Physician Wellness Tips Part 1
Physician Wellness Tips Part 1
Physician wellness tips can be simple and effective. Taking a step forward is a step even if it is small. This blog post is the first of a two-part blog series I will share some simple tips for physician wellness. The great thing about these tips is that they are applicable not only physicians but also other professionals.
In previous blog posts, I have discussed my experience with burnout and the road to recovery from that abyss. If we pay attention to our needs and recognize the signs then help is right around the corner. Moreover, being proactive and taking steps to prevent burnout by focusing on wellness is vital. This blog will cover five simple things that we can do to improve physician wellness.
5 Tips for Physician Wellness
1. Nutrition is important
Ask a premiere athlete if proper nutrition is essential and what do you think the response will be? A resounding “YES.” Adequate food is critical to proper body function. Would you drive a car without the fuel? No. You also would not put regular fuel in a high-performance vehicle. Physicians are not taught about nutrition to any great extent in medical school. Time is spent learning the intricacies of the body’s systems and how they function.
So doctors tend to be ignorant of what it means to have proper nutrition. During residency training, they are many times when food takes not such nourishing forms – can you say Red Bull and gummies? Unfortunately, time demands and the rigors of training may not always lend to three complete, well-balanced meals and bring healthy snacks. During my residency, I recall rarely using my kitchen and eating ALOT of California rolls from the hospital cafeteria.
Nutrition does not need to be complicated. A well-balanced meal has simple elements - a lean protein, healthy fat, carbohydrates, and fruit and vegetables. Click To Tweet So an example of a simple and easy one would be plain Greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey, blueberries, strawberries and shaved almonds on top. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it? Another simple option for breakfast on the go is overnight oats. Just prep several at a time and place in the refrigerator for at least four hours then enjoy.
Some great on the go portable healthy snacks include almonds (provided you are not allergic to nuts), granola, fruit, raw veggies, boiled eggs and air-popped popcorn. These are all things that you can eat while at work. If you have a sweet tooth, then munch on a juicy honey crisp apple, banana, dates, a few squares of dark chocolate (70% or more cocoa) or peach.
Sometimes it becomes handy to get completion of nutrition through supplements. I was surprised to find out all the nutrients I was missing despite eating a healthy well-balanced diet. Take this Holistic Health Assessment Survey and see where you stand and what might be missing.
2. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is essential. Most importantly, getting quality sleep is paramount. For those of us in Medicine, often sleep becomes a commodity that is not always consistently available. Click To TweetGetting sleep is even more complicated after working the night shift. In my blog post, Post Night Shift Sleep Tips, I provide some practical tips for getting sleep for those of us who work the night shift.
The amount of sleep that is needed varies from individual to individual. I know that I function best with at least 6 hours of quality sleep. Most of my sleep happens while the rest of the world is going about their day. There is definitely a small pang of envy when I talk to people who function very well on 4-5 hours of sleep. It is particularly impressive when they can maximize their awake time. Then I know people who need 10 hours of sleep to function well. Whatever your sweet spot for the amount of sleep is, protect that time and get what you need. Optimal body functioning requires proper sleep and nourishment.
So turn off the notifications on your phone, quiet your bedroom, turn off the television and turn on some white noise so that you can get to sleep. Play around with going to bed earlier and waking up earlier to see how much sleep you need. There is something about a good night’s rest that is refreshing and empowering.
3. Drink Water
Drink water. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it really can be straightforward and doable with a good plan of action. First of all, you need to drink your body weight (lbs) divided by 2 in ounces of water each day. This amount is literally for baseline functioning. If you are exerting yourself or are in a hot environment, then drinking more is necessary. We often wait until we are thirsty to drink water and unfortunately that is a late trigger. It is more prudent to drink our baseline amount of water for our bodies to function well. That is why when you do a 30-day water challenge, you start to notice that your skin is more supple and you feel more energized. Water is life.
We are comprised mostly of water as humans. Our cells need an ample supply of water to perform their functions well. Don’t know where to start or how you will get in all the water you need. Well, there are some simple things that you can do to consume an adequate daily amount. You can fill a large jug with your total amount and fill your water bottle from it over the course of the day. Also, you can use an app on your phone like Daily Water, iDrated Water, or WaterLogged Drink More Water to remind you to drink water. Also, you can set a notification on your phone or fitness tracker device to tell you to drink water throughout the day. Drink up! You will be glad that you did.
4. Get Moving
Movement means different things to different people. It can be as simple as going for a walk, running around in the backyard with your family or pushing up weights in the gym. Fitness is especially dear to my heart because paying attention to my movement (fitness) was the lifeline to physician wellness for me. I talk more about this in my blog post, Fitness Saved Me From Burnout. My story of fitness being a key to my professional resilience is the topic of one of my chapters in The Chronicles of Women in White Coats. If you don’t know where to start and are interested in chatting about your options, set up a time to talk here.
Getting up and moving at least 20-30 minutes a day is so beneficial to your body. Remember that your heart is a muscle and needs exercise. Remember you can always start small, like going for a walk, and take it from there. Here’s a simple hack, take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever you can. Park in a further parking spot so that you have a little walk to your destination. Stand for parts of the day if you have a sedentary job. At night in the Emergency Department, I stand while entering orders, reviewing patient data or talking to consultants at the physician workstation. You’d be surprised at how many times I have been able to sneak in some lunges and squats while working.
Yes. Smile. I am sure that you have heard that it takes more facial muscles to frown than to smile. So why not smile? Smiling is so simple and straightforward. It is something that you can give as a gift to those you encounter. Click To Tweet It has reciprocity almost instantaneously and has a positive impact on those around you. Smiling while you are on the phone having a problematic conversation will change your tone and demeanor to a positive one. Smiling puts you on a happy, zen plane for sure. So go ahead. Smile. Share your beautiful smile liberally. These are just five physician wellness tips. Stay tuned for physician wellness tips part 2.
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Be strong. Be brave. Unleash your greatness!