It is no secret that studying for the MCAT can be an incredibly stressful time. We hope to help you learn the importance of stress management, as well as a few techniques that can help you retain a positive mindset during this stressful time of your journey to medical school.

Why is managing stress so important?

Effective stress management can help with productivity and general mental health and wellbeing. According to the Mayo Clinic, stress management allows you to reset your threat response, building resilience [1]. In addition, unmanaged chronic stress may lead to serious health complications over time. The ultimate goal [2] of any stress management technique is to help you gain control over the challenging aspects of your life (e.g. studying for the MCAT) in order to preserve your social relationships and your mental and physical health.

What does cognitive stress management look like?

  • Expressive writing: You are encouraged to write about your thoughts and feelings about the MCAT exam. Journaling [3] has been found to manage anxiety, reduce stress, and cope with depression, among other benefits. The same relief that may consume you after you “vent” about a frustrating situation to your friends applies to journaling. It remains a productive way to reflect on your emotions and thoughts, as well as relieve any negative emotions in a safe manner.

  • Positive reappraisal: Reappraisal, in simple terms, requires you to think about an event or occurrence in a different way. It often involves [4] reframing an emotional or social stimulus to change the mental impact on you. For example, when studying for a standardized exam, you can think about your symptoms of stress as helpful for test-taking. Your body’s physical response, often boosted by adrenaline, can help revitalize you for your MCAT. The Stanford Department of Psychology has developed a toolkit to help you “rethink” your stress. Access the toolkit for free here.

Sources

[1] https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/basics/stress-basics/hlv-20049495

[2] https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-management.htm

[3] https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552&ContentTypeID=1

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6188704/

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