How to Reduce Your Stress Levels – and Avoid Burnout

An “authority” on stress, commented that the only stress free state is when you are dead. Unfortunately, most of us would like to be stress free in the here and now!

Living with Stress?

The idea of “learning how to live with it”, while intellectually clever, is not one that we can readily accept or should even give in to. Not too many years ago, attendance at workshops on a host of stress management techniques was a popular answer to this problem. As time has passed, those techniques have faded into dim memory but stress lives on. The vast majority of the solutions offered for stress management have not worked well, particularly the popular one ? getting away from it all to the pink sands of Bermuda. Have you ever noticed that two or three days after that well?deserved vacation, you feel like you haven’t had one? There’s a very specific reason for that. After consulting with more than 1,300 healthcare practices over the past 24 years, I have noticed that the single biggest reason for stress in a practice, or in life for that matter, is the amount of unfinished business you carry around with you. Some folks can tolerate huge amounts of unfinished business while others collapse if they have even two boxes not ticked on their “Things to Do” list. 

Causes of Stress:

Let’s place your “unfinished business” into 3 different categories:  (1)  actions you know you need to do and haven’t actually started yet, (2)  actions you have started on but not carried through on,  and (3)  actions that have gone on too long and simply need to be ended. Some people are good at starting things, but never finish them, while others (the procrastinators!) take forever to get started.  For example, you know you need to do an inventory because you have run out of certain items, yet you put off doing it.  Then you meet with a patient, do the diagnosis and tell her the treatment she needs.  You go to the dispensary and find out you are out of that tincture.  You now have to tell the patient that you’ll call her when you get it in, and that she will have to come back to pick it up.  This extra work and stress resulted from not starting and completing an inventory and replenishing the dispensary when you should have. Another typical scenario is when you start to work on something, get hit with some other action that needs doing and put down the first one (Incomplete) to start the second one, etc.


You as the practice owner spend your valuable time (maybe a lot) wondering and worrying if your staff are getting things done and, if they are, are they getting done satisfactorily.  In a practice, there are literally hundreds of actions, big and small that you and your staff have to perform each day. And many of those tasks may not get completed that day or the next, or get “forgotten” or neglected for a period of time.  If you have no staff, even worse!  You, then, are responsible for all those actions.

Find the Sources of Stress:

A little test you could do is to walk around the practice and see what things you have thought of doing or have actually started to do that are incomplete, i.e., fire yourself (small joke ? it just seems like a good solution some days), replace the peeling wallpaper, clean the dispensary, get your furniture repaired or updated, etc., etc., etc. It takes mental energy to remember to get these things done, and that then saps your physical energy. Now multiply that by five days. Is it any wonder that by Friday evening you and your team are completely exhausted? Now multiply that by the uncompleted tasks carried forward from week to week and month to month. Ever had that feeling that you’ll never get caught up? Can you see how this causes eventual burnout?

Reduce Your Stress Level:

To clean up this mess and free up a lot of your mental and physical energy, the first thing to do is to discipline yourself to complete each thing you start from now on. Then make up a list of all of the unfinished tasks in your practice, e.g. dealing with the staff problems, revamping the recall system, writing the unwritten marketing program, etc. Now, complete these one by one starting with the easiest one, then the next, and the next, etc. By the time you get to the hardest task, you will have bundles of freed? up energy to attack it with. You will feel an immense release and a renewed energy level, I guarantee it! So remember, it is NOT what you got DONE that stresses you, it’s what you DIDN’T get done!!


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Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to The Art of Management Inc. and a clickable link back to this page.


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