(Please join myself and 20+ other doctors this weekend at the Physician Real Estate Investor Network Virtual Conference Jan 21-23. )
Last week I was putting the finishing touches on a lecture I will be doing at the White Coat Investor’s February 9-12 Conference on Physician Wellness and Financial Literacy. The topic: Spending time with your family is your best investment (I am also doing a second lecture on implementing systems in your real estate investing).
After I submitted my slides, I read Medscape’s 2022 report on Physician Lifestyle and Happiness. I was glad to see the number one thing that physicians are doing to maintain their happiness and mental health is spending time with family and friends. I suppose this is why the topic was chosen for the conference.
As I looked through all the data they presented, I found some very interesting facts, some of which surprised me. There were also some inconsistencies between what we want and what we are doing. Why are we not doing more of the things that make us happy? Here are my thoughts on the findings of their report.
The top three things we do to maintain our happiness and mental health were spending time with our family and friends, hobbies, and exercise. Those sound like good solid choices to boost our happiness level. Let’s take a closer look at each to discover what else we learned from the study.
Time with Friends and Family
Spending time with friends and family is the number one thing we do to increase our happiness. One of the findings from the study that is incongruent with family time is 39% of us take two weeks or less vacation each year. Since we have a very demanding job, it is important to take the time off needed to decompress and recover from our stressful job, so we can keep up the high pace we must endure. Vacationing is also one of the key methods we use to spend time with family and friends.
Two weeks of vacation a year is not enough. We must fight our type A workaholic tendencies and get more vacations scheduled. I took 8 – 12 weeks a year of vacation but only 8% of physicians surveyed took more than six weeks off each year.
Getting more vacation time is something I stress in my high performance coaching program. Many physicians send their family on vacation while they stay home and work to keep their production numbers up to make more money. But making more money didn’t even make the list of things we do for our happiness and mental health. So why not join the family?
The incongruences between what we need and what we do causes an internal strife that can contribute to dissatisfaction and burnout. This is not a ‘twofer’ we want to experience. Work to get more vacation time on the calendar.
Spending time doing things we love to do, which become our hobbies, does a lot to recharge our batteries and combat burnout. We are much happier when we do the things that make us happy. No special revelation here. So why don’t we spend more time doing the things that make us happy?
Fifty-five percent of us would be willing to take a pay cut to have more time off for a better home life. I was one of those people. That is why I took so much vacation time, as well as taking one day off during the week and the Monday after a three-day call weekend. I needed the break from work, but it came at a cost. Since I was paid based on my production, time off put a dent in my production numbers and resulted in less income. I was content with the trade.
If I wanted to spend time performing music, exercising, doing photography or playing with my family, I needed to fit it into my schedule. My hobbies created a great change of pace for my mind. The mind that only works on medicine, at the neglect of everything else, grows weary.
If you have hobbies, take enough time off from work to enjoy them. If you don’t have any hobbies, then establish some. The break in routine goes a long way to fight off burnout and boost mental health.
It is no surprise that exercise made the top three. We release a lot of endorphins when we exercise which makes us feel better.
What is disheartening is the lack of exercise in the survey. Turns out only 37% of us exercise more than three times a week, even in the face of 51% of us trying to lose weight. Why don’t we get more exercise? Maybe we are too tired, or don’t feel we have enough time.
We make time for the things we really love to do. But the majority of us don’t love to exercise. Our job is very sedentary, even for those of us who walk all over the hospital. For exercise to be effective, we need to work hard enough for our heart rate to increase. That doesn’t happen walking from room to room seeing patients, standing at the operating table for hours, or taking the stairs up one flight.
We must actually carve out time for exercise on a regular basis. I am amazed at the physicians I see running in the neighborhood during their lunch hour, or those who go to the gym. I never had a lunch hour. I ate my lunch on the way to the next thing I needed to do.
Put time in your busy schedule to exercise and it will boost your mood for the rest of the day and decrease your chance of burnout. Get a twofer and exercise with your family or friends. This was bicycle riding for me. I ride both with my wife on our tandem and with our kids on my single bike. As I write this, I’m realizing I haven’t done much biking lately. Guess I need to get the bike out and practice what I preach. None of us are immune to procrastination.
Other Interesting Facts
I was happy to see the top two cars owned by physicians were not in the luxury category. Toyota and Honda topped the list making up 31% of the cars we drive. Of the remaining 69%, luxury cars totaled 41%. It is OK to drive a luxury car, as long as you can afford it. By that I mean it fits into your budget and you purchase it with cash. If you need to borrow money to buy a car, you can’t afford it. Many physicians are driving themselves into the poor house with poor car choices.
It was good to learn that 82% of us feel we have a good marriage. I was not surprised to see that 43% of our spouses are in the healthcare field. That is where we spend our time, so that is where we often meet our future spouses. I was surprised to see that 18% of spouses were also physicians. Being a physician is tough enough in a family without adding a second to the mix. Two physician families have a difficult time coordinating their schedules.
Our substance abuse is not high, but could be better, with only 2% of us using cannabis for recreation and less than 10% of us drinking more than one glass of alcohol each day. We should not feel the need to get high to relieve stress.
Twenty three percent of us rarely or never spend enough time on our own wellness and mental health. Let’s work on improving that number. Pick one thing you can do to boost your happiness level and start doing it today. After a while, try adding another one and watch your happiness level grow.
For more information on having a happy life as a physician, check out The Doctors Guide to Starting Your Practice/Career Right. Even if you are an established physician, you will find some ideas to improve your life. You can read the entire Medscape report here.