Self-Care for Doctors

As doctors, we have been trained to care for others, often at the great expense of ourselves, and our loved ones.

But sooner or later, this takes a toll on us, and there may come a time when we realise that we want or need to start taking greater care of ourselves. This moment may be an illness, an accident, a relationship breakdown, problems with patients, colleagues or staff, or burnout, exhaustion and depression. When we decide we would like to take more care of ourselves, where do we start?

One of the great ironies about being a doctor is that we know so much about the human body, but we don’t seem to have a great idea of how to care for our own body in a tender loving way. We have been trained to ignore it, override it, push it beyond human limits, go without food, water, sleep and a social life for extraordinary periods of time, so we seem a little stumped when it comes to simple self-care!

We are also far from experts at looking after our own emotional health and have in fact been trained to override, dismiss and bury our emotions, which can lead to a host of other problems such as alcohol and drug abuse, and ill mental health.

We have learned, through our experience, that we cannot truly care for others until we have learned to deeply care for ourselves. In developing a deeper understanding of ourselves and our own bodies, which is not something we were trained to know in medical school, we can develop a deeper understanding of what true health is, for ourselves and for our patients.

As a profession we strongly support evidence based medicine, but all too often we ignore the evidence of our own bodies. What if we began to see our bodies as a science experiment and studied how the way we live affects the way we feel? Our bodies are very willing teachers, but can only teach us if we are willing to listen. They will tell us exactly what is nurturing for us and what is not. They will show us how certain foods, lack of sleep, too much stress, and studying without a break affects us. And how the things we use to ‘relax’ can affect us too.

Through listening to our bodies, we can find ways to care for ourselves which nurture our bodies and beings and allow us to have a balance between our work life and our home life; ways to care for ourselves deeply, enabling us to live and work in a way that sustains and enriches us, and which we can then share with our patients, our families, and each other.

Read more

Latest Articles on Self-Care

isolated-image for RUOK Day

R U OK? Day

0
This year, 9 September is R U OK? Day. This is an Australian initiative that was developed in 2009 by a man whose father was not OK and died by suicide.
poppies

Spring Cleaning You   

1
Spring is such a beautiful time of the year. So why not take the time to love ourselves, inside and out, and refresh the way we feel about ourselves and life?
Photo of complex images by Alan Johnston for article on mindfulness by Dr Anne Malatt

Mindfulness and Conscious Presence

2
We hear the word ‘mindfulness’ mentioned a lot these days, but what is it? How do you do it? And what does it do for you?
AJ Sliver of golden moon 20210411

The Art and Science of Repose

5
Repose is not a word that is used much these days, but it once was, as seen in this graph of its use over time. Repose is a quality we could perhaps do with more of, so what is it, how do we do it and where do we start?
water lily for article on personal sustainability by Dr Anne Malatt

Personal sustainability

1
We hear a lot about sustainability these days in terms of the economy, the environment, and society, but what is personal sustainability when it comes to us, the people who make up that society and determine what sustainability is?
self care moments living in cycles

Self-care Moments: Living in cycles

4
Hi, this is Anne Malatt with self-care moments and this is a moment on living in cycles. We think that we live a day in a linear way and move from one day to the next, leaving each one behind us as we go. In truth, we live in cycles. We live one day, over and over again, and everything comes with us as we go around and around the sun.
self care moments preparing for sleep

Self-care moments: Preparing for sleep

0
Hi this is Anne Malatt with self-care moments and this is a moment on preparing for sleep. Is there a way of preparing for sleep that allows us to get a good night’s rest and to wake feeling rested and refreshed and ready for the day, every single day?
self care moments a moment with tension

Self-care moments: A moment with tension

5
Hi this is Anne Malatt with self-care moments, and this is a moment on tension.Tension is an inescapable part of human life. We are subject to forces of tension all the time ... so how do we deal with tension?
self care moments working

Self-care moments: Working

3
We spend around a third of our days and most of our waking hours working, getting ready for work and travelling to and from work … how do we feel about work and in what quality do we spend that time?
self care moments taking a break

Self-care moments: Taking a break

4
Taking a break is not a time to escape from our bodies and our lives, but a time to enjoy being in our bodies even more deeply, and to appreciate ourselves, just for who we are.
self care moments conversation

Self-care moments: Conversation

1
Hi this is Anne Malatt with self-care moments and this is a moment on conversation. We spend a lot of our lives in conversation, talking to and about each other and life – what is the quality of that conversation and is this even something that we consider?
self care moments drinking

