There are Three S's in Balance
This post is brought to you by the letter "S"...
A couple of weeks ago, I gave a talk to our local medical school on the importance of stress management and wellness for physicians in training. As a reminder during the holiday season, I wanted to share the key points from my slide, "My Keys to Prevent Burnout". Even though I've written about these themes before (here, here, and here), I thought this would be nice to share again. My message can be summed up in three S's:
Self-knowledge. The beginning of medical school (or any other professional school) is a good time to start consciously thinking about what makes you tick. What motivates you? How do you handle stress, and what methods of stress reduction work for you? What kinds of things do you (already) like to do in your free time? How can those things be applied (in truncated fashion, maybe) when you're super-busy? A good way to figure this out is journaling, which can be effective from a few shorthand notes to full-blown essays. There are lots of apps to facilitate journaling on the go (no need to have lots of little stray papers or notebooks lying around, unless you're like me and enjoy writing on actual paper). Check out this NYTimes article discussing a few of these apps, or this one on appadvice.com regarding Ipad apps.
Self-care. After investing in some self-awareness, make sure to prioritize time for your chosen methods of self-care administration. Even if it's just a few minutes a day of "me" time, ignoring self-care means that eventually you will be a less effective ________ (insert: student, resident, wife, husband, mother, father, provider, person)! This not only involves mental but also physical self-care; try to avoid becoming a patient (like me)! But if you do, at least you will have the tools to deal with it.
Simplification. As much as possible, balancing a busy professional life requires streamlining. Just as business-minded people outsource certain tasks, you must learn to delegate. For me, this meant re-budgeting to hire a cleaning person (as cleaning tasks take a considerable amount of time). It also meant forgoing holiday visits to my parents if I only had a few days off of work (too much family stress over the actual "event" day when quality time could be spent on a less-crazy, "off" weekend visit).
Do you have any go-to key things that you do to prevent your own burnout? At the start of this holiday season, share them here!