The work of a Doctor can be both physically and mentally demanding at the best of times, and even more so during critical periods such as a pandemic. The paradox of this profession is that in caring for others, it’s easy to lose sight of your own wellbeing, which can eventually lead to issues such as burnout.
While you probably know that practising self-care is important for enabling you to continue performing at your best in your work, we believe everyone needs a refresher on this topic once in a while! After all, for Doctors, it goes far beyond the clichés of eating well, exercise, facemasks and meditation.
To help you ensure you’re looking after yourself while you look after others, here are three key areas to focus on as you develop your self-care routine.
Develop Effective Coping Strategies
As a Doctor, you are likely already familiar with the importance of having solid coping mechanisms to get you through challenging times in your work. However, the approaches that have worked previously may not be suitable for the current environment, so it’s a good idea to review the strategies you use to deal with stress and identify ways to change the practicalities of your situation where possible.
In your personal life, can you get extra support with childcare, cleaning or finances? How do you wind down at the end of the workday, and do you have the right boundaries in place to keep your professional life separate?
While on the job, try to prioritise your breaks and make the most of any opportunities to decompress, even if it’s just for a few minutes. We know this isn’t always possible, but it may help to ask for support from colleagues or practice staff to ensure you’re getting the breaks you need.
Surround Yourself with the Right Support
Your support network is a vital element of self-care and may include family, friends, religious support and industry peers who are facing similar challenges. Evaluate those around you and identify who will be available to help in a crisis – is there someone to take care of family arrangements, to cover your shift at work, to provide financial or legal advice, and to provide emotional support?
With quarantines and social distancing preventing people from connecting in person, it’s also important to be intentional about staying in contact with your loved ones during this time, whether it be through video calls, over the phone or another means of communication.
And don’t forget that your own GP is a key member of your support network. Instead of relying on self-diagnosis or “corridor consultations” with your colleagues, make it a priority to have regular check-ups and undergo all standard preventative monitoring and screening.
Learn to Recognise the Warning Signs
As we mentioned previously, the risk of burnout is high within jobs that involve prolonged stress. The sooner you address burnout, the easier it will be to bounce back, so it’s essential to look out for the signals that you need to slow down so you can take action before the situation worsens, rather than continuing to put the demands of your job over your own needs.
Although it can be tempting to ignore them at first, you should always be monitoring yourself for symptoms of burnout such as fatigue, changes to diet and sleep habits, frequent headaches or muscle pain, loss of motivation, a lack of job satisfaction and feelings of self-doubt, helplessness and detachment. You can also use this confidential questionnaire to screen yourself for these symptoms.
If you notice any of these tell-tale signs, consider getting a referral to a mental health professional or seeking an online counselling service.
We hope these tips help you refocus your self-care strategy and enable you to continue with the valuable work you do. For more wellbeing advice or support with finding a new job or locum role as a Doctor, speak to our team today.