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5 Ways to Get A Life Outside of Medicine

Discussion in 'Doctors Cafe' started by Hadeel Abdelkariem, Nov 29, 2019.

  1. Hadeel Abdelkariem

    Hadeel Abdelkariem Golden Member

    Apr 1, 2018
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    Nearly a quarter of U.S. physicians work between 61-80 hours per week. That leaves somewhere between 107-88 hours for sleeping, eating, and — hopefully — having a life. Of course the demands of medicine, family, and biology often take precedence over the things that bring doctors joy. This is not without consequences.


    Though physician burnout has declined, it’s still an issue. The latest data from the American Medical Association show that 43.9% of U.S. physicians exhibited one burnout symptom in 2017. In 2014, the figure stood at 54.4%. Creating a better work/life balance is an effective way of pushing these burnout statistics even lower.

    Getting a life might seem like a monumental task, but there are a few concrete steps you can take to get started. Here are 5 of them.

    Create a boundary between work and personal life
    Modern technology, while enhancing physicians’ ability to provide enhanced care, also, unfortunately, has eroded what was once a clear separation between work time and personal time. All it takes is a call, text, email, or instant message to interrupt what was once the restorative sanctuary of home life. In the age of constant contact, maintaining this separation is just as important as ever (unless, of course, you’re on call).

    While you might not be able to sever all connections to work once you arrive at home, you can be proactive about separating work life and home life. Dike Drummond, the Happy MD, teaches his clients this ritual: As you pull into your driveway and turn off your car, tell yourself, “With this breath, I’m coming all the way home.” Take a deep breath, let it out, and shut the car off.

    Ask for help
    Another point from Dr. Drummond that we return to often here at PhysicianSense: Medical school and residency teach doctors to be “super hero, workaholic, Lone Ranger, perfectionists.” Let’s focus on the Lone Ranger part. Humans are social creatures, having evolved over millennia in tight-knit groups. It goes against our nature to isolate ourselves. That’s why solitary confinement is such a devastating tactic.

    If you’re struggling with your mental health, or are generally feeling lonely or overwhelmed, you do not need to go it alone. Asking for help can take on many forms. It can be something as simple as outsourcing time-consuming chores to free up time for recreation, or as significant as working with a mental health professional. Be proactive. Ask for help before something simple mushrooms into something complicated.

    Schedule something fun weekly
    Ask any doctor to show you their calendar, and likely they can do it. They’ll produce a digital calendar that’s clotted with meetings, appointments, rounds, and other minutiae of a day in medicine. Ask the same doctor to show you their social calendar, and many will draw a blank.

    Technology has accelerated the pace of life to the point where if you aren’t proactive about managing your time, time is going to start managing you. The modern physician — if they want to have a life — needs to apply the same rigor to managing their personal schedule as they do their professional one. Otherwise, they’ll find themselves sitting in front of the TV on a Sunday night, having done nothing fun, wondering where the weekend went.

    We’re encouraging you to be selfish. Each week, schedule something that you want to do. Make this a ritual, no matter how pressed for time you are. It can be something as simple as grabbing an ice cream cone on Thursdays on your way home, or as complex as taking a day hike. Plan it. Do it. Get a life.

    Join ‘user groups’
    A great way to begin getting a life outside of medicine is to evaluate your interests. Many of these niche interests have what Brad Bollenbach, the writer of 30Sleeps, would call “user groups.” These user groups are collections of like-minded individuals who are into the same niche interests as you.

    Bollenbach suggests writing a list of at least 50 of these items. Really unload your head. Items on your list can be as common as surfing, or as esoteric as 16th century crochet patterns. Odds are, there are others like you out there who are into these things. Once you have your list, Bollenbach suggest heading over to and searching for matching events. Just like that, your network expanded to include fellow 16th century crochet enthusiasts.

    Learn a new skill
    Learning a new skill is a tremendous way to create a life outside of medicine, and to meet people from all walks of life. It’s also a great method of maintaining neuroplasticity. As it pertains to brain health, move it or lose it is indeed applicable. We recommend learning skills in a group setting for the added benefit of meeting new people.

    Some options include martial arts classes (we like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, though this can be hard on the hands for surgeons); art, language, or music lessons; or master a computer program or language, such as Photoshop or Python. Check out this list of hobbies for busy physicians for more ideas.

    Take advantage of these five things to get a life outside of medicine:

    • Create a boundary between work and home life.
    • Ask for help. Outsource the things you don’t want to do. Talk to a mental health professional about stress, depression, or anxiety.
    • Schedule something fun and purely self-indulgent each week. Even if it takes five minutes — like getting an ice cream on the way home from work.
    • Join a “user group.” You’re into longboarding. Guess what? So are thousands of other people. Look for groups of like-minded people online and go hang out with them.
    • Learn a new skill. You’ll get the added benefit of maintaining neuroplasticity while interacting with new people.

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