Recently I received the following question from a member of my private online community,
“What is your best strategy to "disconnect" from work as you transition to your home/family?”
She had experienced periods of being more present with her family during the shelter-in-place orders for the COVID-19 pandemic. She noticed how much she enjoyed the deeper quality connections with her spouse and children and was looking for ways to be more proactive in continuing this practice beyond the pandemic when life returns to “normal”.
This is a common challenge for many of the physicians I work with. Although our physical bodies arrive "home" at the end of the work day, our minds are often still very much at "work".
And even when we're not in full-on work mode, we may find other things to stay busy and not allow ourselves to have some much needed down time.
But, unplugging is necessary to maintain your overall sense of balance and well-being. If you are having difficulty disconnecting from work it may be time to find some practical strategies to help.
Here are 3 of my favorite "best practices" that work for myself and other physicians:
Carve out small blocks of time to practice disconnecting from work regardless of what else is going on in your life (and the world). The most common complaint I hear from busy physicians is that they don't have enough time. You don't have to take off an entire day to reset. Find little pockets of time to unplug. This could be as little as 60 seconds of solitude (even if it means sitting in your car), 5 minutes of spending time in nature or 10-15 minutes of a movement activity you enjoy.
Connect to any of your physical senses to help bring you back into the present moment when you find your thoughts have returned to work. Pause and practice noticing what sounds you can hear (your child’s voice, your own breathing), scents you can smell (fresh air when outdoors, aroma of food cooking), textures you can touch (the feel of your clothing against your skin, rubbing two fingertips together), etc. Each breath you take can serve as an opportunity to return to your home and family.
Use start up and shut down rituals. The routine of going through the same set of steps each day trains your brain to be able to shut down work mode and transition to home. Here are a few ideas for rituals to help you make the transition.
While you may not always be able to completely unplug on days where you're on call, see how you can find moments to unplug when you're not actively working. Once you set the intention to unplug, you'll begin to see opportunities showing up to support you.
I hope this helps inspire some ideas for you. I’m going to be starting a physician self-care series in my private online community that focuses on developing habits to achieve a greater sense of balance by prioritizing self-care. If you’re interested in participating and not yet a member, click here to join.
I'm curious to know how you disconnect from work. Leave a comment below to let me know.
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