6 Steps to Develop Healthy Habits

Posted on March 7, 2018 by Jenna Ahlschlager, ACE-CHC

Updated April 21, 2020


You became a physician because you wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. You care deeply about others and help your patients improve their health and well being. National Doctor’s Day is on March 30th – so on this day, it means we are celebrating YOU. National Doctor’s Day was established to recognize physicians, their work and contributions to society and the community.

On National Doctor's Day, we say “thank you” for all that you do for us and our loved ones. However, do you ever feel like you are so focused on the demands of caring for others you forget to focus on yourself? It’s essential for you to take care of yourself because it will make you a better partner, husband, wife, parent, colleague, physician/provider and friend. So as we celebrate National Doctor’s Day, we encourage you to invest time and effort into your own well being and make your own care a priority!

Keep in mind your organization cares about you and your well being, too, by offering a peer coaching benefit to leverage for improving your overall well being. While you continue to read, think about how you can incorporate some of these tips to help you focus on making your health and well being a top priority.

#1: Identify the habit.

More often than not, we’re not aware of our habits, so the first step is to become conscious of what they are. If walking up a few stairs causes us to become short of breath, there is a strong chance either a bad habit (smoking, sedentary lifestyle) or lack of a good habit (exercise) is the cause. Or you notice yourself reaching for a cup of coffee everyday at 3 p.m. because you don’t get enough sleep at night. Whatever it may be, start paying attention and identifying the habits (good or bad) you engage in.

#2: Make the decision—and commitment—to change.

Of course this is much easier said than done. How many times have you or someone you know said, "I should exercise more” or “I should go to bed earlier?” Procrastinating makes it harder to change a bad habit. The longer you put off taking action, especially for your health, the unhealthier you or the situation will become. A conscious commitment is necessary, so write it down or post it on your refrigerator as a visual daily reminder.

#3: Discover your triggers and obstacles.

In order to develop good habits, we must become aware of our triggers and how we respond to unplanned obstacles and situations. We all have bad days and you should observe and learn to identify what triggers your habits and weaknesses. Reaching for alcohol, cigarettes, self-medicating, or over-eating is not the answer. If an unpleasant incident takes place at work, or a messy traffic altercation occurs on the way home, it’s important to find a healthy way of dealing with the stressor. Look for healthy ways of dealing with triggers and obstacles, such as exercise.

In addition, note early warning signs of illness and take them seriously. If you feel yourself starting to get sick, take precaution, skip the gym for the day and go home to rest. Self-care is extremely important for staying healthy and improving your overall well being. Make sure you have your own physician and consult them whenever necessary.

#4: Have a plan.

Create a plan to help you meet your goals. A peer coach can help you develop a plan and stick to it, providing guidance, support and solutions along the way. Our peer coaches are experienced physicians from outside your organization who understand what you’re going through and the challenges you face. A peer coach is always available to help with developing and implementing a plan to meet your goals.

#5: Enlist support from family and friends.

It’s important for the people around you to know what you are trying to accomplish. Having a reliable support system is crucial to help stay away from temptations, cheer you on and give moral support. Enlist additional support from a peer coach, who will listen without judgement and can offer solutions to help you stay on track.

You may even find someone to join you in your efforts. If you encounter problems or barriers along the way, your support system is there to talk about it. When they know you are serious about changing a bad habit into a good one or forming a new habit, they will willingly support you in achieving your goals!

#6: Find healthy ways to reward yourself.

When we accomplish something great, it’s natural to want to reward ourselves. However, it’s how we reward ourselves that typically leads to develop unhealthy habits because they make us feel good, even if it's temporary. The experience of feeling good is meant to soothe us when we're stressed or unhappy.

For example, you might over-eat and feel really good while doing it. The same goes for smoking or drinking too much, but the problem with these “rewards” is they make you feel even worse afterwards. In order to prevent slipping back into old habits, reward yourself in a healthy way when you’ve done something well. Treat yourself to a new book, movie, concert or new exercise equipment. Let your peer coach and network know of your success in meeting your goal.  You can also reward yourself with activities, such as visiting a friend you haven't seen for a while, going to an art gallery, or enjoying a weekend getaway with family or friends.

If you are already taking the time for your own health and self-care, good job! If not, it’s never too late to start. According to the Journal of Supportive Oncology, physicians who are more self-aware have greater job engagement and place more value on their self-care, which can lead to improved patient care and satisfaction. We encourage you to incorporate these steps to help improve your health and well being.

We Can Help

Need assistance, suggestions or advice from a peer coach? Our extensive network of peer coaches, executive coaches, counselors and mentors can work with you to accomplish many different objectives, including tackling the challenge of successfully adopting healthy habits. Learn more about physician peer coaching and the benefits of peer coaching.

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 and Provider Well Being Resources members: call 877.731.3949


Contact us online or at 877.731.3949 or to learn more about our unique well being solutions designed specifically for physicians and providers.





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