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 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! 


  1. I think your "Three S's" sum up a lot of what a person needs to do to handle their own stresses. Self-care is huge but neglected by most (unfortunately).
    I find that the best things I can do to manage stress are A) ensure I keep up with my regular exercise routine and B) catch some extra sleep when I start to feel stress levels in my life getting out of control.
    For myself, I have determined that those 2 things on their own have a huge effect on how I psychologically handle stress (nevermind the improved ability to physically handle the stress).

    1. Thanks for your comment, Mark! While I also am an avid exerciser and use it ti psychologically deal with stress, sometimes I have to dial back my exercise amount or intensity in conjunction with upping my amt of sleep. I failed to do this last week and then came down with the flu... now I have had a week off of working out! Good luck finding the balance!


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