Thursday, July 11, 2024

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How Can You Improve Your Work-Life Balance as a Physician?

Does life as a physician feel overwhelming? Long hours, high stakes, and the emotional toll of working as a physician can create the perfect recipe for stress, anxiety, and burnout if you’re not careful. 

These feelings are only intensified by the nature of the modern cultural attitudes towards work; 31% of all UK employees feel they do not have a good work-life balance, while over half of millennial fathers say they want to move to a job that allows them to spend more time with their children. 

Improving your work-life balance as a physician will help you live a more fulfilling, stress-managed life outside of the laboratory and ensure that your productivity and performance levels are higher while working. 

So, in a job that can be so demanding, how can you find ways to improve your work balance?

Seek Support 

Physician’s institutionally difficult work-life balance means seeking support where possible is important. If you’re in a position that allows you to do so, it might mean delegating a task to a colleague with more time. Those with perfectionist characteristics feel less comfortable allowing others to contribute towards their work, but your colleagues are in the same industry as you because of their talent and hard work too.

Outside of work, seeking support might look like discussing the stresses of your work-life imbalance with someone you can trust. Your listener might be able to provide solutions specific to your situation, and it might help them to understand the way the stressful workplace environment impacts your behavioural traits outside of the laboratory. 

Alternatively, explore the wellbeing packages your scribe company offers – many have therapists experienced dealing with the complexities of a physician’s work-life balance and stress levels. 

Set Realistic Goals

Studies show that perfectionistic characteristics are highly common among physicians, and the expectation for perfect performance is inherent in the culture of medicine.

Perhaps many within the industry have been institutionalised into believing perfectionism and overworking to the point of exhaustion are necessary evils to achieve the highest level of performance.

Physicians learn this behaviour first through education, with medical degrees usually taking a substantially greater level of effort than those in alternative fields and later in life through the relentless workplace culture of work within medical industries.

But striving for perfectionism is counterproductive. Paradoxically, perfectionism can lead to procrastination, poor time management, and increased stress and anxiety. When striving to live up to the superhuman attributes placed on physicians while simultaneously being held solely responsible for the outcome of patients, there must be a moment where you realise you’ve done all that you possibly can do to produce a positive outcome.

This doesn’t mean you’re not working to the best of your ability but taking breaks from the stress gives our minds and bodies a chance to refuel and have a greater probability of providing alternative solutions in the future.

So be realistic with what can be achieved and live safe in the knowledge that working excessively doesn’t necessarily equate to working productively.

Use Time Off Effectively 

Time off as a physician can be limited. In the three “A’s of physician excellence” – able, affable, available – available is often the easiest to perfect. Thus, many within the industry believe that the minimum requirement is to be available for work 24/7. 

But a distinction between work and life must be properly curated. 61% of physicians think about work while lying in bed, having adverse effects on sleep and, in turn, stress levels and anxiety. 

So, finding a way to effectively use your limited time off is essential for creating a healthy work-life balance. Rest and recovery don’t have to mean being physically still, just temporarily alleviated from stress over work and everyday life.

Switch off your work phone during rare time off and find activities that help you to forget about workplace stresses and feel present in the moment. Perhaps it’s meditation, spending time with loved ones, exercise, or participating in a hobby you enjoy.

The ways you switch off are healthy and conducive to improving your overall quality of life; one in three medics use alcohol to feel better, while one in five drink to cope with the stresses of the workplace. While alcohol consumption may give you temporary relief, it contributes towards the reciprocal cycle of poor sleep, low energy levels, and ultimately burnout. 

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