Now and then, any healthcare professional may experience burnout, and physicians are no exception. A recent study found nearly 46% of physicians experience at least one symptom of burnout, including cynicism (29%), exhaustion (38%), and doubt (12%). Physician burnout is troublesome not just for you as a physician, but also for your patients, staff, and co-workers. If constant stress has you feeling exhausted or cynical, chances are you are at a high risk of generating medical errors and providing lower-quality care. So, how can you avoid it? What can you do to stay motivated on the job? Here are eight ways to combat physician burnout:
Remember your mission
The most important aspect in beating burnout is to remember why you got into medicine in the first place. Was it for your love of medical science? Or, maybe wanting to make a difference in the world? Whatever the reason, do not question the quality of what you do. You have a great opportunity to use your knowledge to care for countless individuals. Set an intention to experience joy in your work in the days ahead and savor it. More importantly, appreciate the work you are doing because your patients appreciate you.
Reach out when you are in need
You must understand the risks for burnout and talk openly with your colleagues, friends, and family members about achieving a better work-life balance. There is no shame in confiding in those who understand you and want only what is best for you. When you are feeling overwhelmed or under-appreciated, having someone in your corner can help remind you of your best self. Sometimes the response may not be what you want to hear, but most often it is sound advice from an outside perspective.
Balance your personal and professional life
Work is work and home is home. When work begins to dominate your life, it is time to make a change. Take some time off. Go on a weekend trip or a vacation with family or friends. Make it a point to spend meaningful time with your loved ones in order to enrich your life and restore a sense of balance. Don’t forget about yourself! Schedule a little alone time—read a book or take a walk around the park. If you are not content with yourself, you won’t be able to give your all to either your personal or your professional life.
It can be hard to squeeze exercise into a busy schedule, but the fact is, exercise reduces stress levels and amplifies feel-good hormones. Movement is crucial; you must find the type of exercise that sparks your interest, even if it is just a short walk each day. If you are driven, aim for an hour of vigorous exercise at least three times per week. You’d be surprised at how enhancing the human body can help you feel more energized and alert. You will start to feel better about yourself, and that’s always a great confidence boost!
Develop healthy patterns
Eating healthy can have a huge impact on your physical and mental well-being. It is important to balance your weight, eat nutritious meals, exercise regularly, and get sufficient sleep in order to avoid medical conditions such as hypertension and diabetes. Maintaining proper nutritional intake boils down to three main concepts: eating more protein, eliminating processed foods, and avoiding excessive carbohydrate intake. Keeping your diet clean by adding foods with lots of antioxidants, fiber, and water can help you maintain a healthy, positive balance.
Find an interest outside of medicine
Find an area you would like to explore more in-depth, apart from medicine. Sign yourself up for a book club, go hiking or swimming, take classes in computers, or even do martial arts. Such activities may help relieve your tension and provide you with the release you need to survive the severities of practicing medicine. Make a list, then find ways to include more of these activities into your daily routine. Strive for variety, as it will give you something enjoyable to look forward to. Who knows? You may even discover a second career along the way.
Analyze and restructure
Stress is the main cause of physician burnout. Change the stressors that lead to your burnout by changing the way you work. In other words, target the aspects of your medical practice you find most draining and divert them to another direction. Attempt to prioritize your responsibilities on an hourly, daily, or monthly basis. Tackle the responsibilities you feel are most important and require the most commitment. If you are currently taking on multiple tasks all by yourself, coordinate with your team to help you carry the workload.
Practice mindfulness meditation
The basic definition of mindfulness is “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.” Meditation is a practice that is a part of mindfulness, and it can help you achieve mental and emotional stability. Whether the focus is directed towards your breathing or clearing your thoughts, ultimately, the goal is to translate your thoughts more directly into actions. This type of focus can help you become more proactive in dealing with everyday situations in a calm, relaxed manner.
When all else fails, explore your options. Performing the same routine every day can be tiring. For some, it may be a simple matter of wanting a change, such as a change of hospital or specialty. For others, it may be a new career choice altogether. The fact remains, we all have the potential to be drawn into a downward spiral of stress and exhaustion. Whether you choose to give in to it is your choice. The key to surviving physician burnout is to maintain a proper work-life balance. This balance is yours to customize and change anytime you want. Reevaluate, reassess, and, most importantly, pace yourself; it’s not a race, it’s your life.