Studies show that physicians experience a higher level of stress than people in other professions. Even before the pandemic, almost half of the workforce had been experiencing some level of burnout, as stated in an article published in the American Medical Association. Since the pandemic, the number of physicians experiencing high levels of stress has rapidly increased with some even considering leaving their field for less stressful occupations or opting for early retirement (see EurekaAlert! article ).
Stress can have adverse effects on physicians at the workplace, including an increase in medical errors (see AARP article ) and losing empathy. Stress can also lead to other emotional and mental issues such as burnout, anxiety, and depression. It is important to take steps to alleviate stress and avoid it from escalating. Here are some tips and tools to help manage stress:
Engage in Self Care. There’s a reason why the adage, “care for yourself so you can care for others” is well-used. As a physician, it is important to make sure you are getting enough sleep, are following a balanced diet, and are exercising regularly, so that your physical health remains at optimum and does not contribute to, or worsen, stress.
Breathe. Breathing exercises are a great technique for you to lower your stress and anxiety levels. Close your eyes and inhale slowly through your nose, then blow air out gradually through your mouth. Repeat. Doing this a few minutes a day is a great tool for relaxation. Rose’s App offers videos of different breathing techniques that you can access anywhere at any time.
Meditate. Physicians are active people who might find it hard to pause and engage in mindful meditation, but a study cited in the National Library of Medicine found that meditation effectively reduces stress. Rose offers free live daily meditations on its Facebook Page.
Start a Journal. Daily journaling helps you identify your triggers and determines ways you can control them. It is also helpful to enumerate and record the good things that happen to you daily, to help you change your perspective. There are some digital apps like Rose that offer journaling tools.
Communicate your feelings. Bottling your feelings up can cause your stress to escalate further. Speaking about your stressors with a trusted colleague, family member, or friend helps more than you think.
Get professional help. When we are unable to effectively deal with stress on our own, or if stress escalates, it is sometimes necessary to consult with a specialist. Physicians tend to avoid asking for help, professional or otherwise, for fear that they might be seen as weak. This is not true! If you are hesitating to ask for help due to mental health stigma, there are now many ways to reach out to your doctor, such as through digital platforms like Rose.
Stress will always be part of a physician’s challenges, but with proper management, you have the power to keep it from taking over your life.