Medicine is my lawful wife, and literature is my mistress. When I get fed up with one, I spend the night with the other.
Having a healthy balance in my life is important to me. When I feel like I have overextended myself, I will try to take a step back and re-evaluate my priorities and how I can restore some balance to my life.
From the sounds of things, you are having some challenges with having some time for yourself which could make you more prone to burn out. I certainly cannot give any particular recommendations since I do not know your full situation such as financial pressures or other factors. Having said that, I think you need to look at what matters to you and decide if you need to reduce some of your burdens to give yourself some breathing room.
For us, what really helped was having a strong foundation to start with. By the time I started medical school, we had already been dating for three years. We had already developed strong connections and a good understanding of each other. We had already discussed long term and career planning, and what that meant for us. There were definitely no major surprises or revelations going into medical school what sort of challenges we would face.
So far in our long distance relationship, a lot of what makes it work is constant communication: we both send text messages throughout the day to keep each other posted; we talk on the phone or over the webcam at night; sometimes if I am fortunate enough to find the time, I will fly out to see her over a long weekend.
It takes a lot of patience on both our parts and a lot of understanding. By no means is it an easy task, especially when you have grown accustomed to a physical presence over three years, to be transported into a screen-based relationship.
I know of at least a few classmates whose relationships have fallen apart over medical school so this is definitely one of the hardest things to find balance with in my life. However, the glue that holds it all together is really our commitment to each other and a commitment to find time for each other and make it work. Without that I think we would be lost.
School can be a little overwhelming at times and so sometimes I do find myself focusing more on studying than spending time with my family and friends. I would not say that I love the former more than the latter, but rather the commitments required of medicine can sometimes be overpowering and resulting in me being neglectful of others.
Finding that balance between the two, keeping them separate is something that I still strive for. While I may not have all the time in the world to commit to everything, setting time aside for myself and for those in my life is a crucial part of what I consider to be a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
I would say on any given day, I probably have about three or four hours to myself to do extracurricular stuff. I spend a lot of time studying so the balance is quite skewed towards studying. Sometimes I might get more, other times less. It kind of depends on my schedule and the situation.
For your question about studying physiology, it really is quite a bit. I think it was one of the harder classes I had to take. What I ended up doing was making a lot of cue cards and flow charts. A lot of concepts in physiology work well to break down into smaller boxes of information and just work through independently. Things like fluid compartments and micturition, metabolism can be generally expressed into a flow chart. This not only simplifies things but helps you reorganize and digest the lectures.
I found those helpful but I admit that everyone studies a little differently so it might not work well for you but it is worth a try.
As for the second part of your question, I have sort of answered this in the previous response found here. As an applicant, I put medicine on hold not so much because of pressure but because I felt like I had under-performed in the MCAT and would have a low likelihood of success. This changed when my father passed away, mentioned here.