Create boundaries and do your very best to keep to them. However hard you try you can’t be perfect you can only be as good as you can be. That means learning when to stop and when to say ‘no’ if you are being asked to do something which you know either isn’t your job or you really don’t have the time or the skills to do it.
Decide how long you will spend worrying about a particular patient and when you reach your limit seek advice from colleagues. You learn by watching others and talking about what you find difficult. So stop worrying, identify the person who knows how to deal with the situation and ask for help and advice from them.
You don’t have to deal with every problem entirely alone. Talk to someone else about the parts of the job you find difficult and if necessary put aside time to learn the extra skills you need. This is better than struggling on for ages not really having much idea about what you are doing.
It’s OK to say ‘I don’t know what to do’ or ‘ I can’t deal with this situation, I need to talk to someone else about it.’ This is how you will learn what to do next time and it is the time-honoured way you can learn what to do.
Decide what can and can’t be achieved in the time available and set realistic goals. Plan to go home at the end of the day. The routine work will be there for you to continue next day. Learn to differentiate between the urgent and important, and urgent but not important (and who else could deal with those things) from that which is neither urgent nor important.
Place importance on your out of work life so that you don’t neglect it. There is a life outside of Medicine, even though your work takes a huge amount of time and energy, plan social events and don’t neglect your partner, friends and family. Be aware that life is more than Medicine and make sure you set aside some time each week to connect with friends and family and take part in activities completely unrelated to your work.
When you discover more balance between work and the rest of life you will feel better, have more energy, enjoy life more and get things into proportion.
What was most important to the doctors who participated in Connect and Change in Cornwall last weekend was that the group were all doctors. It was vital to understand each other’s points of view and life experiences. Although we were all at different stages of our journey from Medicine to a life either after Medicine, or a life in Medicine, but without the burn-out, we all wanted to be able to live in the way we wanted to live, and there was a definite commonality, understanding and connection between us, that non-medics might not have appreciated.
There was a strong sense of gratitude for the chance to take time out away from home and work, yet a strong reluctance to advertise what they were doing this weekend to their colleagues.
Everyone needs time to be listened to, have the chance to bounce ideas onto someone who understands but doesn’t tell them what to do, and also time to process new ideas and consider alternatives when life has become overwhelming.
We had already stretched our bodies with yoga before indulging in a delicious breakfast: before a day to Nurture the Nurturer.
On Friday it was a glorious day and we walked and thought and connected with the fresh sea air and the rocks and the beauty of a Cornish beach. We found lovely pebbles and later decorated these with sparkles. We made a treasure map which showed what we really wanted in life.
Later we played with percussion instruments and made harmonies and had fun creating amazing sounds.
We foraged for wild foods and prepared and then ate a slow cooked meal. It was a chance for a small group of medics to connect with each other and with me and together we planned what to do next for journeys of change.
When you feel overwhelmed by patients and work load, take a little time each day to connect with your breath for a few moments. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Experience how empowering it is to be mindful, to be in the moment. A few minutes letting worries about the past or the future drift by and connecting with your breath is a powerful technique we experienced in the session on mindfulness. It’s a technique that every doctor could use when feeling stressed and overwhelmed by huge work load.
Don’t delay your life until you reach a certain point in your career: to remain a whole person make sure you look after yourself body, mind and spirit. When you do that you will be a whole person who also can cope much better with the stress of working as a doctor.
If you know that the balance in your life is not ideal and it falls far too much on the side of work, it’s time to make appropriate adjustments in the way you live your life. The vital first step is to decide precisely what you want to change and then how you will go about making that change. Too often people are very clear about what they no longer want to happen but haven’t yet clarified what they want instead.
2. Do things you haven’t considered doing before
Because you have got stuck into a rut in relation to the way you spend your days it’s important to brainstorm all sorts of new ideas, including whatever comes into your head, especially noting possibilities which you might not have considered before. At this stage don’t think too deeply about the practicalities. Those come later.
