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The complete guide to mental health for doctors and physicians

Suicide and depression rates are higher in doctors and physicians compared to the general public. Mental illness in doctors is a serious issue because it put so many lives in jeopardy.

Medical students and professionals have a higher rate of depression compared to the general public. According to a survey by The British Psychological Society, more than 48% of NHS staff reported feeling depressed.

This can be due to the accumulating stress throughout the education and career. It takes years of studying and medical practice, as well as sacrificing a part of your inner self to become a physician. People look at the physicians as someone who should know the answers to every question. They are supposed to act in a rational and controlled manner in all situations.

It is important to look after your mental health because so many people depend on you. This article will share some tips for stress reduction and the ways to boost your mental wellbeing.

Common causes of high-stress levels:

Doctors’ work is stressful by default but certain factors can drive you closer to the edge. First of all, the kind of responsibilities you have as a practicing physician. Then there are challenges like conflicts of interests, time constraints, questions of professional ethics, and the threat of litigation. Moreover, you can have your own personality disorders or psychological issues just like any other human being. Research suggests that a majority of doctors are naturally prone to chronic arousal which can cause physical and emotional exhaustion from persistent heightened mental and physical alertness.

The profession comes with inherent vulnerabilities like overcommitment to work and inability to relax. Other challenges include:

  • The intensity of personal responsibility
  • Demanding, hostile, and emotionally difficult patients
  • Financial management and accounting
  • After-hours and on-call work
  • Interference with family life
  • Lack of public appreciation

Mental health symptoms you shouldn’t ignore:

There are some symptoms that can help you realize that it’s time to hold your horses and start working on your mental wellbeing. There are some obvious ones like fatigue, sleeplessness, anxiety, and negativity. You might be experiencing falling standards and clinical errors with increased incidences of complaints. You might be suffering from a lack of interest, responsiveness, and punctuality when on-call.

As a physician, you would agree that prevention is superior to any treatment protocol.  

Balance your workload:

There is no need to do every little task by yourself. There are routine procedures and paperwork you can delegate to your medical staff. If you are self-employed or are just starting off your private practice, invest in hiring a skilled assistant. Another important step is learning to say “no”.

Get a healthy, balanced diet:

The life of a medical worker means a tight schedule most of the time. Cooking and eating healthy, therefore, becomes a challenge. But since your mind is at stake, you have to pay close attention to what you are eating. Studies suggest that food can play a crucial role in coping with stress.

Healthy food alone is not enough. Proper meal schedule is essential. Try to eat at least three meals a day. Drink at least 50-60 oz of water and stop feeding yourself with caffeine.

Find a hobby:

The research shows that hobbies are one of the most effective stress relievers for medical staff. Choose something you enjoy doing. Remember that going through some recent research or medical journal is not a hobby. It has to be something totally different like painting, music classes, photography, or fishing. Your mind and body need a break from the high-pressure job.

Start exercising:

20 minutes of jogging can make a difference. Regular aerobic exercises stimulate the emission of “happiness hormones” that ease the levels of cortisol and adrenaline.

A gym membership is good even if you cannot take out time on a daily basis. You can also try meditation or yoga. Adding aerobic load to your everyday schedule will also result in better sleep. Sleeping well is yet another way to maintain inner peace.

Don’t be embarrassed about seeking medical help:

It’s your duty to look after yourself because you need to be at your best to be able to treat your patients. If you can’t help yourself, how can you help the others? Even worse, you can harm or overlook some of the patients if you’re stressed and losing concentration. There’s no reason to hide your vulnerabilities.

It is also the responsibility of medical institutions and government to remove the stigma associated with mental issues. Physicians and medical staff should be able to report and seek help for their mental issues without being judged.

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