When Is It Time to Live for Yourself?

Shelly Reese


January 14, 2013

In This Article

What Makes It Worthwhile for You?

The Stressful Life of a Physician

Life in the United States in the 21st century is rife with challenges: a wobbly economy, job insecurity, underwater mortgages, aging parents, escalating college costs, and the list goes on. Physicians are especially vulnerable to stress and the feeling of being overloaded with work. An investigation published online in Archives of Internal Medicine found that doctors were far more likely to feel dissatisfied with their work-life balance than people in other fields.[1]

In addition to long hours (an average of 10 hours more per week, according to the study), physicians face a unique and formidable array of stressors, including the threat of litigation, changing technology, and shifting regulatory requirements.

Although a growing number of institutions are adding employee assistance programs for doctors, and physician life coaching has become a burgeoning field, physicians shouldn't wait for others to offer help, says Ferron. "It really does require physicians to take some personal responsibility for what they can control," she says.

Getting Back to What Is Rewarding to You

Before they're willing to change their behavior, Lesetz says, doctors need to understand the absolute necessity to do so. Coaches often have clients visualize what their lives will be like a few years down the road if they continue on their current path. Lesetz says that one obstetrician client broke down in tears during the exercise.

"She knew she couldn't keep going the way she was," Lesetz says. "Something had to change. There's a point at which the scale tips: where they realize the risk of not doing anything is much higher than the risk of trying to change."

Trying to regain balance can be particularly difficult for older and mid-career physicians, Ferron says. They may feel guilty, selfish, or sad about taking a step back from their patients and practices.

They shouldn't.

"If things were different, perhaps you could continue working the way you did in the past, but things change," she says. "You don't make house calls anymore. Things change and you have to get to a place of acceptance."

Indeed, although physicians may feel selfish looking out for their own well-being, the opposite holds true, says Ferron. "If you can't do this for yourself then you need to do it for your patients, because if you don't, you're going to burn out or you're going to make mistakes."