It’s been almost a year since I finished residency and started working as a physician.
It’s probably not surprising to anyone that being a doctor can be extremely stressful. A high number of physicians experience burnout, job dissatisfaction, depression and anxiety. I knew going into this career that I’d have to make a specific, concerted effort to manage my stress levels. After a year of working as a doctor, I have learned a few tricks to make life a little bit more manageable while working a stressful job.
I am a firm believer in outsourcing tasks that stress me out. Yes, it is a privilege to have the financial means to outsource –but even if money is tight, take a careful look at your budget and see if there are things you can substitute or sacrifice in order to be able to hire people to lighten your to do list. For example, if cleaning really drives you nuts – can you give up your nail appointments, dinners out, or daily starbucks to pay a cleaning person once a month? If you own a business and are drowning in tasks, can you hire a low-cost intern to help? Or, the completely free option - can you trade off your less desirable chores with a friend who doesn’t mind them as much, e.g. fold their laundry if they make you a frozen meal?
Repeat after me - it’s perfectly acceptable to decline without explanation. Practice saying no, without apology. Decide what people and things in your life are important to you and invest your time in them; and leave the rest behind. You don’t need to go to every party, event, or social outing you’re invited to. You don’t need to help everyone who asks. You don’t need to take that extra shift at work because no one else will. Period.
Analyze your habits and recognize what adds value to your life, and get rid of what does not. I personally choose not to use any social media – I don’t facebook, instagram, snapchat, or tweet. Scrolling through other peoples highlight reels is a sure way to instantly make me feel badly about myself – not exactly what I want to gain from my precious free time. Setting that boundary for myself has helped decrease negative feelings and make time for hobbies that are truly relaxing.
Understand how you Gain Energy
I am an introvert, which means I gain energy from being alone. When I have time off work, I am very intentional about taking the time I need to recharge. This means sending my daughter to daycare when I have a weekday off, not making any plans, and enjoying the solitude. For extroverts, making sure you have quality time planned with loved ones is equally as important.
I am an exercise hater - I’ve tried it all, and I don’t like any of it. BUT unless I am sick, it’s a non-negotiable part of my week. Our bodies were designed to be physically active and expend energy. Get your heart rate up a few times a week, and your stress levels and mental health will thank you. It doesn’t have to be complicated, fancy, or elaborate. Do you own a pair of shoes? Put them on, and go for a walk. Don’t think about it – just do it.
Accept that Mistakes will Happen, and Move On
Whether you’re a doctor, a small business owner, or an entry-level employee; things won’t always go as planned. Mistakes will happen, sales targets won’t be met, you won’t sign that big client, or you’ll receive a customer complaint. For me, one of the most stressful parts of this past year has been learning to deal with errors and mistakes when they do happen. When faced with a problem, I would spiral into negative thinking – “I can’t do this/I’m quitting/this is too overwhelming/I hate everyone/I am a failure”.
Now, when faced with a problem, before the negative spiral begins; I try to have my automatic first thought be “what can I learn from this situation?” Practicing “what can I learn from this” as my initial reaction to an error makes mistakes feel a lot more manageable, reminds me that they’re an inevitable part of life, and helps me move on without obsessing. Try it the next time you’re confronted with a less than ideal situation.
You Can’t Have it All
The three most important things to me right now are being an excellent mother, wife, and doctor. I have many other roles in life – I’m a friend, a sister, a co-worker, a daughter, a community member, a homeowner, a runner, a granddaughter… and I can’t be the best at them all. I know I’m not going to be voted citizen of the year, if I remember to call my grandma once every few months I consider that a win, my home décor isn’t going to show up in a magazine, and I’m not going to win any races. But I do know my patients receive excellent care, my relationship with my husband is prioritized, and my daughter is loved more than anything in the world. Choose a few areas in your life to really excel at, and be comfortable with being average at the rest.
Guest Blog Writer - Dr. Andrea Gubert
Andrea is a hospitalist physician based in Ontario, Canada. She completed both medical school and family medicine residency at McMaster university. She loves encouraging and supporting other women doing their best to balance work and home life. When she’s not at the hospital, she likes to spend time with her husband and three year old daughter, cook and bake, and work on achieving her goal of reading 50 books in 2019.