This time last year, I was burned out. Working 12+-hour days six days week for three months, sometimes I felt as if the only thing I enjoyed all day was the smell of my conditioner in the shower in the morning. This year my schedule is much lighter: for the last two months, I have gone in later, come home earlier, had free weekends, and worked out twice a week. I am also able to recognize burnout and feel like I would be more likely to ask for help this time around. Here are a few things I am doing for self-care as the weather turns colder:
- Cozy winter accessories: if I have to leave the house at dark o'clock, then I want to do it with a totally unstylish knit hat pulled over my still-damp hair and ears. I'm still wearing my famous rainbow scarf, but I am now on about my thirtieth pair of soft winter gloves.
- Listening to all the Harry Potter books on CD: suddenly I look forward to my commute with the daring adolescent trio from Hogwarts instead of depressing news on the radio. When I finish a book, I watch the movie. Hilariously I've gotten the same aghast reaction from most people I've told this to (including a stranger walking ahead of me on the sidewalk): Yes, I read all the books when they first came out (15-20 years ago!), and I have already seen all the movies. It's still enjoyable to relive the magic.
- Leaving early: last year I tried to attend lunch conference before driving to my weekly afternoon clinic, and I almost invariably found myself speeding to arrive on time for teaching and my first patient. This year I have given up on lunch conference on my clinic day, as it usually takes me 45 minutes to commute out of town. Instead, I arrive with 15 minutes to eat my lunch in peace, check email, and review my charts. Building this buffer into my day has improved my mood at the start of clinic as well.
- Reading before bedtime: over the summer I was diagnosed with bruxism (tooth grinding), which I believe accounts for my neck stiffness in the morning (my pillows have been exonerated!). I can only do so much to change the large-life stressors I assume underlie this unconscious behavior, but I can smooth things around the edges. Unless I'm bone tired, I will lie on a heating pad and read a few pages of some book. Almost two months later, I am still working my way through this book.
What are you doing for self-care these days?