Prevent Physician Burnout with 3 Simple Stress Relieving Games

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

prevent burnout stress relieving games physician coach dike drummond optPrevent Burnout with 3 Simple Stress Relieving Games

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Burnout is a constant threat for physicians. Research consistently shows an average of 1 in 3 doctors suffering from symptomatic burnout on any given office day. In my work with over stressed and burned out doctors, I have found that most of us work way to hard being the Superhero to our staff, patients and families — and don’t have any fun at all. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Research shows you can lower your stress (and prevent burnout) with simple steps you can begin taking today. You can even make these activities into stress relieving games.

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Games work to prevent burnout for a couple of reasons

- They stimulate your competitive juices
- You can win (fabulous) prizes
- They are fun

And these are closely tied to one another. If you know reaching a certain goal gives you a reward, you will push yourself to get there and do your own version of a “touchdown dance” when you win. To prevent burnout, nothing works until you actually do it. Playing a game can make the difference between taking action to prevent burnout – and even enjoying it – and simply slogging through your day.

So, before I share three stress relieving games to prevent burnout -
- grab a piece of paper and write down a list of prizes you would enjoy winning
- treats that make you smile
- fun things you don’t give yourself very often.
The more the better. Ideally not all of them are food!

Here are some examples to get you started.

A pat on the back
A 5 minute walk outside
An ice cream sandwich
Read a chapter in a book for pleasure
A movie
A pedicure
A massage

Got your list? Keep this list handy. Add to it whenever you think of another prize you would like to win.

Now let’s look at 3 research proven ways to lower your stress levels and prevent burnout. For each one, let me give you a single action you can take tomorrow to lower your burnout risk. Then let me show you how to turn it into a stress relieving game.

To help prevent burnout
Please read the options below and then


Prevent Burnout Strategy #1:
Release Stress with the “Squeegee Breath”

Remember the last time you saw a professional window washer? A single stroke of their squeegee wipes the window completely clean.

You can do the same thing with your breathing — wipe yourself clean of stress and worry in a single breath. This allows you to be completely present with your patients and staff at work. It also helps you leave work behind and be completely present with your family at the end of the day.

The  Squeegee Breath
Take a big breath – all the way up to the top of your head – and hold your full inhale for a 3 count
Then exhale all the way down to the tips of your toes — inviting any stress, tension or worry out with your out breath
Hold the full exhale for a 3 count
Then allow your breath to resume its normal rhythm

Go ahead and try it now …

=> INHALE to the top of your head (…2…3)

=> EXHALE AND RELEASE to the tips of your toes
(… 2… 3)

=> Then breathe normally

Tomorrow at work take this squeegee breath each time you touch a doorknob to go into the room with a patient. Touching the doorknob “triggers” your squeegee breath and clears you for the office visit ahead.  See what difference you notice in the quality of your day.

Make into a stress relieving Game:

Keep track of how many times you take a squeegee breath in your day – you can simply put tick marks on a little piece of paper.
- Give yourself one of the rewards on your list if your number is three or more.
- Keep track of your personal best – the most times you practice the squeegee breath in a day – and give yourself an additional reward each time you hit a new personal best.

The daily double:
Notice that any day where your number is three or more and a personal best is a double reward day. Take two prizes from your list and feel free to do your touchdown dance as well.

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Prevent Burnout Strategy #2:
Create more balance with “It’s been too long”

What is one relationship that is in need of your attention lately … someone you would like to connect with and it feels like it has been too long? It might be your mom or dad, spouse or significant other, one of your children, a friend.

Grab your calendar – right now.
Connect with them and schedule a “date” for sometime in the next two weeks.
Minimum of 15 minutes – on the phone or in person.

Then show up and see how it feels.  If it felt really good … make sure you schedule your next date with this person before this date is done. Bring your calendar to the date and ask them to bring theirs. Put your next date on each of your calendars so you have “one in the hopper”.

Make it a stress relieving Game:

Give yourself a reward each time you
- Book a new date
- Attend any date
- Remember to book your next date with this person during the current one – before the two of you part company

Look for double reward dates – you showed up and remembered to book your next date before this one was done. Pick two rewards from your list and really enjoy them.


Prevent Burnout Strategy #3:
Find more joy at work with “The Treasure Hunt”

What is one thing you love about what you do? Think back over the last month or so … what is one interaction you remember that made you smile and reconnected you with what you love about your career again?

This is most powerful when you take a moment to write this remembered experience down.

Now — on your next work day and before you start to see patients …
Set an intention to experience this again in the day ahead … to seek it out and savor it just once today.

Say it out loud, “Today I am going to look for a way to experience (___fill in this black with the thing you love)”.

Hold this intention during your day and see how it feels. Good luck on your “treasure hunt”!

Make it a stress relieving Game:

Track the days you “find treasure” with tick marks on a monthly calendar
- Reward yourself whenever you find treasure 2 or more times in a month
- Keep track of your personal best in a month and reward yourself each time you hit a new personal best

Double rewards for months when you find treasure twice or more and hit a new personal best. Don’t forget your touchdown dance!

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Play these games with your staff - in an environment of sharing personal success rather than a competition. You can use these stress relieving games to prevent burnout in your entire office staff.
- Help each other remember to breathe
- Share stories about your dates
- Each looking for treasure and sharing when and how you find it

The Ball is in Your Court

You can prevent burnout immediately with these simple steps. Each one is research proven to work when you actually do them. Playing a stress relieving game dramatically increases the odds you will be successful. Are you ready to prevent burnout and get started? Please pick just one of these stress relieving games now and get going. Don’t forget that touchdown dance.

Please leave a comment below telling us
- What game you are going to play
- The first prize you are going to win

Let the games begin ;-)

Here is a link to some online stress relieving games to prevent burnout
recommended by Kent State Faculty members

Tags: Physician Burnout, Physician Coaching, prevent burnout