By Dr. Linda Zange, DC

Chaos is everywhere! We are constantly bombarded by the media with the terms “pandemic,” “tridemic,” “COVID,” “burnout,” “inflation.”   As we read or hear all of these words, our anxiety rises.


We go to work to rising costs, more regulations, staffing and reimbursement issues, anxiety ridden patients, EHR, paperwork, and lack of satisfaction. This is our new professional life. Our private lives are filled with aggravation, bills, family, and friends awfulizing and catastrophizing everything. The world is upside down. Stop the world, I want to get off!

As physicians, we are controlling by nature; we think we are stronger than others and we can’t show weakness, but we also can’t focus clearly right now. We go back to the primal instincts of fight or flight. We try to fix everything and can’t fix anything unless we fix/heal ourselves. We are too rigid, we need to be more flexible. You can’t fix the world, but you can fix you.

When was the last time you did something for you? Treated yourself to a long hot bath, went to a nice dinner, bought something frivolous, browsed through a bookstore, saw a movie? Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly expecting a different outcome. Let’s hit the reset button on our life. Remember if you love what you do, you don’t work a day in your life. Let’s regain that love.

Mayo Clinic has a screening questionnaire to spot burnout in yourself, using the following descriptors: cynical/critical, irritable, impatient, lack of energy, hard to concentrate, lack of satisfaction, use of food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or not feel anything, sleep issues, poor judgment, physical and emotional complaints of headache, nausea and fatigue. To spot burnout in others, look for signs of withdrawal, poor judgment, procrastination, frustration, easy to anger, emotional disputes, substance abuse, skipping work. These terms/phrases apply to both our professional and private lives.

We now need to reverse our mindset from STRESSED to DESSERTS!

Go back to simpler times. Professionally, think back to the beginning of your career: a wide-eyed, optimistic, enthusiastic, empathetic doctor, which translates to both a happy professional and private life.

Change is hard. We are in need of guidance from someone “older and wiser.” The stress we have is long standing, and change, like weight loss, will be slow in coming. It starts with one small step. Figure out how much of yesterday you will drag into today, and how much power you are willing to give it.

Turn off the media – stop listening to the news; most is contradictory and some is fake.

Reduce social media, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and the like.

Do something for fun – whatever your fun might be. No further comment is necessary.

Treat yourself to some downtime, talk to a friend, read a novel, do a puzzle, stop to smell a flower, or enjoy a sunrise or sunset.

Get a health checkup.

Recharge – get more rest (napping is okay), eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, stay hydrated.

Play your favorite music.

Exercise at the gym or at home; do tai chi or just take a walk.

Breathe slowly and deeply – 2-to-1 yoga breathing helps with stress and sleep.

Meditate, harmonize your yin and yang, and balance the various aspects of your life; visualize your wishes and dreams.

Journal how you feel or write lists of pros and cons, likes and dislikes, wants and needs.

Hug a tree – in Finland they cleared trails in the woods so people could hug trees to relieve the stress brought on by social distancing.

Put off non-essential purchases.

Reset your goals and make them realistic. For example, a daily goal to make one person smile or laugh is quite simple, but rewarding and quite easy.

Spread joy (fake it ‘til you make it) and happiness. It is contagious!

Change your office hours, stop overbooking, downsize, if necessary.

Diversify your practice to include “cash only” items or services.

Give staff more time off, reduce staff, or change to part-time.

Use a scribe for EHR.

Discharge the cantankerous patient(s) – we all have them.

NO, don’t do this all at once. Try one thing at a time, for a few days, and re-evaluate how you feel. If you are comfortable with the baby steps, start with taking another step, and slowly but surely you should feel better. REMEMBER you are not an island! If you don’t feel better or you are in need of help, get a life coach, a practice consultant or a therapist. PLEASE seek help. It is not a sign of weakness but one of strength and knowledge.

Another part of this scenario is rewarding yourself. Less frustration and anxiety should be the reward, but we all need to feel needed, appreciated. Big or small gestures or rewards to yourself are as simple as a drive in the country, an ice cream sundae, or whatever “floats your boat” and makes you feel good. REMEMBER change is slow, but if you sleep more soundly or yell less frequently, feel less irritable, it is working. Your professional and private life will overlap, but YOU are in charge of the change. You can’t change others or the world, ONLY you can make a difference in your life.

So get to work; take that first step and make a change in YOUR world.

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