When possible, take time to share dinner with colleagues and friends. This is a gift we can give ourselves to help decrease work stress.
Lifelong Learning in Clinical Excellence | February 8, 2023 | 2 min read
By Heather Agee, MD, Johns Hopkins Medicine
Five of us met over delicious pizza after work. The only agenda was to connect. It took advanced scheduling, juggling of usual responsibilities, and many of us couldn’t stay long. I almost didn’t make it because of demands at home. It was worth every dropped ball in my work-home balancing act.
In our e-connected, overworked culture, ideas to overcome or avoid burnout abound. As an introverted perfectionist with a genetic susceptibility to depression (how’s that for a combination!), some ideas can be stressful in themselves or cause guilt that I should put more on my overflowing plate. On the flip side, stretching myself just a bit further and going for pizza is sometimes just what I need. There’s a tension inherent in all of this burn out/balance stuff and this dinner reinforced how to get to my sweet spot. Here are three things I’ve learned over the years:
1. Be kind to myself.
I don’t knock it out of the park every day or any day. Being with these women, authentically sharing stories—funny and serious—around our humanness and imperfect lives, reinforced the practice of kindness to myself. When I can achieve the grace of self-acceptance, instead of self-judgement, it allows me to continue, or start again, more easily.
2. Do what fuels me.
With all the ideas of how to avoid burnout, I need to resist feeling pressure to do them all, but instead find what’s right for me. Deciding to take a walk is sometimes better than dinner with friends and vice versa. Sometimes filling my bucket requires stretching and commitment, like it did that Monday night in January, and other times just a good audiobook. I ask for help often, including from healthcare professionals when needed.
3. Be grateful.
When there’s so much advocacy for change, gratitude for what already is can seem counter intuitive. Being thankful doesn’t change the work that needs to be done, but it helps give me the energy to do it. I could have stressed about needing help from another mom to go to dinner or been frustrated that my last patient that day was late. Instead, I was thankful the other mom helped and that I had extra time before dinner with no need to rush home. Flipping the script on the stressed-out story in my head to one of gratitude lightens the experience which keeps my candle burning. And when I can’t find the energy to flip to gratitude or don’t want to accept my limits, I guess I’ll go for a walk and plan for pizza with some of my favorite people.
This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.