by Starla Fitch, MD
Whether you’re a dentist, an oral surgeon or a hygienist, my guess is you could use a little more balance in your life.
We all have 168 hours in a week. At first glance, it seems like we could squeeze in some fun, doesn’t it?
I’m feeling your pain. It’s 8 p.m. and my husband, an oral surgeon, just walked in the door. Late for dinner again. As a surgeon myself, I understand those late-day emergencies, and we just shake our heads.
On the other hand, his brother, a general dentist, finally took off two weeks in a row to spend with his wife and daughters on a family vacation.
So what is the secret to work-life balance, and how do you find it?
Well, when I work with my clients (in my spare time I’m a certified success coach for health professionals), I start by having them spend some time writing down everything that’s on their plate.
They actually carry around pen and paper, or jot down a list in their phone, of everything they do on a daily basis. This contains everything from showering, eating breakfast, and driving the kids to school on their way to work, to picking up the dry cleaning at lunch. It all goes on the list. Stay with me, there’s a point to this tedious task!
Next, it’s time to prioritize.
Martha Beck, my mentor and Oprah’s Life Coach, taught me the system of the three B’s: Bag it. Barter it. Better it.
My clients go through their list and decide: Can I bag it? Those are the things that don’t need to be done at all (do you really need to have the car washed every week?) or can be done by someone else who would be grateful for the opportunity. (If you are working full-time, you need to consider hiring a housekeeper to pop in every week or two and do the things you don’t have time to do.)
Next comes the decision to barter it. Can you ask your spouse to cook (since you burn everything that goes on the stove) and you volunteer to do the dishes instead? Can you do the laundry (to avoid everything turning pink from your son’s red socks) and have your partner go to the grocery store?
And finally, look at how to better those things that must be done. If you have to walk the dog, do it while listening to a book or your favorite tunes on your phone. If you must fold the towels, call up your best friend and catch up on the past week’s events while you zone out on the towels.
What’s so cool about this system?
One thing I’ve discovered is that it’s hard to implement these changes without some firm groundwork.
Prioritizing what works best can help you see where you’re falling short and where you really need to focus your time and energy.
If you think that there’s no more help to work-life balance, you’re wrong. There are lots of tips out there that are quick, practical and totally doable.
Will that get my husband home any sooner, so we can have some “balanced time” together? Probably not, unfortunately. But it will keep us on track to celebrate our next anniversary, and spend some quality family time, in the coming weeks.
It’s all a matter of prioritizing the three B’s and figuring out what works best for you and your schedule. Once you do, you’ll find more balance in both your work life and your personal life.
And better yourself
Hand in hand with the three B’s is the concept of putting yourself first.
We don’t like this idea because it strikes us as selfish. We’re busy, we say; we’re the ones who take care of other people. Meeting our own needs is last on our list of things to do.
The only problem with this concept is that by putting ourselves last, we risk burnout. And once we’ve burned out, not only do we become ineffective at helping anyone else, but we also need help, ourselves!
Like they say while the airplane is taxiing for takeoff: “Put on your own oxygen mask, first.”
Selfishness is cutting someone off in traffic. Selfishness is telling the world that everything was created for you, and everyone else can go scratch.
Good self-care is not the same thing. Relax.
By putting your own needs first, you are, in effect, creating a firm foundation for the skyscraper of your life. If you take care of your physical and emotional health, then everything else—your professional life, your family and your relationships—will be well supported.
That’s all well and good, you say, but how do I do it?
Six quick self-care tips
Eat a good breakfast. Try to avoid a lot of sugar—it will pull you down and you’ll bolt for a caffeine boost halfway through your morning. Instead, start your day with something substantial, like a bowl of plain, steel-cut oats topped with unsweetened yogurt and a banana, or a green smoothie packed with antioxidants (you’ll find plenty of recipes from a simple Google search). “Eating the rainbow”—choosing foods in a range of colors—will help your body get the nutrients it needs for optimal function.
Drink plenty of water throughout your day. A lack of hydration can negatively affect your brain function—even if you don’t feel thirsty. Research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in July of 2013 indicated that test subjects who drank water prior to a task had faster reaction times than those who did not drink. So stay hydrated to help keep yourself sharp. Keep a reusable water bottle handy so you can drink before a procedure.
Get moving. Take motion breaks during the day. Take the stairs to the third floor. Walk around the office (or the hospital) on your lunch break. Get outside. Breathe the air. Refocus your eyes. Watch the clouds sailing the sky. Identify the birds chasing each other through the trees. Stop for a yoga class on your way home. Give your body a boost, and your mind a rest.
Avoid Facebook; take 20 minutes to meditate, instead. According to WebMD.com, meditation can ameliorate many of the physical problems that accompany our Type-A personalities. It can lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and improve concentration—all thanks to how the practice reduces stress in the body.
While Facebook can be fun, it also encourages us to compare our lives to our friends’—and that can raise our stress levels, too. If you have to choose between the two, go with meditation.
Pay attention to your medical needs. Schedule your exams, tests and checkups. Doctors are just as prone to addictive behaviors as anyone else—they smoke, they’re sedentary, they don’t eat right. And a 2011 study in Occupational Medicine showed that most doctors resist becoming patients themselves—instead, they tend to self-medicate. I don’t have to tell you how risky this behavior is. Go for your checkups. Schedule those tests. Take care of yourself.
Get familial support. Your son can hang up his own jacket or cook dinner. Your daughter can water the garden and bring in some broccoli. Your spouse can vacuum the living room or bring home Chinese food. Time set aside for self-care or meditation should be sacrosanct—for every family member. Don’t be a martyr. Don’t let your spouse or partner be a martyr, either. Set boundaries. Learn how to say “no.” Children who have chores learn responsibility—and have less frazzled, more enjoyable parents. If everyone pitches in, the whole family can then spend more quality time together. Go see a movie. Ditch the phones. Talk.
Once you have started these steps of self-care, especially if you have involved your family or those closest to you, you will all reap the benefits. Try these tips to use your 168 hours more healthfully, and you will feel your life becoming more balanced. Your body, your mind—and your patients—will thank you.
Read the original here.