Finding a healthy balance between your career and your personal life is a skill everyone must master to maintain optimal mental, emotional, and physical health, but it can be especially difficult for those of us who are healthcare professionals.
Whether you’re in the middle of your healthcare training, trying to juggle work with additional education like ACLS or NRP certifications, or an established physician noticing a need for more self-care, there is no time like the present to start building healthy habits and appropriate boundaries between your work and your home life.
Self-care often manifests as dedicated personal reprieves outside of day-to-day life. Exercise is a great example, but self-care goes beyond working out. Your version of relaxation may be reading a book, getting a pedicure, completing a breathing exercise, cooking a good meal, or watching a favorite tv show.
Many healthcare professionals don’t realize the toll that their work is taking on them until they reach extremely unhealthy levels of stress. According to an interview with The Nation’s Health, Bryan Bohman, MD at Stanford Medicine, remarked, “This is a significant public health problem, because it affects the functioning of all of our health systems. Imagine a problem that affects quality of care, results in high turnover, reduces productivity, destroys people’s personal lives and increases the risk of suicide. That’s what burnout is, except it tends to work undercover.”
Shift workers are more prone to sleep disorders, chronic disease, inflammation, and cardiovascular disease than the general population, but there are many ways maintaining a healthy diet and exercise can combat these negative health effects. For diet strategies to improve your overall health, you may enjoy reading “Dietary Strategies for Shift Workers to Boost Energy and Reduce the Risk of Chronic Disease,” “Dietary Strategies for Shift Workers That Decrease Inflammation and Improve Cardiovascular Health,” or “Dietary Supplements Proven to Help Shift Workers Have More Energy and Get Better Sleep.”
The key to self-care starts with identifying major life stressors and consistent practice. According to HelpGuide.org, one of the very first steps in effective stress management and self-care is identifying significant stressors in your work or personal life.
What small stressors are holding you back from achieving a healthy work-life balance in healthcare? Is a coworker creating unnecessary friction? Is your commute causing stress? Is your NRP training or NRP certification renewal taking too much out of you?
By answering a few critical questions and taking time for yourself each day, you are helping to alleviate stress and process difficult emotions.
Whatever your version of self-care, enjoy the time you’ve set apart to focus on yourself. You’ll work better during your “on” hours if you relax during your “off” hours.
Medical professionals work long hours and often have hectic schedules, but having a schedule is invaluable to preserving your mental health and maintaining work-life balance. Skilled At Life, as well as many other institutions, support this tactic and provide a few reasons why maintaining a schedule remains critical, especially with an emotionally-rigorous job. A few of those reasons include everything from efficiency to improved health and self-confidence.
Start by scheduling uninterrupted time for exercise, sleep, socializing, and things you enjoy. Make them a priority and don’t allow stressors to interfere with your personal time.
In addition, learn how to maximize the time you do have. If you love books, find some audiobooks to listen to on your drive to work. Or, instead of taking the time to commute to classes or conferences to complete certifications and CEs, easily complete your ACLS, PALS, NRP, and more critical recertifications online during downtime at work. Get creative. Be proactive. Be the one who dictates your priorities instead of letting your busy schedule dictate it for you.
Wherever you are on your journey to a better work-life balance, it’s time to let go of perfectionism and start small.
Try to make achievable goals and celebrate your successes. It may be to start going for a walk each morning or to disconnect from technology for 30 minutes a day. It may be to schedule quality time with your family once per week. It may be finding online options that allow you to fulfill your NRP recertification or PALS refreshers at work so you can have valuable time to relax later.
Also, don’t walk the path alone. Talk to your family; enlist the help of your coworkers. They may have suggestions that best pertain to your personal situation. For more tips on how to manage your mental hygiene and create better communication during stressful situations at work and at home, you may be interested in the free 30-minute webinar “Building Resiliency as First Responders—A Complete Approach.” While the webinar addresses first responders, many of the challenges and traumatic experiences we face as healthcare professionals are similar to those emergency personnel experience, and the tips in this video are very applicable to the stressors we face in our daily lives.
Finding a better work-life balance in healthcare will always give way to better self-care, time management, and overall well-being.