health

Re-fueling the Tank: Tips for Preventing Burnout and Taking Self-Care to the Next Level


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Good evening everyone! Keeping with my recent post Physician Burnout: More Than Just an Old Battery (Part 1), I thought I would discuss some strategies for preventing burnout and promoting wellness. We last spoke about what burnout is and how to recognize it. In the coming days we will explore why burnout happens; but for now, I thought it would be important to identify a few strategies anyone can use to prevent burnout. During a yoga class not too long ago, one of my instructor’s said: “You need to fill your own cup before you can fill anyone else”. This really resonated with me. The next day at a resident training event, we were encouraged by a presenter to find one self-care activity before, during and after work and to watch, without expectation or judgment, the effects on our perceived sense of well-being. I remember thinking, “Who has time for that?”, but I decided to give it a shot anyway. Here are some of the ways I have been practicing self-care during my day to day. Not only have some of these strategies been useful to prevent burnout, I believe that they have made me a happier, more engaged, and effective resident.

Pre-Work

Let’s face it – mornings can be a little bit of a mad dash on the best of days. As someone who’s had a long-time love affair with the snooze button, I knew changing my routine was going to be challenging; however here are some changes which have worked for me:

  • Setting my alarm 15 minutes early (the mad rush becomes a little less mad)
  • Packing my lunch the night before
  • Listening to a playlist while getting ready (Despacito anyone??)
  • Taking five minutes to cuddle with my cat
  • Setting a 15 minute limit on how long I check emails
  • Getting rid of Instagram – starting my day as the primary focus rather than that of other people
  • Double checking where/when I am supposed to be the night before (rather than when I’m leaving the home)
  • Riding my bike to work

During Work

When the presenter first suggested that we practice self-care while at work, my eyes almost disappeared rolling into the back of my head. Again, with what time?! I went home and thought long and hard about how I could incorporate self-care into my work routine. I imagined telling my staff that I would be back in 30 minutes – just popping out for a pedi! Fortunately, I came up with some other ideas before sacrificing my professional identity:

  • Drink water
  • Eat the snacks you bring
  • Stop, take five deep breaths, feel the chair underneath you and the floor beneath your feet
  • Wash your face
  • Drink water
  • Stand outside for five minutes
  • Name one positive thing that has happened during your day and one person you are grateful for

Post-Work

This category felt pretty straight forward – good food, good wine, good friends – problem solved! But sometimes, our go-to feel good measures aren’t always available. I tried to think of mini self-care exercises which were time efficient but wouldn’t break the bank either!

  • Changing out of my work clothes
  • Washing my face
  • Drinking water
  • Checking in – what do I really need to feel well right now? There are a number of things we feel we ought to do, but do have need to do them?
  • Lighting a candle
  • Go for a short walk or even just sit outside
  • Water a plant

Will all of these techniques work for everyone? Probably not. Is it possible to perform each of them every day? I find it challenging for me. The bottom line is – try to schedule in time to recognize your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and nurture them in the ways you know how and maybe even try some new ways. What keeps you well? Do you think any of these strategies work for you? Any that you would like to try?

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