3. Keep on track with your projects
Of course however lacking in balance your life seems to be it is nevertheless important to get certain things done each day. So devise a way to keep on track with those essential jobs and ongoing projects while also being willing and ready to let go of those not so important or necessary.
4. Only promise what you can actually do
It’s very important to become much more aware of how often you agree to do things when you have neither the time or the energy to complete. This means setting new personal boundaries. Instead of saying yes to all and sundry begin to consider your own needs for rest and relaxation and time and start to say no when you are unable or unwilling to oblige and do what has been asked of you.
5. Energise yourself
This means re-charging your personal batteries in whatever way works best for you. It may mean for example taking time out for meditation or relaxation or doing some strenuous exercise such as running or brisk walking. Exercise such as yoga combines physical movements with relaxation and concentrating on the postures enables your mind to be re-energised too. Whatever you decide to do make sure it is combined with eating healthy foods most of the time, plenty of sleep and time spent away from work, time with friends family and partner is a great way to build your energy and not forgetting time for you to indulge in your hobbies and interests.
Making big changes in life can be very stressful, so it’s important not to neglect yourself during the transition. If you begin to feel overwhelmed by all the things you have to do when circumstances are new, you may not feel as confident as usual. It’s important to remember to find some time just for yourself. Don’t only say yes to change, remember to say yes to time for rest and relaxation too. This might be making sure you have some fresh air during the day and eating lunch. It also means saying yes to leaving your work place to go home at a reasonable time, finding time to look after your body, mind and spirit. Movement can address all of these. This doesn’t have to be strenuous like going to a gym or running but could be yoga, tai chi or dance to relax you after a hectic day.
What can you do to keep your body in good working order and improve your general well being?
What do you do to improve your work life balance? Let me know below!
If you are an overworked and stressed doctor who wonders if there is anything you could do to be happier, more relaxed and have enough time to do things for yourself, instead of allowing the monster that is Medicine, eat you up, then here are some suggestions for you.
You can’t go on like this, because if you do then something has to give and that something will be your personal health and well-being so that you are unable to function as a doctor efficiently and effectively any more. This will impact on your ability as a doctor and the way you feel about your patients and your medical work and eventually can lead to burn out and having to leave the profession on health grounds.
Not only your medical work, but your life in general already can be affected when you are on the go all the time. This results in you finding it difficult to make decisions or decide what is best for your life now. Your relationships suffer and your self-care is decreased and you will feel frustrated and ineffectual. You may long to take some ‘time out’ but don’t know how or what to do!
What can you do to change your situation?
Leave the Medical profession completely, which might solve the problem yet feel anxious about what to do instead
Consider retirement yet wonder if you will be bored without the routine of work
Continue as a doctor and try to improve your work-life balance but don’t know how to
Free up more time for you – but don’t believe it is possible
Carry on as you are until you cannot cope any more and become completely burnt out
What could happen if you don’t care for yourself more?
Become more stressed and unhappy;
Get fully burnt out;
Be unable to enjoy Medicine any more;
Become confused about what to do next…….
You long for some space and time to:
decide what to do for you
discover for yourself that it is possible to be a doctor and live your life in whatever way you want…..
Life doesn’t have to be like that for you….
You can be:
find answers to your dilemmas
decide on steps to move forward…..
But HOW can you achieve this? You must:
nurture yourself because when you look after yourself you can better look after your patients
relax, reflect so that you can make decisions calmly and in an informed way
make new connections with parts of yourself which have been neglected for a while so that you become a whole person again, by exercising, stretching, being creative
connect with nature so that you find something beyond your day to day work
find a new way forward, which you hadn’t discovered before so that you are more confident about changes you decide to make
There is also a once only opportunity to discover new ways to connect and change in beautiful West Cornwall, UK, so you can be refreshed, relaxed and make decisions about what to do next.
