Take Care

In addition to caring for patients and family, ODs need to take care of themselves, too

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By Katie Gilbert-Spear, OD, MPH, and April Jasper, OD, FAAO

One idea that we heard loud and clear in our recent webinar and in-person Women In Optometry lunch and learn at SECO is that women ODs often feel guilty if they put their own needs first. That’s a recipe for burnout—and burnout, once it arrives, is really, really hard to undo. By then, the damage is done and the passion diminished.

Prevention is by far a better strategy. And the best prevention to burnout is to take time to indulge your needs. These don’t have to be costly. In fact, some of the best ones—like a run around the neighborhood or a quiet hour or two with a book—are essentially free. In our sessions, we heard some great ideas and strategies that people use to recharge.

The focus of these sessions was productivity—but the reason that people want to be productive is so that they’re not spending time after hours at work catching up or using precious time at home doing the mundane chores that keep you away from family. Here are some ideas (and you can also click here to listen to the recorded webinar and click here to see the updated list of ideas to increase your productivity).

Time v. money: Calculate the value of your time, such as your professional hourly rate. Then look at how much it would cost to hire someone to take on some of the work that’s dragging you down. The cost of having someone come in to do a deep cleaning of your house every two weeks might “buy” you more relaxed time at home in between.

Feed your mind: Optometry can be all-consuming if you allow yourself to take work home with you. Parenting fills up your physical and emotional bandwidth, too. It’s important to create a little time where you focus on what you find interesting. Read a book, grab your camera and go outside. If it happens that your interests coincide with family time, great. But if they don’t, don’t feel bad for taking some me-time.

Create healthy habits: Eat well, sleep well and get some exercise. We realize that can be easier said than done in a busy day, but make these activities a priority. All three of those are factors in having the energy to get through the day. Ignore those and you’ll probably feel your energy drain as the day goes on.

To be the best doctor, parent, sibling, child or friend that you can be, don’t overlook your own needs. It’s not selfish – it’s the smartest thing you can do.

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