Wellness Matters. Self-care Matters. You Matter.
This year has certainly been one for the record books — in more ways than I care to count. So, as we enter this season of thankfulness and reflection, I thought it might be nice to be nice to ourselves. Wellness matters. Self-care matters. And over the last year, it has been difficult for some of us to focus on ourselves given the stressors of the world.
How can we be kind to ourselves? How can we avoid or recover from the burnout trap? Recent literature suggests that approximately 50% of physicians are going to experience burnout. Burnout is not only harmful to us and our families, but also our patients. By definition, during burnout, physicians become emotionally detached, exhausted, and apathetic. This does not lead to caring and compassionate bedside manner.
Dike Drummond, MD, is CEO of The Happy MD and a leading wellness expert and coach. He offers several tools to assist in the recovery process of burnout or to avoid it altogether. For instance, knowing burnout is not a failure or weakness on your part is a nice first step.
The system actually sets us up for burning out. The system taught us to place work before self-care. It does this with law enforcement, fire fighters, and military members, as well. However, if this is sustained without balance, the caregiver loses the ability to give. The old adage, “You can’t give what you don’t have,” definitely holds true.
We actively need to take control of our time. The calendar is a powerful tool. It shows people what is important to us. So white space on the calendar becomes critical. And when you get time off it means, take time off. No reviewing charts. No checking email. No answering calls.
How many of us get real time off regularly? It takes planning. Dr. Drummond recommends scheduling a two-week vacation every year. (This may be harder right now with the pandemic, but the idea is sound). His recommendation is: Schedule it, request the time off and put money down. Physicians are less likely to back out when there is money involved!
But don’t stop there. Each week, be nice to yourself. Lay out time that is for rejuvenation activity. That is going to be different for everyone—it may be meditation, exercise, reading, date night, or even all of the above. Whatever it is, put it on the calendar. Make it as important as clinic.
You are important. You are even as important as your patients. So be kind to yourself. Find some white space. And rejuvenate.
Tammy J Lindsay, MD, FAAFP, FAAMA
AAMA Board of Directors