Exercise to Prevent Surgeon Burnout

Every doctor will tell you that regular exercise is good for your physical and mental health. But doctors are often blind to their own advice. I know many surgeons who, for one reason or another, do not work out on a regular basis (Psst…I used to be one of them). Often it’s long hours that lead to exhaustion after work. It’s easy to forego a workout because of a long shift, but putting exercise on the back burner can increase your stress levels and make you more susceptible to burnout. In this article, we are going to talk about how exercise can help ward off surgeon burnout. We’ll also offer some easy exercises you can do at work or home.

How Exercise Helps to Fight Burnout

Having a structured exercise routine can do wonders for your physical health, as well as your mental health. Regular exercise decreases your stress level, and improves your mental faculties. Exercising on a regular basis may not completely eradicate burnout, but it is an essential element of your overall health and wellness. And feeling healthy is a great way to help prevent burnout.

Easy Exercises to Do at Home or Work

OK so exercise is good for your health, but how can a busy surgeon working 80 hour weeks find the time to work out? Even if you can’t carve out time to visit the gym a few times a week, there are exercises you can do at work or home. Here are a few:

  • Sitting Core Strengthening. Many surgeons are on the go for most of the day, walking around getting everything done. This, in itself, is good exercise. But there is also a lot of clerical and bureaucratic work that goes along with being a doctor. When you’re stuck at a desk (or if you operate sitting down) consider a brief warm up exercise for the core. Press your knees together, squeeze your buttocks, sit tall, pull your belly button toward your back, and hold while breathing smoothly and relaxing your neck and shoulders for 10-15 seconds. Relax and repeat.
  • Take Mini-Breaks. Remember to take mini frequent breaks throughout the day. If you have long surgeries standing, find a couple times to step away from the OR table to move your feet and legs. Between cases   take a quick walk. These short stints of exercise add up.
  • Stretches. If you are confined to a desk or even standing at a certain spot for long periods of time during the day, there are numerous stretches that you can do while stationary. While seated, rotate as far to the left as you can and hold for several seconds, then repeat this to the right. You can grab the backrest with your hand or hands for extra support.

The 8 PRACTICEs of Highly Successful Surgeons

After struggling with burnout without even knowing it for years, I went to work developing a methodology to increase my satisfaction and to create a lifestyle-friendly practice. The 8 PRACTICEs of Highly Successful Surgeons approaches burnout strategically and can help surgeons in any specialty, and even those not experiencing burnout. Regular exercise is just one factor to manage stress and create sustainability. This methodology is flexible and can be effectively applied to any surgeon’s situation. Drop me a line today to learn more about the 8 PRACTICEs and how this methodology can help you achieve the work / life balance you desire.

4 Tips to Avoid Surgeon Burnout

Surgeon burnout is an epidemic. Many physicians who are experiencing the signs and symptoms of burnout don’t know what to do to deal with the burnout. In a previous article, we talked about some of the factors that can cause physician burnout. Now let’s look at prevention. This article will offer some tips for avoiding surgeon burnout before it takes over. Pick any of these 4 to start on. You don't have to do them all perfectly. Just start making an effort now.

Eat a Balanced Diet

The old saying “you are what you eat” holds more truth that we like to give it. Eating fast food, junk food, and drinking a lot of sugary drinks offer short term satisfaction, but can really take a toll on your body in the long run. Eating a healthy diet composed of vegetables, fiber, and protein can do wonders for your overall health.

Form Healthy Sleep Habits

Sleep is absolutely essential to your overall health – both physical and mental. Sleep deprivation can increase your stress levels and increase your likelihood of making mistakes on the job. Many doctors have to work odd hours (especially when on call). This can lead to a disruption of the standard sleep schedule, and force doctors to compensate with caffeine. In turn, this can cause a vicious cycle of drinking caffeine to stay awake, and then not being able to sleep because of too much caffeine. Create a sleep schedule and stick to it as much as possible. Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages in the hours before sleep to ensure a solid night’s rest.

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise is the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. You’d think that doctors should know that better than anyone! However, with long work hours and other stressors, many physicians find it difficult to stick to a workout routine. But making the time to exercise on a daily basis – even for just 30 minutes can significantly improve your energy at work and your overall health.

Say No When You Need To

Many doctors try to do everything that’s asked of them, and in doing so, spread themselves too thin. When you have such an important job where lives are at stake, it can be tempting to do everything and never say no. However, surgeons also need to think about their own physical and mental health. If you’re constantly saying yes and working crazy hours, you’re cutting into your time with family and friends. Creating and maintaining a healthy work-life balance is an essential step towards preventing surgeon burnout.

Many physicians struggle with burnout on a daily basis. It’s important to recognize the signs of burnout and take proactive steps to prevent burnout before it overwhelms you. I’ve been helping surgeons mitigate burnout for years using the 8 PRACTICEs of Highly Successful Surgeons. I developed this methodology after my own struggles with physician burnout.  Contact me for more information on my surgeon burnout prevention methodology and to set up a consultation.