Anyone else notice life isn’t getting any easier?
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all that we see in the world and the responsibilities of life. When life seems uncertain, stress and anxiety can creep in. And the world seems to be throwing a lot of that our way lately. Uncertain politics, shifts in healthcare, natural disasters, and national tragedies are enough to make the most upbeat among us furrow a brow.
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Yet there are plenty of ways to build your own resilience, improve your perspective and keep a spring in your step. Here, I’ll introduce the first 5 of 10 self-care tips geared just for you.
- Get enough sleep. It’s almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of a good night’s sleep. Both quality and quantity affect your ability to handle the stress of a busy dermatology practice. A lack of sleep can be costly personally, financially, and professionally. When we don’t get enough sleep we are, in a very real way, impaired.
A 2007 Harvard report showed the effects of inadequate sleep include reduced efficiency and productivity with an increase in errors and accidents. On the upside, a good night’s sleep provides clarity, improved decision-making skills, improved memory, and better accuracy.
If you push to squeeze extra hours of work in that compromise your sleep, you’re really sabotaging yourself with reduced performance and resilience the next day. The National Sleep Institute recommends seven to nine hours a night. Yes, it’s temping for some to think they’re the exception. Don’t deny your mind and body the sleep you need to feel and be on top of your game. Buy that high-end mattress you’ve been eying. And go to bed on time!
- Build margin into your life. Physicians are high-performers. You might feel like you’re slacking or not being efficient when you schedule breaks or down time and refuse to over-book. But without extra margin in your life you have little ability to consider different ways to respond to spontaneous opportunities, whims or crises that arise. Leaving some wiggle room in your schedule will provide opportunities for you to recover from stress, take a breather or attend to something personally important that’s been pushed aside, like a call to a parent, writing a birthday card, personal reading, or planning that getaway with your spouse.
Dermatology practices are busy, even taxing, so building in small margins of unscheduled time gives you the ability to respond to life’s curveballs and opportunities with more thought and intentionality.
- Recognize your limitations. There is often tremendous pressure on physicians. Your staff, patients, family and friends may think you are so smart, talented, and energetic that you must have super powers! But no matter how hard you try, you can’t do it all.
We often place the highest expectations on ourselves, adding more stress and guilt when we can’t meet them. When we try to be all things to all people, we set ourselves up for frustration. Open your mind to receiving help in areas you’re used to controlling. It’s important and okay to say, “this isn’t working for me”. Identify areas of frustration and potential resources. Some jobs and responsibilities you must take on because of your position. Others you won’t give up because they’re too important to you and, hopefully, you enjoy them. All else is on the table.
Changes in who does what don’t have to be permanent. It could be as simple as reorganizing staff responsibilities or as life-changing as bringing on a mid-level or additional physician so you can cut back patient hours for more personal time during a season in your life.
- Get away, unplug, and temporarily detach. Giving yourself a break from current events, the demands of your practice, and daily life – including social media - can alleviate stress and anxiety and decrease your chances of heart disease. Pacing yourself for the long haul is crucial to resilience. The biblical Sabbath concept calls for a day of rest for every 6 days of work. That day of rest isn’t for cramming in all your non-work-related tasks but actual rest and enjoyment.
In the absence of noise and bombardment of information, when our minds are free to roam, some of the best ideas are born and many ah-ha moments happen. Despite what some people think, the world will NOT fall apart when you stop to take a real vacation or a day off. Go do cool things with your kids or check off something on your bucket list. It’s healthy and you’ve more than earned it!
- Find an enjoyable way to exercise. Self-care can easily fall to the wayside for busy physicians whose practice and personal responsibilities – no matter how enjoyable - can be overwhelming and exhausting. But the mental and physical benefits of getting regular exercise are enormous.
To truly be successful at this you have to stick with it. That’s why an enjoyable way to accomplish your fitness goals is so important. Rekindle a hobby. Build in family time by running beside your kid on their bike, playing a game of soccer on Sunday mornings, meeting up with an old friend for mountain biking, or tennis with your spouse.
Having a buddy improves accountability, which increases your likelihood of success, and time with a friend or loved one provides an added bonus!
Only you can make the necessary changes to reduce frustration and stress and improve your personal well-being. Some changes come at a cost – like a loss of control or a financial hit - but quality of life is priceless and enjoying the journey so very important. These are the first six of twelve tips to boost personal and professional resilience in 2018. Look for Part II next month for five more practical tips to maintain a better work-life balance and guard yourself from the physical and mental effects of stress.
 “Consequences of Insufficient Sleep.” Consequences of Insufficient Sleep | Healthy Sleep, healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences.