Work and Life Are Never Perfectly Balanced for Physicians

April 1, 2014

Sometimes it takes a conscious effort to get away and unplug. Just don't think you need to make up the time when you get back from your retreat.

My husband and I went away last weekend to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. We went to a quiet resort relatively close to home and relaxed, ate delicious food, and listened to the quiet. We both got plenty of sleep, were able to exercise together, went on a long walk, and had a full conversation over dinner. Our schedule was determined by what we wanted to do - not what we had to do. Of course, on Monday morning, we were back to juggling the kids, appointments, laundry, work, and so on. But, we both feel refreshed, re-energized, revitalized.

Whenever I have a time away like this (which doesn't happen as often as I'd like or probably as often as I need), I always vow to change things when I return to normal life. This time is no different.

I resolve to simplify.

My husband and I really enjoyed a weekend that was no more complicated than sleep, exercise, relaxation, good food, and conversation. We can make time for that in our everyday life too, even without a gourmet chef and room service. It is a reminder to me that we really don't need a whole lot to have an enjoyable time.

I resolve to spend more time eating goodfood.

Not fast food, not fried food, not sweet food. Just good food, prepared well, eaten slowly. This is personally, one of my biggest challenges. I don't like to take a lot of time to just eat. I relearned the joy of a slow meal this weekend, and hope that I can recreate it for our family, at least once in a while.

I resolve to sleep.

Wow, do I feel better when I'm actually well rested. It is wonderful to go to sleep when you're tired rather than push yourself to keep going to get one more thing done. Sleep improves everything - your mood, your energy level, your ability to think and make decisions, your health. Why don't I spend more time engaging in this healthy behavior?

When I attempt work-life balance, I often feel the burden of adding more and more things to the see-saw that balances precariously in my life; hoping that by adding one more thing to the "work" side, it will help balance the "life" side of things. For example, if I go on vacation (life stuff) I'll work an extra day in clinic to make up for my time away (work stuff). It never feels like I am subtracting anything, but perhaps consciously relaxing and taking time off is the wiser path. Better to remove things slowly, in order to not upset the delicate balance that is my life.

So, I think our weekend away was a success. It did exactly what time away is supposed to do - help us stop, rethink, recharge and refocus. The challenge is coming back to my real life, and keeping my new resolutions. We'll see how many I can keep.