Recharging Vital to Your Physical, Mental Health

Premier Pulse     July 2017

By Jennifer Hauler, DO, regional chief medical officer, Good Samaritan Hospital (closed in 2018) and Upper Valley Medical Center

How many times have you wished there were more hours in the day? Does it seem like you are continually trying to catch up? Do you end the day feeling drained rather than pleased with what you have accomplished? You are not alone! Long days, intense demands, the continuous mental focus required to deliver patient care, keeping up with the whirlwind of regulatory and governmental changes, and everyday life stressors make working in the health care environment a challenge for nearly everyone involved.

Physicians and providers invest their all in doing right for the patient. While those in need would want nothing less, the toll can be tremendous. The physical consequences of fatigue and stress such as weight gain, moodiness, headaches, dizziness, muscle aches, inability to concentrate, GI distress, and cardiovascular disease are devastating. Being overwhelmed and burned out affects not only physicians, but also their spouses, family, friends, and co-workers.

The good news is that the fix is not as difficult as you might think. Research shows that breaks of all durations, even a 30-second microbreak, can improve performance and mood. The onset of mental fatigue varies amongst studies from 90 minutes to three hours of continuous on-time task. Think you don’t have time for a break? Try a few of these simple suggestions geared for the busy physician/provider:

  1. Take a few deep breaths.
  2. Get a little extra sleep. Even 15 minutes can make a difference.
  3. Be grateful. Write down three things each day for which you are grateful.
  4. Phone a loved one. Take five minutes to call mom, dad, siblings, grandparents, or a friend to just say “hi.”
  5. Go outside. Walk around the office or the hospital. Studies show even five minutes enjoying the outdoors can improve mood.
  6. Mix it up. Park in a new spot. Find a different way to walk to a hospital unit. Pick a different seat in a meeting.
  7. Stretch and exercise. Google online desk stretches or exercises.
  8. Meditate. Meditation not for you? Imagine the perfect vacation.
  9. Take the stairs (up or down) instead of the elevator. Energize with each step.
  10. Grab a tea or coffee. Better yet, meet a friend for a quick break. Pick up an extra coffee or tea to take to a colleague or co-worker.
  11. Learn something new. Spend two minutes on learning a new language. Introduce yourself to someone new.
  12. Make someone else’s day. Pay someone a compliment. See suggestion #10. Tell a colleague or a co-worker why you appreciate them.
  13. Grab a healthful snack. Drink some water. Incredibly basic, but often forgotten.
  14. Pump up the jam. Have a dance party in your car rather than listening to the news or traffic. Choose a soothing melody if it suits you better.
  15. Keep a photo on your phone of something that makes you happy. Children, puppies, seascapes, whatever makes you smile. Look at the photo for 30 to 60 seconds and focus on why it makes you smile.

Sure, a month-long vacation to the beach or Europe works, too, but it isn’t required. Try any of the items above for 30 seconds to 15 minutes and I bet you will notice a difference. You are important. What you do is tremendously important. Take care of you because you are needed and valued!

Now, if you will excuse me, I think I hear a cup of tea calling my name! 

Back to the July 2017 issue of Premier Pulse

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