You’re starting your residency program, so this must be the end of your life, right? Or at least that’s what many people tell you. Well, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be. Many people have the attitude that it’s impossible to achieve a work-life balance during residency and that the whole experience is grueling and awful. While it’s certainly difficult and does take up a lot of time and effort, it doesn’t have to be miserable. It is possible to achieve a work-life balance during residency – if you put forth the effort.
As a resident physician, your life and time are spent much differently than your friends working in business or education. You’re probably familiar with the term “physician burnout,” and you aren’t immune to it – even if you’re a resident physician. So, figuring out how to get that work-life balance might be a little bit different than your friends in other professions. Here are 5 tips for achieving a work-life balance during residency.
5 Tips to Achieve a Work-Life Balance During Residency
1. “Never sit down when you get home from work”
On KevinMD.com, Johnny Lops, MD, talks about how his friend told him this quote before he started his residency. He states that it still resonates with him today, even after years out of fellowship. Basically, when you do have time off, get out and do something that you love. If you don’t continue your hobbies, you’ll fall into a hole where you feel like the only things that you do relate to your residency. Eventually, this can lead to resentment and even regret. Of course, you need to take the time to relax, but don’t let residency take over your happiness.
This might contradict the first tip to achieve a work-life balance during residency, but it’s also important to relax when you feel the need to. When your body and mind are telling you that you need some time to yourself, listen and do exactly that. It’ll be tempting to try to catch up on work, but take advantage of the opportunity to rest. It’ll take some time to learn how to plan your free time between relaxing and hobbies, but you’ll get the hang of it.
3. Say no, and don’t feel guilty
If it’s early in your residency, you might feel like you need to make a good impression and take advantage of everything that comes your way. But over time, this can completely take away from the already limited amount of free time you have. Sure, it’s important to say yes to some opportunities so that you can learn more, but you don’t have to say yes to all of them. Trust me, it’s okay to say no sometimes.
4. Form relationships
You won’t want to burn any bridges with colleagues, as they could be your ticket to a better work-life balance in residency. While independence is important, there will come a time that you need help. Instead of trying to be a superhero and taking on more than you can, you can ask your colleagues for some assistance. Plus if you form positive relationships, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to switch shifts if you really need to.
5. Exercise and eat healthy
It can definitely be difficult to find the time to exercise AND cook healthy meals during your training, but it will do wonders for you. By treating your body well, you’re already taking a step to achieve a healthy work-life balance during residency. Physical activity and eating healthy can bring more energy, a refreshed mind, and more immunity to illnesses. So, when you invest in your own body and health, you’ll feel much happier just knowing you’re doing something to help yourself. Even if it’s a quick exercise or taking baby steps to introduce healthier foods, your body will recognize it.
Keep in mind that it might take a bit to find the perfect balance, and it can be frustrating. Don’t get discouraged or give up, you’ll begin to figure out the best way to balance your work and life in no time.