Why are boundaries Important?
At the most basic level, boundaries serve to protect us.
Skin protects our body from organisms that can cause harm.
Fences, gates, and walls can also keep us safe from a wide variety of potentially dangerous situations.
The same can be said when it comes to setting boundaries in relationships.
This includes the relationships that occur in our professional careers.
Setting personal boundaries to establish and maintain a balance that is critical for well-being may not seem difficult at first.
But why, then, are so many medical professionals experiencing chronic stress and burnout?
Setting personal boundaries to establish and maintain a balance that is critical for well-being may not seem difficult at first, but why then are so many medical professionals experiencing chronic stress and burnout? Click To Tweet
By nature, we tend to be problem solvers and are empathetic.
This is true whether we serve others as Physicians, Nurses or, in any other area of medicine.
This can lead to a mindset in which we often focus on caring for others before caring for ourselves.
Where this may become problematic is when the delineation between private and professional lives become blurred.
Being accessible to patients 24/7, not leaving our work at the office and living as a “work-a-holic” is not sustainable, as much as we may think otherwise.
Being accessible to patients 24/7, not leaving our work at the office and living as a “work-a-holic” is not sustainable, as much as we may think otherwise. Click To Tweet
Recognizing the signs of general unhappiness overtime at work, home, or both, can be symptomatic of a lack of set boundaries between professional and personal aspects of our lives.
It’s willingly giving up control of your potential for happiness as well as your ability to perform the tasks of your job and life that make both rewarding.
This phenomenon often begins in school, with the pressures to succeed, and conversely, the accompanying, often pervasive attitude that anything other than studying is wasted time.
Socializing, exercising, and having fun, must become secondary, delayed, or eliminated from the daily schedule, deemed not as important as the responsibilities of academia.
With the pattern of “mostly work and no play” established well before graduation, this mindset is often carried over to residency and eventually practice.
Many times, accompanied by guilt, it’s no wonder it is so easy to carry this perception of a work ethic, without further consideration.
Until the stress, disillusionment and burnout, kick in.
Looking back, I don’t recall a particular moment when I realized my own behavior patterns were having a negative impact on others and me.
I do recall always justifying things because I never lost sight of the privilege I had earned and the fact that loved practicing medicine.
I also recall longing to go back to a life that was once uncomplicated; specifically, it was around the age of 12, when all I cared about was playing any sport that was in season and making sure my homework was completed!
The closest thing I found as an adult, now working in my established practice, was on the field of a men’s slow-pitch softball league.
One of my patients told me he coached a team and needed some players.
It was a little strange after not having played for nearly 10 years.
But getting to do something I had enjoyed for a good portion of my life made the risk of muscle soreness and concerns for “rust” less important than the potential for fun.
For two hours, a few nights a week, I got to be 12 again.
All thoughts of my patients, work and life, in general, were put on hold while my focus was on hitting, fielding, and throwing.
It was through that revelation that I realized how important having an outlet beyond medicine was to my well-being.
Since then, I have remained keenly aware of the importance of setting boundaries, not being afraid to say no, and making it a point to pursue interests beyond medicine.
Setting boundaries between home and work is necessary.
When work becomes the primary purpose for living, we can cheat ourselves of other experiences that enrich us and make us better in all aspects of our lives.
For two hours, a few nights a week, I got to be 12 again, and all thoughts of my patients, work and life, in general, were put on hold while my focus was on hitting, fielding, and throwing.
If you find yourself taking three times as long as it should to complete a basic task, either by procrastinating or just dreading the process, your overall well-being may be at risk.
Athletes who allow their bodies to recover adequately after training, tend to perform better versus when attempting to compete with minimal rest and recovery.
The same holds true for us as medical professionals. We need downtime in order to perform at our best, both physically and mentally.
If you think you are immune to this concept, then ask yourself, “who would I rather have treating me, someone who is sleep-deprived, somewhat hurried, unfocused, or inattentive to my questions, or someone who projects clarity in their actions and purpose?”
If you find yourself taking three times as long as it should to complete a basic task, either by procrastinating or just dreading the process, your overall well-being may be at risk. Click To Tweet
Setting boundaries may seem easier said than done, but it is essential for your well-being and sustainability as a healthcare professional.
Take a minute and try to remember the things that made you happy in life. Are there things that you have gotten away from that used to bring you joy, but have allowed them to be overtaken by the notion that they aren’t as important as your career?
Not sure if this advice is for you?
See if you can at least take 10 minutes out from your day to sit quietly, take a walk, or do something that requires focusing on anything other than your job.
It’s a start and if you need some help with the process, certainly consider enlisting the insight of a Coach.