How do you handle stress?

Any residency training program is undoubtedly going to have an element of stress. Unfortunately, stress can bring out some of our worst qualities, habits, and tendencies. This is only amplified when stressful situations arise in the background of fatigue and sleep deprivation common among residents.

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Programs know that every resident will be stressed or placed in stressful situations at numerous points throughout residency. Their objective is to find applicants that handle stress in a mature and healthy manner. Individuals that have positive coping mechanisms for handling stress will be more prepared to endure the daily pressures and demands of residency training.

You should have a well prepared answer that demonstrates that you handle stress in a mature and healthy way. Below is a listing of some healthy and unhealthy ways of handling stress. Include the good and avoid mention of any behaviors that may appear maladaptive in the context of a professional interview. Also, avoid listing ways of dealing with stress that don’t mesh well with being a medical resident. If every time you get stressed you require a week long beach vacation, being a resident may be logistically very challenging.

“Individuals that have positive coping mechanisms for handling stress will be more prepared to endure the daily pressures and demands of residency training.”

Dr. Carter J. Boyd, Founder, Med Student Edge

Write out your initial response, then put yourself in the interviewer’s perspective. Are the mechanisms that I use to cope with stress healthy and sustainable given the demands of being a resident? If the answer is yes, use your response. If not, you may want to consider altering your answer.

Healthy Ways of Coping with Stress

  • Exercising
  • Hobbies
  • Spending time with friends and family
  • Meditation
  • Reflection
  • Adequate sleep
  • Breaks
  • Sharing with others

Unhealthy Ways of Dealing with Stress

  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Denial
  • Social isolation
  • Excessive weight loss or weight gain
  • Large financial expenditures

This type of question allows you to demonstrate your personality and interests. Let that individuality shine through, but also ensure that your answer is appropriate and reassures interviewers that you possess a balanced approach towards managing stressful situations.

How do you like to handle stress? Let us know and comment below.

Back to more practice interview questions.

Carter J. Boyd, MD, MBA
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