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to target your study sessions toward the areas that need the most reinforcement.

Time Management Stress

Balancing your MSMS coursework with other aspects of your life can be difficult—especially if you’re earning your MSMS online part-time while working or caring for family members. If your time management practices aren’t up to the task, you can wind up creating even more stress for yourself. To better manage time:

  • Use a planner or digital calendar to schedule study sessions, classes, and other commitments
  • Identify time-wasting activities (such as browsing social media during study sessions) and take steps to minimize them
  • Learn to say no to non-essential commitments to avoid overextending yourself
  • Prioritize self-care activities such as exercise, relaxation, and socializing
  • Accept that some things, such as housework, will need to be less important while you focus on your studies

Most people aiming to study medicine are driven people with very high standards. While you should maintain those high standards, recognize that everyone loses control of their days on occasion. Don’t beat yourself up if you get behind on your work.

Financial Stress

Graduate health education is a major investment that may contribute to your feelings of stress. Managing student loans and living expenses can be challenging. To alleviate financial stress:

  • Create a budget and stick to it
  • Explore opportunities for scholarships, grants, or financial aid
  • Consider part-time work or freelance opportunities if feasible
  • Utilize resources provided by the school's financial aid office for guidance

Remember that your MSMS program equips you for many different career opportunities beyond medical school. Even if you decide not to pursue a medical career when you’re finished, you’ll have a graduate degree that can help you qualify for a wide range of good jobs.

Social Stress

Entering graduate school can be isolating. If you’re moving to earn your MSMS, you may have to leave behind familiar support networks and adapt to a new social environment. Feeling lonely can exacerbate the other types of stress you’re experiencing. You can reconnect with others and help dissipate stress by:

  • Getting involved in student organizations, clubs, or volunteer activities
  • Attending social events and networking opportunities to connect with peers
  • Fostering relationships with classmates through study groups or informal gatherings
  • Staying connected with friends and family outside of medical school to maintain a sense of balance

Maintaining relationships takes energy, and during your MSMS program you may feel you can’t afford to divert any energy away from your coursework. However, keeping in touch with friends and loved ones can also help you recharge. Don’t neglect it, even if some days all you can do is exchange a few text messages.

When to Seek Professional Help

It’s important to be able to recognize the difference between experiencing stress and experiencing depression or anxiety. The Mayo Clinic outlines several common symptoms of depression that you should be aware of as you work through your MSMS program. These include:

  • Feeling sad, tearful, or hopeless
  • Feeling unable to take pleasure in things that used to make you happy
  • Experiencing changes in sleep patterns or appetite
  • Feeling that even small tasks, such as taking a shower, require too much energy
  • Experiencing angry outbursts over trivial matters

Make use of your MSMS faculty and staff if you’re really struggling. They can help you find resources and professional support to care for your mental health.

Stress Can Build Resilience

Stress is a normal part of the journey toward your medical career. Learning to recognize stress and develop effective coping strategies during your MSMS program can set you up to manage future challenges with resilience and success. Remember to prioritize self-care, seek support when needed, and celebrate small victories along the way. You're not alone in this journey, and with perseverance and determination, you will emerge stronger and more capable as a future healthcare professional.

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