One of the consistent themes that resonates as I teach and coach physicians is helping my colleagues find their our own balance between constant action and experiencing life as a human being.
Our intense medical training shaped us into human doers.
We were rewarded for memorizing facts, working insanely long hours, and pushing ourselves to the extremes of exhaustion with no time to enjoy the simple things of being human. Our training reprogrammed our reward mechanisms and sense of value to be high skilled productive do-ers rather than be-ers.
Eventually, many years of human doing without cultivating and nourishing ourselves comes with a significant personal cost. Some of us have the capacity to work for a decade or two before we begin to burn out. But over time this unmanaged stress results in dissatisfaction at work, strained relationships and failed marriages, substance abuse and physical symptoms of burnout.
I was seven years into my career as Medical Director of a group chronic pain practice when I started to have increasing irritability, fatigue and dissatisfaction with patient care. Pain management is known to be one of the most challenging specialties with demanding patients and a difficult environment with scrutiny from the DEA and Medical Board for opioid prescribing. In my late 30s I had reached a critical point of burnout and chronic stress, and then had to deal with an inquiry from the California Medical Board. While quickly cleared, the experience made me realize I was at an important junction in my career and personal life.
How was I going to continue to practicing in a rewarding, nourished and happy way? I did not want to quit medicine, but I needed to find a way to attend to my practice while allowing myself the time and energy to be healthy and pursue passions outside of health care.
I am four years into this new chapter of my career and I couldn’t be happier with the balance between work and my personal life. I’m once again loving my work, my patient satisfaction scores have never been higher, and I’m also feeling more grounded and relaxed as I practice.
I have fully rekindled my passion for medicine and have found the energy and passion to build Wellness for Doctors to help my colleagues achieve the same balance.
We all need to ask ourselves what is our own ideal balance between doing work and interests that nourish our being?
- Is it working half time time in medicine and raising a family?
- Making time to explore art, cooking, writing, traveling, spending time outdoors, playing music?
- Allowing room in your schedule to volunteer or mentor other practitioners?
However you do it, the point is that you need to create some space to slow down so that you can become aware of your feelings and then to ask yourself what is most important to you and are you moving towards your optimal balance.
To start, you might try spending an hour alone outside on a hike, at the beach, exercising, practicing yoga or meditating. And then once you are in a space of feeling fairly relaxed and grounded, you can begin to explore some of the possibilities of what your ideal work life balance looks like. At first this may need to be check in with yourself more frequently, but over time you’ll learn to listen to yourself more quickly and easily.
If you would like to go deeper and make significant positive change in your life, attend one of our weekend or weeklong retreats. On a Wellness for Doctor retreat, we support you in identifying your own ideal balance between doing work and things that nourish your being. We have fun interactive experiences that will help you identify and implement your core values into your life. You will leave our retreats recharged and with new tools to actively create the life you want to live.