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7 Habits of Resilient Physicians

VV-7 habits of resilient physicians

The medical profession can be an exciting, rewarding, but ultimately challenging pursuit. One study found that 42% of doctors experience burnout while performing their daily duties. That’s a reasonably high rate. With the constant demands combined with the physical and emotional toll that they experience, it can significantly challenge physicians looking to provide top levels of care. That’s why physicians must maintain a positive, resilient attitude in both their personal and professional lives.

To care for others, a physician must first care for themselves. Here are seven habits of resilient physicians that find themselves successfully determining how to avoid burnout.

Maintain awareness that life is short.

As a physician, you’re confronted with humanity and mortality on a near-daily basis. Not every healthcare provider works with patients who may pass away. But everyone within the medical profession has had to confront the frailty of the human condition. While that can be a harrowing notion for many, the flip side to that coin is that it can equip providers with a greater appreciation for life itself. It means you can take stock of what you do have — your health and wellbeing — and appreciate it. Resilient physicians can recognize this and not take life for granted. They can maintain an appropriate work-life balance.
Use gratitude to keep life in perspective.

Two psychologists once conducted a study in which they took two groups of participants and asked them to write a few short sentences each day. The first group wrote something that displeased them, while the second wrote things they were grateful for. After ten weeks, unsurprisingly, the second group felt better about their lives.

Life offers everyone challenges, and this is no doubt true for physicians. But everyone can find something to be grateful for, and it’s helpful to remind yourself of that. Taking time out of your day to take stock of what you have helps you remember why you’re lucky to have it. It could be as simple as acknowledging that you’re still alive and breathing. Or it can be taking a moment to recognize that you’re lucky to be a physician and help people. Dedicating mental energy to recalling what you’re grateful for establishes a positive mental feedback loop that can improve your attitude and outlook.

Don’t worry about being perfect.

Resilient doctors also understand that they will make mistakes. That’s not to say they don’t strive to do their best work, but even the greatest efforts to avoid missteps won’t create a perfect career in medicine.

Instead, resilient doctors understand what mistakes are: opportunities to grow and learn. Look at each error as a teachable moment. What did you do wrong, and how can you do it differently from now on to help make you a better doctor? Perfection eludes everyone, so there’s no point in obsessing over it. Instead, always aim to perform at a high level, using your mistakes to guide what not to do in the future.

Engage in mindfulness.

We live in a competitive professional culture, and it can be easy to succumb to trying to constantly achieve. It’s easy to forget that our minds can have a significant impact on our health. Our thoughts can manifest themselves physically, so you should choose what you think about wisely. The trick is that caring for our mental health can seem a bit more challenging and less straightforward than managing our physical health. The two are closely intertwined, however.

One way to manage your mental health is to practice mindfulness. This can be done with processes like meditation. In a study from Johns Hopkins University, where they examined 3,500 subjects over 47 clinical trials, meditation was a valuable tactic in overcoming anxiety. There are many ways to meditate or engage in mindfulness. What’s more important than the method one chooses is the very act of allowing good-feeling thoughts at all.
Forget about imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is a line of thinking where someone believes others within their field or profession possess exceptional capabilities that they do not. It can be easy as a physician to think less of your skills or abilities, particularly in the company of other talented doctors and medical professionals. Rather than looking at your time as a physician as a competition with other doctors, view it as a competition with yourself. How much can you learn and grow? What skills can you develop and nurture to help you serve your patients better?

Forget imposter syndrome. The only person you have to worry about being better than is who you were yesterday. There’s little else beyond that you can control.

Learn to let go of what you can’t control.

Despite your best efforts, there are some things no physician can control. You can manage work, the knowledge you gain, and your overall attitude in the workplace. You can’t control what others do or other mitigating circumstances around you in some cases. Train yourself to focus on what you can control (like your own personal productivity) and release what you can’t.

Adopt a growth mindset.

Finally, resilient physicians are also lifelong learners. Seventy-three percent of adults consider themselves lifelong learners, and for a good reason: it helps them grow both professionally and personally. Commit to a growth mindset, where you’re continually trying to build your knowledge and abilities, learning from your mistakes. Use your experiences to make you a better physician. If you’re always learning, you’re ever-growing. Look to add new skills to your repertoire.

How becoming resilient helps you as a physician.

In conclusion, the most resilient physicians develop the following habits:

  • Remember that life is short
  • Practice gratitude
  • Don’t stress over perfection
  • Choose mindfulness
  • Forget imposter syndrome
  • Don’t worry about what you can’t control
  • Always strive for growth

Striving to be resilient will help you become a better physician and a more well-rounded person able to get more out of your life outside the hospital.

To find the right job in which to apply your resilient mindset, check out VISTA’s job board. We showcase several diverse openings across all 50 states that can help you find the right fit. For more information, contact us today.

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