How to Avoid Pre-Med Burnout - Tips, Strategies & FAQs

September 19, 2023
8 min read


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 09/19/23

Wondering how you can avoid burnout as a pre-med student? Read on to learn how to prevent pre-med burnout to help you make the most of your pre-med experience

A burned out pre-med student
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What is Burnout?

Burnout - most times, you only realize it's happening once it's too late. Burnout is a syndrome that occurs due to immense stress that has not been successfully managed. It's especially common in pre-med students as they deal with a full college timetable of classes, studying, assignments, and pre-med stress.

Although you may have good intentions by filling your days with studying, homework, and the like, you may do more harm than good. 

Depriving your brain and yourself of rest will cause you to become demotivated, depressed, stressed, and angry. While some may be able to avoid it longer than others, it delays the inevitable and can severely impact your academic performance. 

The best way to make it through your pre-med program is to manage stress to decrease your likelihood of burning out. Below, we've listed more information about burnout and the best ways to avoid it so that you can have the best learning experience possible. Read on for more!

What Are the Signs of Burnout?

An exhausted person

To prevent pre-med burnout, we'll first need to discuss the signs of it. There are many different symptoms, a variety of which may affect some more than others. Nevertheless, we'll list the most common signs below.


It's normal to be tired as a pre-med student. You may have an intense workload that you'll have to juggle with the rest of your personal and academic responsibilities. 

If day in, day out, you notice that you're unable to stay awake, you have difficulty falling asleep because of the pre-med stress that you face, or you feel that your days keep dragging on with no end in sight, you may be experiencing burnout. 

Lack of Motivation

Sometimes, dedicating 100% of your time to studies every day of every week can affect your mental health and productivity. You may find it harder and harder to wake up and tackle your tasks and responsibilities for the day, alongside a lack of passion for your pre-med classes. 

Feeling of Worthlessness

Working through a pre-med program can often be incredibly taxing and demanding, especially when navigating a challenging curriculum, tests, and assignments. After a less-than-stellar test result (it happens!), you may catch yourself on a downward slope of feeling as if you're not worthy of being in the program - which is not the case! 

As a result of this feeling, you may start to feel cynical. This is yet another sign of the monster known as pre-med burnout. 

Ways to Avoid Pre-Med Burnout

A person doing yoga

Navigating burnout as a pre-med student can be another challenge on top of a challenging course load. Don't fret - we've listed some ways to avoid pre-med burnout here.

Take Care of Yourself

Although pre-med academic tracks are notorious for leaving little time to yourself, your brain cannot handle being under duress day in and day out. By forcing yourself to study or retain information every chance you get, you’re at a higher risk of burnout.

As a pre-med student (and eventually a medical student and a medical doctor), you will be taking care of patients’ overall health and well-being. But you can only do this successfully if you are able to prioritize your own. 

Ensure that you’re fueling your body with the right nutrients by eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep. It's also important to incorporate exercise into your daily rhythms for a healthy mind and body. This will act as a great stress reliever and offer your brain a way to reset.

Become a Master in Time Management

A large component of being a pre-med student is juggling your academic requirements, like homework, projects, labs, and classes, with any other responsibilities you may have. The best way to navigate this is to stay organized by planning your day. You can keep track of your time with a planner, phone, or computer. You can also talk to pre-med consulting professionals to help you learn to manage your time well. 

By planning your day, you're giving yourself designated time blocks to tackle all your tasks so that you don't have to cram everything in one night. Ensure you plan for study breaks when you can - they are the perfect opportunity to take a break!

On top of rest, scheduling breaks also helps with memory retention. Studies show that dividing your studying time with breaks in between can strengthen your performance capacity. So don't feel guilty about taking a breather - just as long as you come back!

Engage in Hobbies 

It’s easy to forget about or dismiss hobbies while you’re in medical school. It may seem foolish or unimportant to participate in a hobby when you already have so many other priorities. But it’s important to spend time doing things that bring you joy! 

Consider setting aside intentional time to engage in an activity that you genuinely enjoy. This could include playing the guitar, reading, baking, sports, etc. You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it makes when it comes to keeping burnout at bay. 

It’s a good idea to explore some hobbies over the summer or even already in high school so that you’ll have activities to fall back on if you start to feel stressed. And don’t forget that engaging in hobbies and extracurriculars will also help you put together a stellar pre-med resume!

Look Into Mindfulness Techniques 

It’s important to take care of your mental wellbeing. Learning more about mindfulness can be helpful when dealing with burnout. There are many books, articles, podcasts, and apps that allow you to explore the benefits of mindfulness. 

