After four years in college, entering your first year of med school can have you feeling like a nervous freshman all over again. You’re facing another four years of hard work followed by any specialised training and your residency. This can feel like you’re being thrown out of the frying pan and into the fire. All the studying you did to pass your MCAT and get accepted now has to be put into practice, and you won’t be relying solely on anatomical knowledge and theories to get by.

Your first year of medical school is understandably one of the most anxiety inducing periods of your life, but it’s also one of the most memorable. You already know that this is thanks to the amygdala, our emotional brain, which can hype you up for something or leave you paralysed with fear. Trying to keep your cool during med school might feel impossible, but you can do it. You’ve already shown you have grit making it this far. This guide will help you ease into the new challenges with confidence by offering seven coping strategies for med school stress during your first year.

Start Prepping Early for the USMLE

At the end of your second year, you will have to take the USMLE, or the United States Medical Licensing Examination test. The first step of the exam concentrates on basic medical knowledge that is essential for students progressing to their third and four years, which focuses on delivering patient care. First-year med school students are mostly in the classroom and labs, so really focus on memorising as much as you can during this period. Remember to study smarter, not harder. That means using strategies, like time blocking, to get the most out of your study sessions.

Remember to Socialise at Med School

You may not have the time to hang out as much as you used to, but don’t let friendships completely fall to the wayside. Social support is vital for stressed students. Make sure you still have some time to connect, laugh and share with your friends. Fellow med students will be able to relate, and it can feel better just knowing there’s a person who gets what you’re going through.

Take Care of Your Finances

Doctors are high earners, but that salary comes at a price. Med students are often anxious about debt and how long their tuition will affect their lives. To help ease some of the worries that can keep you up at night, work on building a strong financial plan while you’re still in school. Having medical student loans available can vary extremely in terms of interest, so research various private lenders to find the best one for your education and future.

Prioritise Good Sleep

How you sleep is just as important as how often you sleep. Insomnia or extended periods of wakefulness have serious negative impacts on cognitive performance. With your long-term and working memory both at a disadvantage, you’ll struggle more to make it through your courses.

Talk to a Therapist if You Need To

Most schools have low-cost or free therapy available for students. Your mental health will have a direct impact on your academic performance, relationships and even future patient care. Don’t wait until you’re in crises to get help. If you feel overwhelmed, too anxious or just need someone to talk to, therapy is always a good idea.