We all know the life of a doctor is a notoriously busy one. From doing rounds to tending to patient consultations and completing paperwork, a doctor’s workload can easily pile up. In addition, doctors are constantly exposed to high levels of stress, plus often emotionally draining situations. A University of Auckland study found that this makes doctors more susceptible to feeling burned out.
Because of all this, doctors often find it hard to find moments of respite — affecting personal and professional relationships, and keeping them from pursuing interests beyond their medical careers. The overall wellbeing and mental health of a doctor can be on the line, as being burned out raises the risk for depression, anxiety, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and substance misuse.
So, how can doctors keep themselves from feeling burned out?
Meditation Center of Chicago’s Dr. Mark Gelula points out that doctors can keep high-stress levels at bay through meditation. Doing this can help doctors separate themselves momentarily and collect their thoughts and emotions. But as we’ve mentioned, doctors have busy lifestyles and they may not be able to squeeze a deep meditation session into their schedules. To avoid stress from piling up, doctors need to find ways to sneak in meditation breaks throughout their day. Here, we’ve listed a few tips on how doctors can practice meditation even with a busy schedule.
Practicing breathing exercises
One way doctors can squeeze meditation into their busy schedules is by doing breathing exercises. More than just helping doctors achieve mindfulness, breathing exercises can also provide immediate relief to stressful and anxiety-filled moments.
One breathing exercise to help calm down is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. A Medical News Today article on the exercise details how the 4-7-8 breathing technique can reduce anxiety and even control a person’s anger responses. To do this, simply inhale deeply for 4 seconds, hold the air in for 7 seconds, and forcefully exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds. Then, repeat this cycle up to four times. Breathing exercises like these are a convenient way to practice meditation, and doctors can do this in the confines of their clinic or as they’re walking around while doing their hospital rounds.
Being mindful during breaks
Doctors can further observe meditation by being more mindful during their breaks where they are briefly granted moments of peace. As they often spend their breaks alone, performing some mindfulness meditation exercises can be key to keeping grounded and fully absorbed in the present moment.
As you meditate, focus on what you sense around you — the scent, your body being pulled down by gravity, and maybe even other bodily sensations. If you want to take your mindful meditation up a notch, you can also repeat positive affirmations to improve your current mindset.
Meditate right before you fall asleep
One of the best moments for doctors to practice deep meditation is before they fall asleep. While relaxed in bed, doctors can try to concentrate on their breath and assess how their body feels. And the best part is that meditating before bed can help you improve the quality and quantity of your sleep — something crucial to improving your productivity during your waking hours. After all, lack of sleep can only worsen stress, blur judgment, and impair your memory, which can make your working days as a doctor much harder.
All doctors need to do is turn their phone off, close their eyes, and do a mindful body scan. This entails asking how the body feels from the tip of their toes up to the crown of their head and paying attention to each muscle group as they put themselves to sleep.
Focus on personal wellbeing
All of these meditation methods can help doctors keep their mental health in check and become more focused on personal wellbeing during their busy days. While these tips can provide immediate relief to the mental challenges that doctors face on a daily basis, being consistent with meditation is what makes it effective. Ensure that you prioritise your own personal wellbeing, it will benefit both yourself and others in the end. Our very own Dr John Bethell stresses that in order to be consistent with a new habit or activity, you should first build it into a daily routine, and even block the time out in your calendar regularly. Give it a try and be sure to set specific times during the day where you can peacefully practice your meditation exercises.
We hope some of these tips will help our doctors to try meditation as a tool to improve wellbeing. We're also trying out these tips ourselves in the Wavelength office and would love to hear about your experiences implementing meditation or other wellbeing activities. Get in touch here.
Thank you to Jennifer Birch for putting these thoughts together for us!