I was deep in the trenches of Step 2 studying. There were moments where I felt so exhausted, felt too tired to get up. One of the things that recharged me, though, were my daily walks.
On blue-sky days I walked around my neighborhood. On cool days and chilly ones, I still walked around — through parks and even on beaches along the ocean. I walked in the cool of the evening and under the warmth of the midday sun. Even the wind or rain did not deter me. The fresh air refreshed my spirit.
I think my walks revitalized me and gave me energy to keep on going because being outside compelled me to look at the world around me. I admired colorful flowers I hadn’t noticed before; there were yellow ones with wisps of orange stripes, tulips of all shades of purple, roses of all shades of pink. I paused to listen to the morning birds softly chirping. I felt the gentle breeze on my face, the red maple leaves crunching underneath my feet. Seeing the flowers reminded me of a verse from Scripture that helped ease a bit of stress: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?...Consider how the lilies of the field grow…” (Matthew 6:27-28)
I would listen to uplifting songs, funny podcasts, and encouraging sermons on Spotify. I would call my mom and catch up with her. I would wave hello to the kids on my block and smile at random strangers.
All these things reminded my why I’m studying. I’m studying not necessarily for a particular number — our identity is more than a number — but I study to learn about the human body. I study to learn about illness and healing. In my mind I keep at the forefront my family, my friends, and my future patients. Though these exams are extremely taxing — mentally, physically, financially — I came to view my study periods as another way to help me become a better student and ultimately a better future physician. My walks became a reminder of this goal as I recalibrated in the fresh air.
During my clinical rotations, I also sought green spaces on the weekends — parks by the bay, wooded areas, forested hills. The current place I live in allows me to drive 30 minutes and arrive at a beach. My friends and I would wander through autumn foliage or marvel at the glistening sea. Even if you’re in the city, being outside can offer revitalization, too. At times I walked through the downtown area, weaving in and out of shops and bookstores, flipping through a good fiction book that wasn’t about T-cells and B-cells. Even during 30-minute lunch breaks on the inpatient wards, I would make it my goal to at least step outside, or walk from the cafeteria and back to the fourth floor. Sometimes I would bump into a classmate who gave a friendly smile or an encouraging piece of advice, or sometimes I would smile at the little kids holding their parents’ hands.
Walking as a form of exercise also increases endorphins — which are much needed during a stressful time such as studying for board exams. Sitting at a desk studying for boards all day or standing in the operating room for several hours straight take a physical toll on the body.
On walks, who knows what you’ll hear, who knows what you’ll see. May you be refreshed as well, just as these walks have been refreshing to my soul.
Anna Delamerced is a medical student at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, she enjoys exploring the crossroads of writing and medicine, and listening to patients tell their stories. Anna is a Doximity 2019-2020 Fellow.