Medicine is about serving others. It’s about developing a set of skills and knowledge and combining them with compassion to deliver treatments and care. The process of becoming a doctor doesn’t leave us with much time for ourselves. However, forgetting to care for ourselves limits how much energy we have to care for others (after all, you can’t give what you do not have; it’s sad when medical students become patients in the mental ward). Trust me,you do not want to become a doctor that needs medical care all because of medical schooling.
To maintain happiness, stability, sanity and resilience through these challenging years, I’ve carved out some time in my schedule that is exclusively for me. Obviously it doesn’t happen at the same time every week because school can be unpredictable. For example, after dealing with about 150 slides in Biochemistry and having no idea what the topics are about, yet my mates are asking questions (it takes a deeper understanding to ask questions in class), there is that tendency to bury myself in my books, make sure I get it all in. But this “me time” is essential to grounding myself in the midst of lectures, meetings, and exams. It’s a time where I can do something that makes me happy, take my mind off the work of today and tomorrow and be fully present. It may sound tough to find this space but with practice, it’s as easy as playing the guitar. For me, it’s literally playing the guitar.
I crank up the music in my headphones and freestyle to the progression. Sometimes, I leave class early, though I came late, just to buy more “me time”. Other times, I push myself to walk to my former hall of residence (Kuti Hall) and see my former hallmates not in my department. Whether I’m playing a few games at Hotspot, whooping ass (I am technically the best in the department of Medicine & Surgery, UI), watching a movie at the cinema or stalking my favourite Instagram models, this is time that my medical school mind can turn off.
Any activity you love can fill this space: watching a favourite TV show, reading a book, taking a long hot bath (how awesome this could be), going for afternoon walk, lifting weights, watching people in a park, napping. Something that you can do in a moment you find yourself with just a few extra minutes. It doesn’t have to cost money and it doesn’t have to involve anyone else; just something simple and convenient that you can get into the habit of doing.
Setting healthy habits now creates the foundation for our future practices. While my instinct is usually to say, “I’ll make time for it after medical school”, time is not going to come easier in residency, clinical practice or whatever else we wish to do. There’s no better time than now to get into the habit of taking care of ourselves. I was initially skeptical of giving extra time to playing my guitar, but once I took the plunge, I realized that my academics didn’t suffer because of it. I am happy when I’m soloing to a chord progression and I’m happier throughout the week after taking my personal time. It’s easy to get caught up and lost in the flurry of medical school, with endless amounts of knowledge to absorb and brilliant peers to keep up with. Having an outlet and something that is uniquely mine makes me feel content and grounded in a culture that always asks for more.
A career in medicine is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re thirsty during a marathon, you wouldn’t wait until the last few miles to drink water just because you think drinking might slow you down. Drinking water will make the run much easier and that hydration will help you to complete the marathon. In the same way, indulging yourself in a few sips of some “you time” will keep you going throughout the marathon of medical training, with the goal of not burning out along the way.


Ebengho Ikponmwosa Gabriel

Ikponmwosa Ebengho is a fourth year medical student in the University of Ibadan. He graduated with a degree in medical biochemistry from the Delta State University. Asides being a professional portrait/ wedding photographer, he aspires to become a plastic surgeon as he believes surgery is an aspect of the medical profession that offers him the opportunity to consciously and actively create beauty. Kindly visit his website to know more about him and his work.

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