I recently read an article focused on LeBron James’ process for recovering physically during the NBA season. The legendary athlete gets 8-10 hours of sleep per night, focuses on nutrition, stretching, weight lifting, and much more. The stress and strain of an NBA season is hard on an athlete’s body – not to mention mental fatigue. To maintain health over the course of 82 games and playoffs, rest and recovery are essential.
Likewise, the physical and mental stress physicians accumulate is similar to that of athletes. That’s why there’s one point in particular from the article that sticks out to me: “recovery never stops!” Over time I’ve come to understand through personal challenges that this couldn’t be more true for physicians.
How do WE as physicians ensure we’re maintaining peak performance when rest and recovery can be a challenge?
- Manage Overuse Injuries
- Focus on Rest
Manage Overuse Injuries
If we cannot cut down on how much we’re working, are there ways we can limit the damage?
I went 20 years before poor ergonomics in the OR really started catching up with me. It wasn’t until some recent health complications that I realized the true importance of managing overuse injuries. What if I had been more aware of table positioning in the OR? Would I have less neck and back pain today?
Adrian Park, MD, a surgeon at Harvard Medical School, advocates for short stretching breaks during cases to limit the damage to our bodies. He recommends Intraoperative Targeted Stretching Micro Breaks to reduce pain and enhance performance without extending operative time.
Focus on Rest
If I cannot get more sleep, can I improve how well I sleep?
I used to take pride in taking call all night, sleeping 1-2 hours, and then putting in a full day the next day. I NOW know that there are strategies for tolerating sleep deprivation that limit the long term damage we do. If we want a long, enjoyable career we have to find ways to limit irreversible damage.
How often do you consider your sleep hygiene? Do you pay attention to your screen time before bed? Are you thinking about when you consume caffeine and if there’s a better, less disruptive alternative?
Even if we can’t afford 8-10 hours of sleep after a difficult day like Lebron, can we turn our attention to factors within our control like sleep hygiene to extend our careers?
Maintaining Peak Performance
Managing our bodies and minds is essential for maintaining peak performance if we are going to have a long, successful career. We need to realize that performing all of the time does not allow us to practice our best for as long as we would like. Learning to integrate simple physical, mental, and emotional rest throughout our day, our week, our year, and over the course of our career encourages growth and sustainability.
What works best for you? Share your best strategies with the community in the discussion below.
1) If LeBron James Needs Rest and Recovery, You Probably Do Too – Niklas Göke
2) Park AE, Zahiri HR, Hallbeck MS, Augenstein V, Sutton E, Yu D, Lowndes BR, Bingener J. Intraoperative “Micro Breaks” With Targeted Stretching Enhance Surgeon Physical Function and Mental Focus: A Multicenter Cohort Study. Ann Surg. 2017 Feb;265(2):340-346. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000001665.