Three Tips to Help Physicians Maintain Work-Life Balance

August 27, 2013

Still struggling with achieving balance? Here are three ways I've managed to get mine.

I was listening to the radio this morning and the DJ discussed a recent article on three things that help to maintain balance and perspective. I’m always looking for quick tips and when they overlap with things I already know in my heart to be true, they are even more appealing.

The first is to “turn it off." This means the computer, the smartphone, the Kindle, and the TV. Disconnect from whatever it is that has your time and attention. I have to admit that I think my way of spending time electronically (my Kindle) is superior to my husband’s way (Facebook) but the truth is we’re both disconnected from each other and from our family. A little bit of a good thing is a good. A lot of anything is not.

The second is to spend time in nature - actually to be surrounded by nature. This has been a new practice of mine this summer, when the weather in Wisconsin (usually) cooperates. I take 10 minutes at lunch and go for a walk in a nearby park. I take my 10 minutes whether my morning notes are done or not. I try to concentrate on what’s going on around me and mentally unplug from the chatter of a typical office day. I may pay attention to all of the sounds I hear or the different shades of green in the plants around me. There is something infinitely calming about nature.

The final thing is to leave work at work. Once again, my superior attitude rears its ugly head and I consider my good habit of finishing my office visit notes at work and not bringing that work home.  However, I emotionally and intellectually bring a lot of work home. This weekend was a great example.  I was on call so I was finishing up the loose ends from my partners’ patients, dealing with my own weekend patients, and trying to be available on my pager and available to my family. Certainly, when I’m on call, I am really required to be available but it can be difficult to transition to being off call just because the clock switched from 7 a.m. to 7:01 a.m. 

Balance can only be maintained when we give time, attention, and energy to the multiple facets of our lives. Work deserves our focused concentration and professional duty, but not every minute of every day. Nature has been revered for millennia for its calming and grounding qualities. Despite our climate-controlled environments, joy and calm and peace and energy even can be gained from time in nature.  And finally, we need to disconnect ourselves from the multitude of things that would claim our attention. Is it better to hear what your high school classmate found on sale at the grocery store or what your daughter found in the backyard? 

Good luck this week finding your balance.