No doubt about it, being a doctor can be stressful, and if you are not careful that stress can lead to “burnout.” In fact, neurologists may be the most burned out among doctors, according to some research.
“Burnout” is a much bigger problem than simply feeling tired and stressed out. Literally, when a fire burns out, it’s used up all its fuel. There’s nothing left to keep it burning. When the stress of the job causes you to burn up your personal resources of health, energy, enthusiasm, and compassion, you have nothing left to give your patients.
Burnout doesn’t do anyone any good. That’s why it is vitally important—for both you and your patients—that you carve out time in your day to focus on taking care of yourself.
You might be thinking, “But I don’t have time in my day! That’s why I’m stressed!” The good news is that taking care of yourself can take less time than you might think. While it may be ideal to take a long vacation, or go work out at the gym, there are plenty of things you can fit into your busy work day that can help give you a reboot.
The first step is to put good food into your body. Keep healthy snacks on hand in your office, so that you can quickly grab something nutritious instead of turning to junk food. Your body needs high-quality food to function well and fight off disease. Get some tips in our post, Healthy Between-Patient Meals You Can Make in your Office Kitchen.
Exercise also helps you stay healthy, and it relieves stress. No time to get to the gym?
Breaking up physical activity into short bursts throughout the day can be just as effective as one long workout. Even better, try some high intensity interval training—just one minute of all-out exertion can be as beneficial as 45 minutes at the gym. And it is easier to fit into a busy day.
It’s also critical to take care of your mental health to combat job stress in a healthy way. Luckily you can protect your mental health in just minutes a day, right in your office. All you have to do is—nothing.
Mindfulness meditation can be done anywhere, it’s powerful, and it works. Meditation expert Andy Puddicombe describes the practice as being in the present moment, stepping back and observing, watching your thoughts come and go without judgment. (Watch his short TED Talk for his full explanation about how mindfulness meditation works.)
Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation decreases stress, anxiety and depression, protecting you against the cycle of stress that can lead to burnout. Researchers at Northeastern University found that it also increases compassionate behavior in people who practice it.
Not sure how to get started? Puddicombe has his own app called Headspace which offers mindfulness exercises that you can use anywhere, on your computer or your phone, in just 10 minutes a day.
You owe it to yourself, and to your patients, to carve out these mini breaks each day to take care of yourself. Protect your own resources for good mental and physical health. Your mind, body and practice will thank you!