6 Self-Care Tips for Physicians to Combat Burnout and Distress

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Burnout is a state of physical and mental exhaustion brought on by prolonged stress. This stress can be from work or other activities, but burnout is most often seen from job stress. Physicians have a pretty high rate of burnout, as they have one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Here are six self-care tips for physicians to combat and possibly even prevent burnout from occurring.

#1: Exercise

Physical activity is a great stress reliever, as it helps the brain produce more of those feel-good hormones. It’s also good for your health (as all physicians know), which can help combat the physical and mental health effects that can be brought on by stress, including anxiety and high blood pressure.

It’s recommended to get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, but this can be challenging for physicians as most work a busy and unpredictable schedule. Fortunately, most physicians are constantly walking around, which is physical activity. You can also try to squeeze in 10 to 15 minutes of other types of physical activity, such as yoga.

#2: Mindful Self-Compassion

It’s easy for anyone to be hard on themselves, but physicians can be particularly hard on themselves because they give the majority of their compassion to their patients. The human mind will naturally pay more attention to negative thoughts over positive ones, so mindful self-compassion is something that has to be practiced actively. Keeping a journal of your thoughts and emotions can be a way to help you reflect on your positive and negative thoughts. It also helps to reflect on the good that happened that day and not stress about the bad, as this psychological distress was the highest during the pandemic.

#3: Nutrition

Good nutrition is also something else that all physicians know to be very important, but it can also be hard to follow a nutritious diet. There are many different types of diets out there, from vegan to paleo to keto— but you have to find the diet that works best for you. Overall, if you’re drinking enough water, eating whole foods over processed and unsaturated fats over saturated, limiting sugar and alcohol, and getting in the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals, you’re eating nutritiously. Of course, some may have nutrient deficiencies and special diet needs, which should always take priority.

#4: Prioritize Family Time

It’s important to establish a healthy work-life balance to rest and recharge. This is essential for all physicians to try to achieve because rest allows them to perform their jobs better. Also, neglecting your family (no matter what type of family structure you have) may have negative effects on everyone in the household. In addition to making time for family, make sure to also make time for friends and activities that you enjoy.

#5: Sleep

Physicians also understand the importance of sleep and how most adults require seven to nine hours of restful sleep each night. Like nutrition and exercise, this is often easier said than done— especially if you’re stressed. Excessive stress can make it hard to fall asleep at night, leaving some dependent on sleep aids like melatonin. There are other natural sleep aids, however, such as chamomile and lavender teas that don’t produce a dependency.

It’s also good to have a sleep routine, which should include no screen time at least an hour before bed. You also shouldn’t eat, drink alcohol or caffeine, or do any vigorous exercises before bed.

#6: Work Environment

Finally, physicians need support from their colleagues in the workplace, and lack of support can also lead to burnout. Maybe the workplace you’re at currently isn’t the most nurturing environment, and The Medicus Firm can help you find a physician position elsewhere. You may even consider switching from a fast-paced environment with unpredictable hours, such as a hospital, to a physician’s office, which usually has set hours and is closed on the weekends. You may even want to consider starting your own practice but keep in mind that this comes with a different type of stress (i.e., running a business).

When it comes to the physical aspects of burnout, most physicians are already aware of what they should be doing. However, it’s easier said than done, so they must work hard to put this into practice. When it comes to the psychological aspects of burnout, physicians must learn to be kinder to themselves, prioritize their personal lives, and possibly even look into other physician opportunities if their current workplace isn’t a good match.