Of late, Dr. Schaberg has been getting headaches. It usually starts around mid-morning, when he is checking on his patients in the hospital. By the time it’s evening, the pain usually spreads to the shoulders. He knows that it is the long, arduous routine that has put his nerves under stress, but he loves his work and can’t avoid it. In the business of caring for others, physicians often forget to take care of themselves. According to a survey, more than 60% of US doctors face burnout, and one in eight resort to alcohol or prescription drugs in order to beat stress. These are some of the statistics that reveal the taxing nature of the medical profession.
We all know how difficult it can be to take out time for things we really love to do, whether it is spending quality time with the family, reading a book, getting involved in a hobby, or simply adding some relaxation time to our daily routine. Doing all these can seem like an impossible task given our tight schedules. But, there is hope. Instead of making big changes that never really materialize, how about making small adjustments to your daily habits? Here are some simple common-sense things that can help relieve stress. Try one or all of the following, and you might just get yourself on path to a stress-free life:
- Talk to friends and family: Even a two-minute chat with family or a friend is a great stress buster. Remember, family is affected the most as a result of your arduous routine. So, take out time for family, whether it is to spend an evening at the opera, or watch your favorite movie with a loved one. Can beating stress get any easier?
- Pick up a hobby: It could be anything from painting, writing a short story, playing guitar, or going geocaching.
- Hit the snooze button: Even a doctor needs eight hours of sleep. Many physicians complain of fatigue after 11 a.m.; perhaps because of the lack of sleep. The best way to beat it is to hit the bed early. Remember, that football game, or the favorite TV program may be okay once in awhile, but aren’t important enough to become part of your daily routine.
- Exercise: Did I just hear you say “‘where is the time?” Well, here’s the thing – there is no shortcut to staying fit. Try to hit the gym or go for walks. But, if you can’t, don’t fret, there might be other ways, like taking stairs instead of the elevator. Or, parking your car further away, so you have to walk that extra distance.
- Accept that you are not perfect: We love to believe that whatever we are doing is best for the patient. And, if something untoward happens, we start blaming ourselves, which is not right. Pluck out this source of stress from your life and you will be a happier person. It is okay to be conscientious but never overdo it. Admittedly, to be a thorough professional, one has to be involved with patient’s sufferings, but at the same time, stay as detached as possible. This helps a physician to remain objective and beat anxiety. Basically, know where to draw the line.
- Meditate: If you are still stressed, then close your eyes and meditate. Take deep breaths, and inhale and exhale slowly. Count up to 10 and then repeat.
- Prioritize your task list: Getting organized helps beat stress. You could start by organizing just one part of your life and then proceed to the next.
- Give up bad habits: As a doctor, we are aware that smoking and drinking are bad for health. Yet, many can’t resist taking a drink or two every day, or light up every time a patient’s health takes a toll on our nerves. Quit these bad habits, now! There is no tomorrow.
- Be in tune with what triggers your anxiety: Write down your triggers and either avoid them altogether, or learn to handle them better.
How do you handle stress? Please share with us in comments.