Taking a Moment (or a day) to Rest

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As we drown in the overwhelm of modern day health care duties, most physicians I know, including myself, fail to follow their own advice. Far too many of us have become overly tired, irritable and resentful about our work load.  It is difficult to look forward to the dawn of the next work day.

Medical journals and blogs label this as “physician burn-out” but the reality is very few of us are so fried we want to abandon practicing medicine. Instead we are weary of being distracted by irrelevant busy work from what we spent long years training to do: helping people get well, stay well and be well, and when the time comes, die well.

Instead we are busy documenting-documenting-documenting for the benefit of insurance companies and to satisfy state and federal government regulations. Very little of this has anything to do with the well-being of the patient and only serves to lengthen our work days –interminably.

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Today I decided to take a rare mid-week day off at home to consider the advice we physicians all know but don’t always allow ourselves to follow:

1) Sleep. Plenty. Weekend and days-off naps are not only permitted but required. It’s one thing you can’t delegate someone else to do for you. It’s restorative and it’s necessary.

2) Don’t skip meals because you are too busy to chew. Ever. Especially if there is family involved.

3) Drink water throughout the work day.

4) Because of 3) go to the bathroom when it is time to go and not four or even eight hours later.

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5) Nurture the people (and other breathing beings) who love and care for you because you will need them when things get rough.

5) Exercise whenever possible. Take the stairs. Park on the far side of the lot. Dance on the way to the next exam room.

6) Believe in something more infinite than you are as you are absolutely finite and need to remember your limits.

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7) Weep if you need to, even in front of others. Holding it in hurts more.

8) Time off is sacred. When not on call, don’t take calls except from family and friends. No exceptions.

9) Learn how to say no gracefully and gratefully —try “not now but maybe sometime in the future and thanks for thinking of me”.

10) Celebrate being unscheduled and unplanned when not scheduled and planned.

11) Get away. Far away. Whenever possible. The back yard counts.

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12) Connect regularly with people and activities that have absolutely nothing to do with medicine and health care.

13) Cherish co-workers, mentors, coaches and teachers that can help you grow and refine your profession and your person.

14) Start your work day on time. End your work day a little before you think you ought to.

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15) Smile at people who are not expecting it, especially your co-workers. Smile at people who you don’t think warrant it. If you can’t get your lips to smile, smile with your eyes.

16) Take a day off from caring for others to care for yourself.  Even a hug from yourself counts as a hug.

17) Practice gratitude daily. Doctoring is the best work there is anywhere and be blessed by it even on the days you prefer to forget.

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6 thoughts on “Taking a Moment (or a day) to Rest

  1. Well done, Emily! You have covered all the bases I think. If not, since you’re on a one-day sabbatical, you can add more thoughts at your leisure.
    Now — take your own advice, physician, et al. No hedging, No backtracking, No substitutions allowed.

    As one of your faithful readers, know that I thank God for your ministry to me and to all whom you reach on a daily basis.
    God knows who they are. That’s all that really counts, you know, when you close those barn doors and say goodnight to all of your ‘critter’ soul friends and beloved companions.

    And….it is very possible that HE will make sure that you have ‘miles to go before you sleep,’ so plan to take many more one-day sabbaticals in the future.

    Love and thank you….for just being ‘you.’
    Alice

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  2. Actually took the time to see my own doctor today for my annual blood pressure check up, so I’m trying to follow my own advice, Alice. I’m still fluffier than I should be, and the computer work means a more sedentary life style than I should be leading so I have work to do. But the best medicine of all is reading comments from you! And I hope I bring a little joy to your email box every day!

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  3. Dear Emily,
    Oh My! Wow! You really have been thinking about us medical people.. I am hoping my doctor husband will read this! This counsel is also good for “mothers” who also never stop caring and for daughters and sons who are caregivers to their parents.
    Thank you!

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  4. Thank you Em for your Healing Presence, and for allowing His Healing Presence to renew you. Imagining a cup of tea with you in the tree house.

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  5. Saw my foot doctor Thursday. He’s retiring in December.
    Reason…too much paper work required by those who think they know better than he does.
    Indeed…doctors need to be allowed to be physicians caring for their patients.
    My speech therapist friend working in an elder care facility complains about the same paper chase work load. She loves her patients, but the paper work is so demanding of her time. Why?
    Why? Why do we allow this?
    So sad.
    Yes, give yourself the gift of pause.
    Thank you for the wisdom you share.
    Linda

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  6. Thank you, we all can use this gentle reminder. All you say can apply to each of us. I worship on Saturday from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, the entire day to connect with him and regroup. I so enjoy your blog. Blessings on you and yours.

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