You will experience being able to Connect and Change with:
Your body which will become energised, exercised and stretched with walking, yoga, relaxation….
Your mind, to be able to think more clearly as you have time to consider what to do next in your life as you spend time in nature, by the sea, learn about and experience mindfulness… and have the chance to use me and others as a sounding board to discover your own solutions.
Your emotions which will become calmer as you put things into proportion while watching the ocean in an area of outstanding natural beauty and have the opportunity for personal reflection and discussion with other medics and experience coaching as a sounding board for your thoughts and ideas.
Your creativity whichwill be awakened as you have permission to have fun and discover new ways to express yourself through art and music, and discover something new about yourself.
Your enjoyment which will be increased….as you enjoy bird watching, swimming, ….conversations….laughing….staying in a beautiful place just minutes from the sea, so you can relax and refresh your mind, body and spirit; and experience a day foraging (with an expert) for wild food then cooking and feasting on it!
When you connect with new experiences you will be able to make the changes you want and discover which direction to take next, within or out of the Medical profession, in order to live the life you truly want.
To take some time out just for you and discover what to do, for yourself, when you connect with parts of yourself you may have neglected…. find out more here:
Would you like to find out how to relax more often and as a result be a more effective doctor?
Some days the work seems overwhelming. As soon as you finish with one thing there is another patient to see, another phone call to answer and another crisis to deal with. There seems to be no time for anything, no time to stop for a meal, almost no time to breathe. Even though you are convinced there is no time to do anything else there are some things you can do:
Become more aware of your breathing. Pause and breathe. However rushed you are, however stressed you feel, however much pressure others are putting on you, take a few seconds and pause and breathe consciously, slowly in and out, count to 5 slowly as you breathe in and as you breathe out to focus on your breathing. How long will that take? ten or twenty seconds at most. And the benefit? You will feel calmer and more able to carry on.
Notice your environment At the same time as connecting with your breathing or at other times just take a few seconds to look up and out of a window and become aware there is a world outside of the hospital. Notice the sky and be conscious of a world beyond where you are. If you are in a room with no windows then look at some flowers or as a last resort just close your eyes for a moment and think about a place you love to be in the countryside or beside the sea. Just a few moments then open your eyes and carry on with renewed energy.
Nourish yourself When you are busy and rushing about it is too easy to skip meals or grab a sugary snack and eat it while you answer emails or search for a patient’s notes. If you take time to get something more healthy to fill the gap, or take it with you each day and take some time away from the ward, away from the patients while you eat and enjoy it, you will return with renewed energy and be able to cope much more effectively with whatever the rest of the day brings.
Follow these three tips every day and monitor how you feel you will notice a steady improvement in your concentration, your energy and your well-being and as a result you will be a more effective doctor too.
Deb Boulanger who is a life coach shared tips on how we can operate at peak performance. She says “Until I learned how to take care of myself, I wasn’t able to serve those around me very well (and neither will you).”
This is such a vital message that many doctors need to hear and understand but instead shut their ears to how vital it is to care for yourself. Just as in the aeroplane the instructions in case of emergency are to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs, so it is with being a doctor: to give the best of yourself you must first look after your own health and well being.
Sadly too many doctors day they don’t have the time to do this – and as a result become more stressed and become less able to cope until one day they find they can’t cope at all and have to take time off because of ill health be it mental or physical or both.
You don’t have to be perfect but you do need to be the best you can be: and that happens when you take the time to look after all parts of yourself: body mind and spirit. You can define these words in whatever way you want, in whatever way is meaningful for you and also decide how you will care more for yourself.
It can mean anything from taking a few moments between patients to take a few deep and relaxing breaths, to exercising, be that at the gym, running, dancing or yoga to reading novels, to spending quality time with friends and family.
You can get a boost by coming to an event next April 2014 in Cornwall, UK. Find out more www.susankersley.co.uk/connectandchange but don’t delay places filling up and when they are gone, they’re gone!