It may seem trivial at first glance, but incorporating mindfulness techniques into your everyday life can significantly reduce your stress and feelings of burnout. Consider engaging in things like meditation exercises, breathing exercises, or mindful listening. Building mindful habits early on can help you prevent burnout down the road. 

How to Address Pre-Med Burnout If You’re Already Experiencing Its Symptoms 

If you’re already feeling the symptoms of burnout, overcoming it may seem hopeless. But don’t worry -- here are some tips to help you navigate those feelings. 

Take Some Time Off

If you need it, there’s nothing wrong with taking some time off to recover and get back on your feet. Sometimes this might look like dropping a course, saying no to outside commitments, or even taking a semester or year off from school. 

Some time away from the world of academia could work wonders to restore your motivation. You might choose to travel or volunteer with a local organization. Spend your time off doing things that you’re passionate about and that you enjoy. 

Taking time off could also just look like reworking your schedule. You could try to plan to have one day each week when you don’t do any work for school. Intentional time off to rest and recuperate might be all you need to get your energy back. 

Talk it Out

Many colleges have student resources - like counselors or therapists - that can help you cope when things get tough, especially when you're burnt out. Like a domino effect, being burnt out can lead to other debilitating issues - so it's important to seek help when needed.

School counselors and therapists are well-equipped with tools and resources to help you navigate burnout and pre-med stress while helping you get back on the road to success. Your tuition normally includes access to these in-school resources, so there's nothing to lose by making an appointment with one.

If you'd rather speak to someone you feel more comfortable with, try speaking to a loved one - like a family member, friend, or peer in the pre-med program. 

Sometimes, "letting it all out" and speaking about your stresses makes you feel better, especially if you're speaking to someone who has been through the same stress. Don’t underestimate the importance of community support when handling burnout. 

Remember The “Why” 

In the chaos of being a pre-med student, you may get so caught up in the stress of assignments, projects, and other academic pursuits that you forget why you’re doing it all in the first place. Taking some time to reflect and remember your motivations may help you handle your burnout. 

It might even be helpful to consider changing your major to one that is more enjoyable for you. Since there’s no major you need to have, you should choose a pre-med major that suits your interests and skills. This way, you can minimize stress and keep your pre-med passion alive. 

It’s important to spend time thinking about your future aspirations and dreams. Read books, articles, or podcasts that inspire you and re-ignite your passion for the medical field. And have patience with yourself! You’ll get there.

FAQs: How to Avoid Pre-Med Burnout

Are you still seeking answers to questions about avoiding pre-med stress? Below, we’ve listed some popular questions and answers addressing pre-med burnout and how to avoid it. 

1. Is Being a Pre-Med Student Stressful?

As a Pre-Med student, your schedule will be full of classes, assignments, tests, extracurriculars, and MCAT prep. This can bring a lot of stress, as the curriculum and content you are learning can be very strenuous.

2. How Do I Stop Pre-Med Burnout?

There are many ways to stop pre-med burnout, and different methods may work better for some people than others. 

You can tackle pre-med burnout by incorporating breaks regularly in your study routine, participating in stress-relieving activities like physical activity, planning your days or weeks out in advance, eating a healthy diet, getting a good night's rest, or talking to a friend or loved one.

3. How Do Pre-Med Students Relax?

Pre-Med students can relax by taking a break from their studies, which allows their brains and minds to recharge so that they are ready to learn and retain more information for their studies when needed. 

Activities that many pre-med students participate in to relax can include hanging out and catching up with friends or loved ones, exercising, or taking a bath.

4. How Do I Deal with Pre-Med Anxiety?

If you find yourself struggling with pre-med anxiety, it's important to talk to someone who can help you with your stresses, like a counselor, family member, or friend. 

You can also take charge of your schedule by planning out your days or week and booking in "me time" for yourself - a day that you can spend doing whatever you want to do - whether that's exercising, reading a book, or watching your favorite tv show with friends.

Final Thoughts

Learning to prevent burnout and taking the time necessary to recharge is a skill that will come in handy throughout your lifetime. There will always be stressful events occurring in one's life, like studying for the MCAT or applying to medical schools. Having the tools to combat these stresses will allow you to succeed in the future. 

There's no denying that as a pre-med student, you will be incredibly busy with your academic responsibilities. But it's important to ensure you're taking time to relax and prevent burnout.

If you find yourself starting to feel burnt out, remember to take a break, focus on your well-being, and relax in whatever way is best for you. Doing so will often reignite your passion for medicine, inspiring you to keep pushing and completing your degree. 

Finally, remember to take advantage of whatever resources your college provides to promote your mental and physical health. Keep going; you've got this!

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