Self-care moments: Drinking

3
If you think you may be drinking too much alcohol, you probably are, knowing that even one drink is not good for you. So consider looking at why you drink and you may just find that waiting inside you is a younger you who does not like the taste of alcohol, but who loves you, just as you are … and let that essence of you and the knowing of your body, guide your way through life.
self care moments eating

Self-care moments: Eating

8
I love eating food and always have. I have come to understand that there is a purpose to food beyond stimulating and satisfying the senses.
self care moments swimming

Self-care moments: Swimming

2
Swimming is an absolute joy for me. I love the feeling of being weightless in the water and gliding along in a rhythmic, flowing way.
self care moments driving

Self-care moments: Driving

0
Rather than making time and our destination the focus of our trip, driving can be a beautiful opportunity to connect with ourselves and enjoy just being in our bodies, and our cars, and moving them in space.
self care moments walking our way back

Self-care moments: Walking – our way back

1
When we walk, we move our whole body. How do we move it? Are we consciously present with the whole, with our mind aligned to what our body is doing?
self care moments getting ready for the day 1

Self-care moments: Getting ready for the day

0
The way we get ready for the day imprints our body, the whole day and everyone we meet in it. Do we get ourselves ready in deep appreciation of this fact?
self care moments waking up

Self-care moments: Waking up

8
Waking up is like being born again; there is a moment of: here I am and here we go again, around the sun for another day. Is that moment one of deep appreciation and joy? And if not, why not?
Thistle

Anxiety in the body – Anxiety in Medicine; Deconstructing our ‘Normal’

0
Let’s be honest, as doctors and health professionals we learn to live with anxiety in the body. Not all at once perhaps, but by degrees.
self care moments a moment with our body

Self-care Moments: A moment with our body

2
We have been living in this body of ours our whole life, but how many of us live every day with a deep awareness and appreciation of our body?
self care moments a moment to breathe

Self-care Moments: A moment to breathe

2
We have been breathing since the moment we were born but no-one teaches us how to breathe, and we usually do it with very little awareness of what we are doing, while we are busy doing other things...
self care moments a moment to stop

Self-care Moments: A moment to stop

4
We tend to think of self-care as something we need to ‘do’ and we are already doing so much that we think we cannot do another thing and thinking about ‘doing’ self-care just makes us feel even more exhausted…
Photo of Anne Malatt and Paul Moses for article by Paul Moses on Being Married to a Doctor

Being married to a doctor

6
What is it like, being married to a doctor? My gorgeous wife is an eye surgeon; we have been together for 16 years and...
Photo of pink rose for article by 'A Doctor's' Wife'

A Dance

6
My husband often works at the hospital at night and so as the saying goes, we are two ships passing, living a dance where...
Photo of magnolia for article on the ABC of Self-care by Dr Anne Malatt

The ABC of Self-care

3
We are familiar with the acronym ABC when it comes to CPR, but what is the ABC of Self-care? CPR is a dramatic event...
Photo of Dr FIona Williams for article by Dr Fiona Williams on "Physician Heal Thyself"

Physician Heal Thyself: What Medical Training and the Body have taught me about Truth

3
While it would be nice to pretend otherwise, I did not embark on a career in medicine for altruistic reasons, to earn a good...
Photo of Easter full moon by Alan Johnston for article by Dr Anne Malatt on Easter in the time of Coronavirus

Easter in the time of Coronavirus: the only way ‘out’ is ‘in’

2
Easter in the time of Coronavirus will be a very different Easter for most of us. As the world descends into chaos around us...
photo of Dr John Budin for article by Dr John Budin on Mental Health Stigma Amongst Doctors

The antidote to mental health stigma amongst doctors: humanity

0
Mental health stigma amongst doctors I grew up watching Superman. Impressive guy … leaping tall buildings and all that. Just the kinda thing a young...
image of washing hands for article on Coronavirus by Dr Anne Malatt

Coronavirus: isolate physically, but don’t socially isolate 

0
We are in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, and being told to socially isolate if we have travelled overseas recently, been in contact...
Photo of red rose for article by Dr Anne Malatt on Why Bring Love into Medicine?

Why bring love into medicine?

1
The words love and medicine are rarely used in the same sentence. Not many people say they love taking their medicine. Not many doctors...