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Your Health & Wellness

Physician Rx

Why healers need time for self-care, too

You counsel your patients to make lifestyle changes to improve their health. Here's why you should follow your own advice.

Whether you’re a medical student, a retired physician or somewhere in between, you’ve likely experienced moments when you’ve felt overwhelmed trying to balance the demands of life and career. Left unchecked, stress can lead to burnout—and in some cases, depression. To help physicians and medical students maintain mental and physical balance, the AOA’s House of Delegates voted last year to create a physician wellness strategy. This plan will take an osteopathic approach to wellness by focusing on various dimensions of wellness, including:

  • Physical – Establishing healthy eating habits and a regular exercise routine to help prevent chronic diseases.
  • Emotional – Understanding your feelings and developing a sense of awareness.
  • Environmental – How you interact with your natural (i.e. climate) and built (i.e. work) environments.
  • Financial – Managing your finances can help reduce stress.
  • Intellectual – Keeping an open mind and looking for opportunities to expand your knowledge.
  • Occupational – Utilizing your talents to gain enrichment in life.
  • Social – Developing good communication skills and creating a support network of friends, family members and colleagues.
  • Spiritual – Seeking meaning and purpose in life.

Challenges to wellness

You might be experiencing burnout if you:

  • Feel tired all the time and lack energy.
  • Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Experience forgetfulness or struggle to concentrate.
  • Become pessimistic.
  • Feel isolated.
  • Experience hopelessness or other signs of depression.

If you experience burnout, it’s important to act. Talk with your physician if you feel depressed, and boost your spirits day-to-day by talking with trusted friends, spending time in nature, listening to music or carving out a little time for a favorite hobby.

Need to reset

Taking time for yourself can help boost your energy level and resilience. You can reduce burnout and recharge by:

  • Finding a meaningful activity outside of medicine, such as volunteering, joining a club or training for a marathon.
  • Joining peers for an exercise class or a group run. A JAOA study found those who worked out in a group experienced a reduction in stress levels compared to those who worked out solo.
  • Practicing mindfulness with a meditation app or simply closing your eyes to focus on your breathing.
  • Getting more Zzs. Most of us need seven to nine hours of sleep. To get there, slowly add more time for rest and build up to your goal.
  • Establishing initiatives at work to limit work hours and creating safe havens for discussing challenges with peers.
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