7 Things I made Non-Negotiable In My Life as a Single Physician Mom
Avoiding physician burnout in physician moms, and empowering wellness in physician moms requires that we create solid self care strategies. Until about a month ago, I was the sole owner of my integrative medicine practice. As I reflected on my decade of practice ownership, I was reminded of what triggered this desire for career shift in the first place. I always wanted kids, but I was so immersed in my practice that I never took time to do much else.It's a well known fact that when you are a small business owner, you are rarely "off" in fact unless you set very solid boundaries and enforce them, you are never "off".About 5 years into my practice, I woke up and realized life was slipping by me. It was a familiar feeling, actually. I was working what felt like 80 hour weeks between patient care, staff management, and the backend business and marketing. I was exhausted, single, lonely, and felt like I was fading away. I remember that same feeling in residency when I first burned out. Fortunately, early recognition this time saved me from the ledge. I immediately took action and got myself a coach.The first thing he did was have me define my ideal job description. It was in this exercise I found my life's purpose. But defining my life's purpose did not spark action. It was when I found out I was having my son, that I became acutely aware that I was going to have to really, make a change. By this time, I had decided that the clinical path I was on, while enjoyable, was not going to be fulfilling long term. However before I threw myself into creating a whole new career for myself, I had to do a little internal housekeeping. The first thing I did was become aware of what had led me down the path of burnout in the first place. The answer was I had no strategy for self care.That evening, I sat down and wrote down the 5 things I needed each day to feel well.Since then, things have greatly shifted, and therefore so has my self care strategy. I have expanded my 5 self care things to seven, and I now call them my non-negotiables.
1.Sleep - I may sound like Captain Obvious, but as I have talked with many other Dr. Mommies, I have found that many of them do not value sleep. I know that for me to be the most pleasant (not to mention clear of mind), I need at least 7 hours of sleep.I can survive off of 6 hours when things go off the rails, but only for as long as about a week. How much sleep do you need, and how can you prioritize getting the rest you need each night?
2.Time with my son - I know I don't need to explain this one to my Moms in Medicine, however, daily quality time with "the boy" (as I affectionately refer to him) is imperial.There are times when this doesn't happen of course (if I have to travel, or if he is visiting his father for a long holiday).However, this time is a non-negotiable that provides both he and I that healthy bonding that is essential in both of our emotional well being.My favorite mom-son activities are "Saturday cuddle time", our trip to the farmer's market on Saturdays (after cuddle time), and the play dates we have (the best of both worlds: kid fun and girlfriend time). How do you set aside quality time for your kids, and what fun things do you create together that sparks fun, laughter, and connectedness?
3.Adult Play Dates (also known as "Kid Free Mom Fun") - Just as important as quality time is with my son, such as quality time without him…meaning interaction with other adults. I usually plan at least 2 adult outings per month (either with friends or romantic interest). This allows for good ole fashion laughter and fun, intellectual stimulation and emotional connection that is so important to me. Do you get enough fun, stimulating, and connected quality time with friends, with your spouse, or with others you truly love and value?
4.Daily Quiet Time - As an introvert, down time is very important for me to recover, re-energize and recharge.I don't necessarily need to be in complete silence, but doing something low key, and relaxing helps me to decompress and disconnect from the hectic day.I like to listen to down tempo music, watch a short comedy (laughter decompresses me as well), and sometimes I simply sit back and close my eyes on the couch for a half hour just to allow my mind to clear. What is that activity for you? What helps you decompress?
5.Daily Spiritual Connection - Part of what keeps me centered is getting connected daily to my "Higher Self" as I like to refer.When I stay connected to the "Universal Intelligence", or God as some may call it, I am able to focus on the big picture, settle my heart in challenging time, trust in the process of whatever I'm doing, and recognize the blessings and good things that are already before me. There are several ways that I like to connect: Ashtanga Yoga and a daily gratitude list are my primary daily activities that allow me that connection. However, I do love spiritual fellowship, writing poetry, and positive prayer.
6.Regular and Enjoyable Meals - My mom used to say "We are meant to eat to live, not live to eat".While in the proper context, that holds some validity, she used to hold it in the context that people shouldn't have to eat regularly. I on the other hand discovered that NOT doing this creates physical stress in my body. So, in the realm of self care, eating healthy and regularly (for me that looks like eating about every 4 hours) is a must.How do you eat? How does it impact your overall energy, and feeling of well being?
7.Physical Activity - Physical activity (whether it's high intensity or low), help me to maintain my weight, stay energized, and remain agile. Yoga is my primary form of exercise, but I also love dancing, rollerblading, and just walking in the park. Lucky for me I have a 3 year old. There is no shortage of physical activity in my household and beyond.
Creating self-care "non-negotiables" is one of many crucial steps to take to prevent physician mom burnout.Of course, promoting physician mom wellness also requires we look correcting the system of medicine, as well as our own internal conditioning that has come from years of indoctrination by the medical community. However, when we choose ourselves, we are able to get at the source of our lives which can create a significant shift in the way you experience both yourself and your career as a doctor.In creating my self care strategy and ideal job description, I found the pathway in which to fully express my purpose. Only 3 years later, I am able to celebrate a successful 10 years in private practice, a smooth transition of ownership of that practice to a worthy predecessor, and a thriving new career that allows me the freedom to effortlessly execute all of the things on my list above and fully enjoy life while helping other Moms in Medicine do the same.
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