In the last post we talked about Wellness and what it means. Today we’ll look at some ways to help improve your wellness and prevent burnout. The things below are general steps to get you started, but as in most advice, if you are having health problems be it physical or mental health, you should see your own GP.
How to fix things?
As doctors we tend to be tinkerers and want to fix things. We like to have a straight solution, especially when it’s to do with our own busy lives. However “Wellness” is about a bit more than that, it’s about reflection, understanding, self-care, and insight.
Looking again through some of those aspects of wellness we mentioned before –
I’m sure everyone of us can identify some concerns we have in these aspects in our own lives. Once we identify things that can be improved, we need to reflect on what we want. We need to have awareness of ourselves as someone worthwhile, not just a doctor with a duty , but as a person… we need find that value in ourselves.
Most of these aspects require self reflection on what your personal wants/goals are, however others such as the physical have set parameters that we as Doctors should know well. But an important thing to understand is that our wellness is not just one aspect that needs to be fixed, but a balance in all of them, that there is a fluidity and correlation between these aspects of your life.
We’ll look below, at some of those aspects and ways in which you can apply wellness to your life.
As doctors and medical professionals a lot of our identity and life is entangled in our work. Medicine in the modern world is very different from what previous generations did. There are numerous challenges and expectations, changed perceptions, increased regulation, and political interference. Patients have increased expectations and reduced appreciation or respect for the profession. Paperwork and bureaucracy can be overwhelming and often unpaid. I don’t need to go on and on… one of the reasons you’re probably reading this, is that you’ve been through all the above and more.
So what do you do about it? First set boundaries – for yourself, for your work, and for your patients. Remember that it is work – that when you are gone (a holiday, not the great beyond!) someone else can do the job, patients will survive, that you are not the be all, and do all.
So set boundaries for yourself – leave work at work, don’t work over to just do that one more thing. Take a few minutes each day either at work or home to meditate. We’ll look at meditation, mindfulness – what it means and how you can use it to improve your life – later on in the series of posts.
Set boundaries with expectations at work. Set breaks in your schedule, in your appointment list, to have breaks and to have a cup of tea, lunch/dinner. Make sure you take the breaks – don’t just stuff a biscuit while you try not to burn your mouth with a coffee, so you can get back to dealing with the heaving waiting room. Take time off from work, focus on some of the other aspects of wellness mentioned here.
Most importantly remember that you are not alone. There are numerous avenues you can approach to get help. Start with talking to your loved ones, to senior colleagues/mentors, to your college, to your MDO, to your own GP, even to APHRA. There are numerous helplines , support groups and support networks that can be used. But it first starts with you admitting you needing help.
Part of why we work is financial, and before you address the aspect of work itself you need to look at the financial part. This isn’t just about what your bank balance is or should be, it’s about what you want, what are your financial goals? How can you reach these goals? From there you can work out what is the right balance between how much you work and financial security. A lot of stress that we have is from financial insecurity, but hopefully as you go on in your career this should reduce. Either way a financial advisor/planner would be a good person to see, to look over your finances and examine your goals. Always remember that it isn’t always about the amount of money you can save up or earn, but what is right for you, at where you find that balance of income and actually being able to enjoy your life. There was an interesting post recently by Dr.Guarav Tewary about playing numbers, sometimes working harder, can actually reduce the income per hour you make.
This as doctors should be obvious, but it is often the most neglected in our self care. How do we look after ourselves Mentally? As you’re probably realizing a lot of wellness, is an interaction of all the different aspects we’ve talked about, especially so the Mental aspect. We can look after our Mental well being by recognising that it’s important, by watching out for burnout and looking at ways to prevent that.
There are things that we screen for in our own patients but understandably find it difficult to apply to ourselves. Start seeking some help, talk to loved ones, see your GP. You don’t have to carry those burdens by yourself.
There are a few other subs aspects that play a part here –
Intellectual – allow yourself to be creative, to think, challenge your brain. You are an intelligent person, and would have had to be to get to where you are. Don’t let the drudgery of daily work life, stifle the intellect that made you who you are. Allow your ideas, creative aspect and that part of you to fly free now and then.
Spirituality is about finding your meaning for life, and why you are here, and what your purpose is in life. This doesn’t have to be religion – though it is for some, it can be through realising your place or even questioning your place in the universe, about exploring your meaning of life.
You need to have a good social network, to support you and to help you recharge yourself and heal. Your family and loved ones are an essential part of your wellness, and often one of the first things to be damaged by you and any burnout. So pay attention to them, make time for them. If there are friends or others in your social life who are a cause of your unhappiness then you need to address that. Coming back to that schedule – we tend to use a calendar for our work and important things to be done. But have you used it to input social and self care things into it? Start of the week – sit down with loved ones and look over your week – you have the things you need to do for work, appointments, and meetings – do you have a date night? Do you have a time booked in to read to your kids? Start putting those things in, a time daily for meditation, a minimum of twice monthly date nights, exercise, movie night, listening to music time. Those activities and people outside your work are an essential part of recharging or refilling your wellness.
Look at your own health. Are there things that need to be screened, are there any ailments that you’ve been putting off. Do you have your own GP? Not just a colleague who does an occasional script but a separate GP who you can trust and off load the responsibility of looking after your own health? If not find one!
Australian Doctors Health Network is a starting point – they have a number to call where they will go through a list of GPs in your area who have an interest in looking after other doctors.
Another sub aspect that is important here is –
your surroundings are important to your
wellness. Having clean healthy surrounds with greenery, clean air, and sunlight is important to our health and well being. Get a plant for your office, a painting, put your personality into your consulting room.
Essential Tips to wellness –
- Wellness is a combination of a number of aspects, and improving your wellness needs you to look at all those aspects in your life.
- Schedules and calendars are a useful tool – nearly everyone has a smart phone and depends on a work calendar on it. Start using that to add in other things in your life and make it a part of your schedule – if asked to do something – extra shift at work – pull out your calendar – sorry got date night that night, see you can see it already in the schedule. The schedule calendar from being something of dread and controlling your life can be used as a tool to improve your wellness.
- Make time for yourself.
- Work smarter not harder.
- Your work should not define you, you as a human being are so much more than who you are at work, and what you do at work. Allow all those other aspects of yourself to shine, allow them to flourish and grow – water and care for them.
- Know yourself and your worth. Unless you find value in yourself others will not.
- Seek help when needed, recognize when you do need help, don’t hide from your problems.
Where to from now –
Wellness is both a simple and a complicated idea. It’s hard for people of science and clinical knowledge to accept a concept that is often seen as holistic, and purview of non-clinical peddlers of fear. However there is a large body of evidence showing the importance and effectiveness of this approach of wellness. An we ourselves as health professionals know the benefits, and often sell this to our patients – we just need to apply it to our own lives. It is hard at times, but there is help out there you just have to ask for it.