Doc Kelly's Rules for Stress Busting

Researchers find that today's physicians are highly stressed. Talk about old news. But short of quitting, how can America's doctors endure in this burnout environment?

“Often we need not so much to be taught as to be reminded.”

—C. S. Lewis

Researchers find that today’s physicians are highly stressed. Talk about old news. But short of quitting, how can America’s doctors endure in this burnout environment?

In his many years of medical practice, I know my father had his stresses; still, I thought he managed to handle them pretty well. In fact, it wasn’t until he retired that I felt he let things get to him.

The following life pointers were among those he sought to instill in his patients and ones he lived by as well — to the ripe old age of 88.

• Eat a good breakfast

In my 20-plus years in his household, I don’t ever remember my father skipping a breakfast. He called his morning nosh the “most important meal of the day,” giving him the energy to proceed with his day — a tough doctor’s day, that is.

• Maintain your weight

Dad, who was able to fit into the same tuxedo at events 50 years apart, kept a consistent weight all through his life. Although he was a slender person, he said that even heftier people could keep good health if they kept their weight within a five- to 10-pound fluctuation range over a long course of time.

• Take brief vacations

Perhaps 8 to 10 times a year, my father would leave behind his worries and make a brief trek to a spot were he could unwind. His usual companions on these jaunts were his physician buddies. The trick was in the brevity and frequency of the breaks, where you wouldn’t be overwhelmed upon return.

• Hit the bed by midnight

My dad was a guy who liked to have an occasional good time. What with hundreds of doctor friends and close relatives, he got invited to more than a few social gatherings. And I recall that no matter where he was or who he was with, he’d be sure to head for home before the midnight hour tolled.

• Find a hobby for life

My father was a man of varied interests — a voracious reader, advocate for education, collector of Native American culture, dedicated golfer, horseman and sailor, photographer, champion diver and gymnast, and fan of sports, ballet, and music.

“You need a ready escape,” he’d tell me.

• Have some passion

Whenever someone would bad mouth the medical profession in front of dad his usual reply was: “We save lives every day; what have you done lately?”

Although he knew well the problems, dad was a devoted advocate for all health care professionals and frequently gave full voice in recognition of their hard work and achievements.

I’d love hear some more stress-buster tips from PMD visitors.