I read an interesting article in JAMA recently about burnout and compassion fatigue among doctors. The author offered a number of self-care tips that I think all of us – whether we’re doctors or not – would benefit from. Here’s a sample:
• Set your watch or telephone alarm for midday each day. Use this as a prompt to perform some simple act of centering, e.g. take four deep, slow breaths; think of a loved one; recite a favorite line of poetry or a prayer; imagine weights around your waist and the words “ground, ground.”
• Use the suggested 20 seconds of hand washing in creative ways. Pay attention to the sensation of the water on your skin and allow yourself to sink into this experience; make this an act of conscious receiving by acknowledging to yourself “I am worthy of my own time”; repeat a favorite line from a poem or prayer; or sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself!
• Stop at a window in your workplace and notice something in nature; consciously give it your full attention for a few moments.
• Deliberately develop a “role-shedding ritual” at the end of the day, e.g. pay attention to putting away your stethoscope or hanging up your white coat; use the drive home from work deliberately, e.g. take the longer more interesting route; listen attentively to the news, music or books-on-tape.
What ways do you have of keeping yourself sane, engaged, and compassionate in your work and life?