Time spent in nature is the most cost-effective and powerful way to counteract the burnout and sort of depression that we feel when we sit in front of a computer all day. Richard Louv
SInce overwork, stress and burnout are now so common amongst doctors, it’s vital to learn techniques to prevent these overwhelming you so that you can cope with life as a doctor.
The quotation says it all: spend time in nature each day then you will feel bette.
But how can you do this when you live and work in a big city, in a massive busy hospital? You might need to have your own piece of nature on your windowsill, or in a vase, or take the chance to get outside to a local park or gardens when you have some time. Discovering how to find that time is vitally important!
Notice how the changes in the different seasons affect you. Become more aware as you look at trees, plants, birds, ants and butterflies how you can, if you are open to the process, find messages for you from the nature around you.
For example there are messages about renewal and growth; about new life emerging from the barrenness of winter; the determination and the motivation and perseverance of migrating birds travelling vast distances to reach their goals.
You can see that there is always change, nothing stays the same in nature, yet things end and new beginnings start.
Reflect for yourself how nature can inform something about your own life?
What messages are you getting from nature?
Another way to be refreshed, and rejuvenated is to get away from your busy environment for a few days and stay with a small group of medics (who may or may not be working in Medicine) in an area of outstanding natural beauty in West Cornwall near Land’s End.
One of the most common challenges that doctors face is managing their time effectively. When you aren’t time-aware the work seems to be endless and takes priority over the rest of your life.
This means that your work-life balance suffers. The less you manage your time the more the problem grows. This has an impact on your life in and out of work too. Not only does it affect your friends and family but also your relationship with your partner.
Most crucial of all is on your own health and well-being. Because when you fail to manage your time effectively your personal physical and emotional health will be affected too.
Is it an inevitable part of a doctor’s lifestyle?
Not necessarily, although many doctors say they are overworked and don’t have enough time, to do things they used to enjoy away from work. It seems as though this feeling of being overworked becomes part of the medical culture, as if it was necessary to ‘forget the rest of your life’ from the day you start your house jobs, when you started to work as a doctor.
Some doctors work and do nothing else to the detriment of their health and well-being and the relationships with those close to them. They forget how important self-care is to being a ‘whole person.’
Some can only cope with the stress and overwork by drinking or eating too much. Some decide to pack it all in and leave the profession.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. What I want is for you to have a more balanced life – to be able to work well and efficiently as a doctor and also enjoy your life after work too.
If you leave work late each day and also take work home with you every evening or weekend, remind yourself that you are not super human and are just like every other human being. It’s OK to leave some things to do tomorrow and have some time for rest and relaxation too.
You need some time away from work and time to enjoy sport and hobbies and being with your partner, friends and family and also time for yourself and your own self-care. If you neglect any or all of these your health, both physical and emotional will suffer and have an impact on the way you care for your patients.
If you go into your Hospital or Practice to catch up at the weekend, even when you aren’t on call, then you need to take some action sooner rather than later to stop this way of life.
Many doctors tell me that they want to have better work life balance, but they struggle to find a way to achieve it.
Working as a doctor can have it’s ups and downs. There ail be many days when you feel excited and exhilarated yet others when you are exhausted and overwhelmed. Both of these states can affect your life and relationships outside of Medicine.
Yet if you don’t improve the balance in your life you may become more and more stressed and both your work and your personal life will suffer.
How do some doctors cope?
1. They realise that work and life outside work is a matter of finding ways to be effective in both though not necessarily in relation to time actually spent in each role. Stop trying to keep all aspects of your life in separate compartments. Sometimes your best ideas might come to you while playing with your children or engaging in sport.
2. Define for yourself what you want in your life and realise that your definition of success may be different from others. Decide to follow your own path in being successful in your various roles.
3. Set your own boundaries in relation to what you will or won’t do in all aspects of your life.When you do this you will be able to define what are your personal priorities so that you designate time for friends and family and for your own self-care of body mind and spirit.