Two quotes from the great medical educator William Osler about the need for hobbies, and the value of a practice he developed as a student: reading before bed.

While medicine is to be your vocation or calling, see to it that you have also an avocation some intellectual pastime which may serve to keep you in touch with the world of art, of science, or of letters. Begin at once the cultivation of some interest other than the purely professional. The difficulty is in a selection, and the choice will be different according to your tastes and training. No matter what it is, have an outside hobby.

For the hard-working medical student it is easier perhaps to keep up an interest in literature. Let each subject in your year’s work have a corresponding outside author. When tired of anatomy refresh your minds with Oliver Wendell Holmes after a worrying subject in physiology, turn to the great idealists, to Shelley or to Keats, for consolation; when chemistry distresses your soul, seek peace in the great pacifier, Shakespeare; ten minutes with Montaigne will lighten the burden. [“Work”]

Start at once a bedside library and spend the last half-hour of the day in communion with the saints of humanity. There are great lessons to be learned from Job and from David, from Isaiah and St. Paul. Taught by Shakespeare you may take your intellectual and moral measure with singular precision. Learn to love Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. Should you be so fortunate as to be born a Platonist, Jowett will introduce you to the great master through whom alone we can think in certain levels, and whose perpetual modernness startles and delights. Montaigne will teach you moderation in all things, and to be ‘sealed of his tribe’ is a special privilege. [“The Humanities in Medicine”]

According to his college roommate, Osler practiced what he preached. As Michael Bliss writes in his biography of Osler, he “went to bed at 10 PM… and spent the next hour reading nonmusical classics. This became a legendary habit— an hour’s worth of good reading a day— and it gave Osler a base of literary knowledge that was constantly expanding.”

I’ve been reading a number of his speeches, and Osler is consistent in warning students and young practitioners that general practice is exhausting, that it can easily become an exhausting grind, and that before you get into it you need to develop very strong and systematic habits– otherwise you get overwhelmed. Good advice still.