Practice of Medicine


Developing Resilience and Avoiding Physician Burnout, Part Three

Series Part Three:  Self-Care as a Path to Resilience

Resilient persons typically engage in positive thinking and are willing to face challenges. They seldom get frustrated when problems arise and they usually rebound from adversity. Although some people believe resilience is innate, this trait can be developed using a number of techniques. Self-care is a central component of developing resilience. Caring for yourself includes nurturing your personal interests as well as nourishing your mind, body and soul. Ironically, some of the traits that prove helpful in advancing one’s career are the same traits that lead to burnout if taken to the extreme. For example, an individual who is altruistic and compassionate is prone lose a sense of self and develop compassion fatigue. A person who is a perfectionist and high achiever is prone to low self-esteem and workaholic tendencies.

One of the most useful strategies to develop resilience and avoid burnout is being self-aware and making time for self-care. Below are self-care recommendations for increasing resilience and reducing the likelihood of burnout.

Self-care strategies:
  • Create balance in your life by including time for exercise and recreation on a regular basis, preferably for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week
  • Nurture your physical self by eating healthily and getting adequate sleep
  • Utilize meditation and/or other relaxation techniques to reduce your stress level, such as: massage therapy, stretching exercises, aerobics, yoga, biofeedback, deep-breathing, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation
  • Use mindfulness (focusing on the present moment) to facilitate relaxation
  • Establish care with an objective physician. Do not attempt to be your own doctor
  • Ask yourself, “what matters most to me” and invest time in the things that make you feel like your life is meaningful
  • Consider serving/volunteering as a means of serving humanity and adding purpose to your life
  • Spend personal time with the people who matter most to you and avoid/limit time with persons who drain your energy
  • Acknowledge your feelings
  • Schedule “alone time”
  • Ask for help when needed and work in teams
  • Avoid overextending yourself and learn to say no when appropriate
  • Leave work at the office/hospital as much as possible
  • Focus on the aspects of your job that you find meaningful

References and Resources:

Hilary McClafferty, MD, FAAP. Physicians Health and Well Being: The Art and Science of Self Care in Medicine.

Sotile WM, Sotile MO. Beyond physician burnout: keys to effective emotional management. J Med Pract Manage. 2003 May-Jun;18(6):314-8.


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The information provided in this resource does not constitute legal, medical or any other professional advice, nor does it establish a standard of care. This resource has been created as an aid to you in your practice. The ultimate decision on how to use the information provided rests solely with you, the PolicyOwner.