Patients want to see you before they flip their calendars. Aunt Betty wants to see if she can stay at your house longer, and plans to bring her special green “dessert.” Later, on your favorite chair, Grandpa Eddie might want to see if he can set the North American for snoring volume.
The holidays can be stressful, but rest assured, you can get through them with peace and joy instead of tension and oy vey. It just takes some mindfulness.
“I think the holidays present extra-stressful situations with patients, family and social events, so greater care is required at those times to prevent them from becoming too stressful and problematic,” says dermatologist Ronald Wheeland, M.D., a private practitioner in Tucson, Ariz., and former president of the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. “I have to make a very distinct, conscious effort in order to relax or try to unwind.”
To maintain work/life balance, relax and embrace the season, Dr. Wheeland volunteers at a local food bank, works with his hands to carve wood into bowls and vases, and rides horses with his brother. He also recently completed a welding course and looks forward to sculpting new art.
Burnout is a Problem
According to this national survey of nearly 7,000 physicians conducted by the Mayo Clinic in December 2015, the rate of physician burnout had been increasing in almost every specialty. While people in all professions fight emotional exhaustion, physicians reported burnout at almost double the rate of the general population, the survey found.
Here’s the issue during the holidays: The burnout rate is worse among doctors who struggle with the ability to recover or recharge during their time off. “That’s not good for them, their families, the medical profession or patients,” said Tait Shanafelt, M.D. and Mayo researcher, in a press release about the survey.
Achieving satisfying work-life balance is an important issue among doctors, and that’s certainly true from now until New Year’s Day.
7 Tips to Help
1. Eat healthy. Surveys show that finding time to eat right is challenging year-round for many doctors, especially busy professionals who frequently consume meals “on the go.” Over the holidays, take a piece of that pineapple upside-down cake, but keep your cravings in check. Moderation is the key. Healthy home-cooking services like Freshology, Blue Apron, Plated and HelloFresh are decent options.
2. Find time for fun and humor. “The holidays are not a time of increased stress for me,” says Norman Levine, M.D., a dermatologist in Tucson, Ariz. He uses the extra time away from the office to take long walks with his dog, take leisurely bike rides and watch more Phoenix Suns basketball games. “In that way,” he quips, “any stress is miraculously converted into anger and frustration.”
3. Breathe deeply. It’s amazing what 10 minutes of shut-eye and deep breathing can do. Regularly practicing breathing and awareness techniques is super-simple, and at the very least, you deserve some time to yourself. The Headspace site and app — the first 10 sessions are free — is a great place to start.
4. Sharpen your scheduling next year. You aren’t the only one who needs time off from work. Colleagues do, too, which places a premium on scheduling. It’s smart to start planning in the late summer for the holiday barrage of teammate off-days.
5. Outsource or delegate more. When you make your to-do lists (at home and work) through New Year’s Day, check it twice — you’re going to find out who else can handle some of it. Outsource or delegate a little more. Your time is limited and valuable, so make sure to spend it wisely.
6. Communicate. Ask your family what they need most from you. It may be something different than you think. (Ask your office staff, too.)
7. Remember what matters. It’s an ideal time of year to pause and reflect on why you do what you do, both at work and home. Every day you impact lives, and those folks also impact you. Take a moment to nod to the person in the mirror, and express gratitude for those you love. (Don’t wake up Grandpa Eddie yet, though.)
This holiday season, give yourself the gift of a calmer mind with less stress. You’ll be more ready to flip the calendar to 2018 in a better mindset, ready to tackle your schedule with renewed energy.