One of the greatest challenges physicians I talk to are facing in their life and career right now is work-life balance.
The impact on personal health, relationships with family and friends, and career satisfaction come at a very high cost.
Many have shared the multiple attempts made to improve the situation.
While there may be some temporary relief, most report that these changes don’t help for long.
The demanding pace of medicine with long work hours (both at work and at home), unpredictable schedules, emotional and mental strain, and increasing loss of autonomy, can make it difficult for physicians to maintain a healthy balance between their personal and professional lives.
While the rate of burnout continues to rise across multiple occupations, physicians are at especially high risk.
Work-life balance is not a static process. It’s a dynamic process that’s guaranteed to shift over time as life circumstances change and bring periods of uncertainty.
Addressing work-life balance challenges requires a multifaceted approach involving both individual strategies and systemic changes within the healthcare industry.
Exhaustion, overwhelm, and self-doubt are real factors that can be obstacles to creating more balance across all areas of your life.
While initiatives are underway to address the pervasive systems issues, there are things you can do now to bring about some relief.
Start with prioritizing your own self-care first - focus on simple nutritious meals and snacks, regular movement activities, adequate sleep (quality and quantity) and rest, and healthy coping activities like meditation, journaling, prayer, etc..
Then, take the following 3 actions to begin the process of balancing your life in a meaningful way.
1. Balance responsibilities for domestic tasks and childcare.
Establish clear expectations for household tasks like cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. Decide who will be responsible for pick-ups and drop-offs to daycare and/or school, help with homework, etc. Have the conversation with your spouse, partner, significant other, or supportive family members. Revisit these roles and responsibilities as often as needed to maintain greater balance.
2. Get clear on what balance feels like for you.
When work has taken over the other areas of your life for long enough, you may not remember what balance feels like. It’s time to find your way to a place where you feel more spaciousness in your life with room to breathe. Letting go of the busyness can be challenging because it’s so pervasive. But when you become intimately familiar with what balance feels like for you, you’re more likely to notice when it’s off and can then choose to do what’s needed to restore it.
3. Proactively plan days where your calendar is clear.
For the two decades I worked in clinical practice, the only days I took off were for vacation when we were traveling or when I was extremely sick (i.e., influenza with fever 104 degrees F and surgery with 6 week recovery). The concept of a mental health day just didn’t seem feasible. How could I take a day off “to do nothing” when I felt so behind across all areas of my life? I have since learned the importance of giving myself permission to have a day that is purely mine. A day where I get to spontaneously decide how I want to spend it when it comes, guilt-free. This takes some practice, but the return on investment is well worth it.
Finding the rituals and routines that help you create more equilibrium between work, play, and rest is subjective. It can look different for everyone.
Developing a morning and evening routine can be an important step in adopting new habits that support your well-being and cultivate better work-life balance.
Start small and be consistent. Notice what actions help to energize you and which ones drain you.
Once you’re addressing your personal needs, you can decide if you want to advocate for changes in your healthcare system or organization, such as improved scheduling practices, reduced administrative burdens, and supportive workplace policies to promote work-life balance.
Ultimately, achieving work-life balance requires a conscious effort and ongoing adjustments.
By recognizing the challenges and implementing strategies to promote better life balancing skills, you can improve your overall well-being and satisfaction in both your personal and professional life.
I am in the process of developing resources to help physicians cultivate greater work-life balance.
If you are interested in this topic and willing to have a brief conversation with me to help inform these resources, please click here to email me with “better balance” in the subject line and we can find a convenient time to connect.
May you summon the courage to feel your way into better balance. It is possible. And you deserve it.
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Life Beyond Clinical Practice with Dr. Michelle Bailey
Hi, I'm Dr. Michelle Bailey.
I help physicians who are unhappy or unsatisfied with their current career find a nonclinical career that they love.
Retiring early from clinical practice after almost 20 years as a board-certified pediatrician I successfully made the leap and transitioned to a nonclinical career.
I'm thriving in my new career and am on a mission to help other physicians do the same with the support, guidance, and community that I wish I had when I was struggling with this decision.
You're invited to connect with me in my private Facebook community for physicians to learn about all things related to your nonclinical career transition. Join here.
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