A Few Words About Physician Burnout

November 2, 2018

It’s critical for you to know when to take time for yourself and your family and when to say no. It is also critical to know how to set boundaries that could save your career and your health. A moderate amount of stress and fatigue come as part of any demanding profession, but you can’t and shouldn’t give in to them. Instead, try some simple strategies to reenergize your personal and professional life.

First, define what’s really important in your life aside from being a physician – That’s when you’ll notice that your life is out of balance. Think of the ambitions you had before becoming a physician. Working toward goals that once brought you joy might relieve some of the stress in your life right now.

Here are a few helpful hints to battle burnout from various sources I have read:

  • Designate quiet time for yourself every day. Every day, carve five minutes, whether it’s a five-minute walk, or five minutes at lunch—just do something to quiet your work life.
  • Pick up old hobbies or find new ones. It could be shooting hoops with your kids or gardening — just look for a hobby that is missing and fill that void.
  • Focus on family time. Spend more time with your family—not in between running to the hospital and answering pages, but really doing something of high quality; Maybe it’s bike-riding, or renting a movie, but set aside that time in a calendar and make it a weekly engagement.
  • Take better care of your own health. As the saying goes, sometimes we individually are our own worst client (patient). Try to focus on eating better and moving your body more. This is obviously basic stuff you would tell your patients—move your body, get some exercise, drink some water.
  • Get as much sleep as possible. Sound impossible? Try your best to get at least one good night of sleep per week.
  • Learn to set boundaries. If you know that something adds stress to your life, try to cut back on it. Doctors have to learn how to draw the line, especially if they want to stay in business and stay healthy.

Also, try to reshape how you actually think about stress and be aware of how you react to situations. For example, if particular appointments or patients frustrate you, try to describe them more positively. Use words like “difficult” as opposed to “horrible” or “unbearable.” Don’t dwell on every problem. Constructive discussion is okay but fixating on problems can just create more stress.

Also pay attention to when and where you do well with stress, and don’t keep having the same negative reactions to things over and over again. Stop thinking like a victim and stop dwelling on events that stress you out. Events don’t stress you out. They might be a pain, but you have choices about how you deal with them.

Finally, you should keep what’s most important to you in the forefront of your mind. When stress starts to eat at you, take a picture of your children out of your wallet and remind yourself of the good things you have.

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