The prevalence and severity of physician and provider stress and burnout has been increasing. In fact, according to a 2015 survey by VITAL WorkLife and Cejka Search, 57% of responding physicians cited concerns about work/life balance as a cause of stress. Ignored, this stress can result in depression, poor performance at work, conflict with family and peers and a feeling of burnout.
If you ever feel the pressure of trying to maintain balance between competing commitments in your work and home life, check out these tips.
15 Practical Ways to Improve Your Work/Life Balance
- CUT OUT TECH. You need to have times when you are fully present with the significant people in your life. Have a “parking lot” for electronics and agree to certain times of day when everyone puts away their smartphones and other devices.
- USE YOUR VACATION TIME WISELY. Take one less vacation day and build in a day for transition and decompression. Avoid returning to work on a Monday, as it’s already a high-pressure day.
- CARVE OUT TIME TO ACCOMPLISH CRITICAL TASKS. Set aside blocks of time each day for the things you need to do, whether it’s paperwork, patient follow-up, or other responsibilities. This will help ease stress, because you will know what you must get done, will get done.
- START EACH DAY OFF RIGHT. Begin each morning with the intention to experience a good day. Pay attention to the rewarding things in your profession. Allow yourself to notice the difference you make in your patients’ lives. At the end of the day you will feel more content and fulfilled.
- SET ASIDE TIME FOR BREAKS. Everyone needs time to refresh and reflect. As a starting point, try setting aside 15 minutes in your daily schedule two or three times a week for planned breaks.
- KNOW YOUR LIMITS. If you don’t know where you want to spend your time, you won’t know where you don’t want to spend your time. Identify what’s important to you and admit what is not. Get comfortable saying "no." Remind yourself when you’re saying no to a request, you are simultaneously saying yes to something you value more than the request.
- CONSIDER DELEGATING. Determine what non-critical or lower-priority tasks you do not need to do. Ask yourself: "What is the best use of my time and where can I provide the most value?" Then, offload your other tasks to staff members, if possible.
- CLEAN UP YOUR SPACE. Use the end of the day and slow periods to keep your desk orderly and to better prepare yourself for high-octane output when you’re ready to get started again. Every evening after you’ve cleared your desk, acknowledge what you accomplished that day, and don’t beat yourself up for what you didn’t do. If you can do better, you will, maybe not at once, but soon enough.
- MAKE TIME FOR “SELF CARE” OUTSIDE WORK. Carve out slots of time to do what you love, such as reading, exercising, or hobbies. To make room for those activities, seriously consider your daily tasks. What are you doing now that really doesn’t provide value or enjoyment? You might be surprised at how you can re-allocate your time.
- ACCEPT THE THINGS YOU CAN’T CHANGE. Many physicians and providers are frustrated with the current healthcare system, but complaining about things you can’t change will only drain your energy and leave you more frustrated. Instead develop a different perspective on the situation so it won’t emotionally drain you.
- REMEMBER: IT’S OK TO DO SOMETHING JUST BECAUSE YOU ENJOY IT. Sometimes it’s OK to do something that appears to have no redeeming value. Reading a novel or surfing the Web every once in a while can provide the kind of mental break you may need.
- LET GO OF SOMETHING BEFORE YOU TAKE MORE ON. Before you commit to do a favor, take on a new role or add a new responsibility, ask yourself what you are willing to give up to make room for the new role. Adding more to your life without eliminating or delegating something else will only lead to more frustration and resentment. Give yourself time to think over your response before you commit too early and then later regret it.
- ENGAGE IN HEALTHY ACTIVITIES. Consider the following activities to ease stress and stimulate your mind:
- Enroll in a yoga, Pilates or mindfulness class
- Read fiction, write in a journal or meditate
- Purchase exercise equipment for your home, so it’s easier to use regularly
- Go for a 10-minute walk outside the office so you can gain energy and clear your mind
- Sit down to eat breakfast and take a break for lunch
- Have family dinners with engaging conversations whenever possible
- CULTIVATE A SUPPORT SYSTEM. At work, speak openly about stress with colleagues. This can help you gain insight and perspective as well as suggestions for coping. At home, sit down with your spouse or partner and have frank discussions and negotiations over household roles and responsibilities. Discussions about parenting, childcare and eldercare issues, if applicable, can also be very helpful.
- OUTSOURCE JOBS THAT DON’T REQUIRE YOUR MEDICAL DEGREE. If you are experiencing burnout, find ways to ease your daily burdens. Hire a housekeeper or a cook a few days a week, or contract with a landscaping service. Keep the jobs that fill your heart and pay someone to do the rest.
We Can Help.
Are you struggling to achieve work/life balance? We are available to help anytime, day or night. Available as part of the Physician Well Being Resources program from VITAL WorkLife, our WorkLife Assistants can provide a telephonic, on-demand array of services to help you better manage your daily life. We also have Physician and Provider Peer Coaches who can work with you to achieve balance in your life.
If you are a member of one of our solutions, give us a call to speak with a representative; we’re available anytime, day or night.
EAP members: call 800.383.1908
Physician Well Being Resources members: call 877.731.3949
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information about our comprehensive suite of well being solutions, call 800.383.1908.