Medicine can be an incredibly demanding profession. Long working hours, difficult medical cases, physical and emotional strains coupled with overwhelming pressure, and erratic schedules can take a toll on the most seasoned professionals. For this World Doctors’ Day, doctors from across the globe told us how they Re:Set their mental health.
Dr. Preeya Alexander, general physician; Melbourne, Australia
“Medicine can be taxing on mental health — we tend to get very invested in our patients and our care for them which can very easily lead to burnout. Exercise is a big part of self-care for me. When I feel stressed or anxious about anything including work, I tend to medicate with exercise. Debriefing is also a big way I look after my mental health when it comes to general practice. I debrief a lot with colleagues in the corridor and it can be very helpful when you are feeling stressed or worried about patients and your decisions. Having the ability to talk in a judgement-free environment is very empowering for a stressed brain! The two things I focus on when I am feeling a bit pushed is enough sleep…and exercise. I have a 3-year-old as well and so fitting in exercise can be difficult at times but I sneak it in where I can.”
Dr. Prakhar Singh, emergency and trauma physician; Delhi, India
“Being in the emergency [department], I am the first point of contact for any patient who is critically ill. This makes my job more intense and stressful. Things in the emergency room can often get out of hand; I always encourage my staff to work as a team with proper coordination and communication so there are fewer mistakes and the cure is more holistic. I keep myself well-hydrated on my shift with proper meals before and after shifts so I’m always active without any mental fatigue. It’s important to keep yourself healthy so you can keep others healthy!”
Dr. Donna May Kimmaliardjuk, resident cardiac surgeon; Ottawa, Canada
“My self-care routine is pretty simple: lots of sleep to recharge physically and mentally, and debriefing about my day with my partner, or family, friends. Exercise is a luxury with my long hours at work, so if I can, I love to get some exercise in as well. How I take care of my mental health is to try and give myself a couple of minutes away from the OR [operating room] or floors, especially if I’m very busy…just to take a few deep breaths and decompress. My mental health is also greatly affected by my hunger! So, I ensure I have lots of snacks throughout the day to feel nourished.”
Dr. Nazmus Sakib, resident doctor; Dhaka, Bangladesh
“As a doctor who is training on the job, it feels like I am always either working or studying. At times, it is overwhelming and finding time for myself is a huge challenge. The key is to not let unhealthy habits seep into my daily routine. Being a junior doctor is one of the most stressful jobs worldwide and sadly I receive negligible support for my mental well-being from the workplace. The workload is often too much and the only thing that keeps you going is the support from the family. I try my best to let them know when I have had a bad day. Having a few close friends can work wonders during times of emotional turmoil. I try not to compare myself too much with my peers who have achieved outstanding success. Spending less hours on social media helps a lot when I am going through a rough patch. I always try not to let work take charge of my life because once you allow it to happen, your psychological well-being will be in jeopardy.”
Dr. Sophie Wallace, emergency physician; Perth, Australia
“My routine for taking care of my mental health is making sure I have enough time away from work, getting outside and getting some exercise, preferably alone. I spend everyday at work surrounded by and talking to people, so it’s nice to have some solitary time doing something good for my physical and mental health. When things on the job get stressful, I take a few seconds to prioritize what needs doing right now and what can wait or be delegated. There’s always someone around who can help you and you never have to take on all responsibility for everything!”
Dr. Shabbir Susnerwala, oncologist; England, U.K.
“In the U.K., because we’re National Health Service (NHS) employees, we have fixed hours. We get enough time to relax, socialize and do what we need to do with our families. Overall, as oncologists, it’s stressful. You see people who are going to die…we have to give [them] bad news. It’s stressful for us. When you work in the NHS, there’s a good backup system. If you’re not coping, the department can open [up] counseling or psychological help for you. Occasionally, I’m upset [on the job], but because we have [fixed] timings, it helps. I swim regularly and do yoga.”