How Doctors Can Cope With Stress

Physician burnout affects 42% of all US doctors according to a Medscape survey. This number continues to grow every year and it’s rooted in the compounding stress placed on doctors as they work through a multitude of factors that contribute to burnout including: excess of bureaucratic burdens, working too many hours and lack of respect from employers and coworkers.

All of these factors contribute to an increase in one root cause of burnout: stress. But what exactly does that mean?

Identifying Stress Symptoms

Stress is defined as a reaction to a situation where a person feels threatened or anxious. It can be positive or negative and symptoms may be physical or emotional. Common symptoms or reactions to stress include:

  • Feeling sad, frustrated, and helpless
  • Feeling guilty
  • Anger, tension, and irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Reoccurring thoughts of the event
  • Headaches, back pains, and stomach problems
  • Increased heart rate, difficulty breathing

If you’ve found that you’ve been experiencing any of these, it might be time to start thinking about finding ways to address your stress.

Why Is Acknowledging Your Stress So Important?

Often when these symptoms are felt, they’re disregarded. People often respond to stress by:

  • Explaining it away as temporary
  • Accepting it as a “normal” part of your work life
  • Blaming it on external events

However, living with high-levels of stress for prolonged periods of time puts your entier well-being at risk. You may not feel it immediately, but it will wear on you over time and may even manifest itself in physical symptoms.

But if you realized that you’re stressed, you’ve already taken the first step to addressing it. Here are a few of our tips on how doctors can cope with stress.

Ways To Cope With and Manage Your Stress

It may seem that things are out of your control, but you have a lot more control of your life than you think. Stress-management is all about taking back that control and taking charge of your lifestyle, thoughts, emotions and how you deal with your stress.

1. Understand what is causing you to be stressed and how you normally deal with that stress.

  • What symptoms are you noticing? How do you alleviate those symptoms?
  • If it’s helpful, create a stress journal and record what event or interactions increased your stress level. Note how you felt, how you responded and what you would’ve changed.

2. Find minor and healthy ways to modify how your manage your stress that don’t require huge life changes.

  • Do you cope by snacking? Find healthy snack alternatives and fill your cupboards with them. That way when you reach for a snack you know it won’t hurt your diet.
  • Are you a TV binger? Find easy exercises to do while you watch so you can keep yourself active.
  • Do you have difficulty sleeping? Build a daily routine to get your body used to being tired at the same time.

3. Connect with others. Spending time with your loved ones is the best way to get your mind off of whatever is causing you stress. Share your problems and how you’re feeling with your support system so you don’t feel like you’re coping alone.

4. Make bigger life changes when you feel ready. Once you identify the root cause of your increased stress, take steps towards addressing those causes.

  • Want more control over your schedule? Consider locums or telehealth work. These opportunities give you the freedom to choose your own schedule or work from home. That way you can spend more time doing what matters to you.
  • Feeling static? Reassess what motivates you at work and identify ways to reshape your work around these tasks. Continually create new challenges to keep your work fresh.
  • Not spending enough time on the things that matter to you? 46% of doctors find that talking with friends and family helps copy with burnout and 42% find that sleep is the best method. Regardless of what method works best for you, find time for the priorities that are actually worth prioritizing.

5. Reach out for help if you need it. There is nothing wrong with asking for help or getting counseling by a mental-health professional if you need it.

Or find a community of other doctors who you can talk with about what you’re experiencing, like with the Coalition for Physician Well-Being. Discussing stress and burnout shouldn’t be considered taboo. Talking to someone can make all the difference. Don’t be afraid to reach out.

Here at Nomad, we want to help you find jobs that can help you lead a life that doesn’t cause you increased stress. We want the best for doctors. By identifying the root cause of your stress and finding ways to cope that work for you, you can help heal the person who matters most: yourself.


The Nomad Team

New to Nomad? Register here!

Already on Nomad? Access your Dashboard here!

Interested in Locum Tenens? Learn more here!