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Life + Career DO Well Toolkit Finding Your Reset Point

Finding Your Reset Point

Living well

Tips from physicians on building resilience

DOs offer their strategies for addressing physician burnout and share lessons they've learned along the way.

Everyone in medicine, from medical school through retirement, could face depression, burnout or suicidal thoughts at some point in their training or career. In a recent study, more than half of physicians reported experiencing burnout and each year, roughly 300-400 physicians take their own lives.

If you identify with the warning signs of physician burnout or depression, or worry you’re headed down that path, it could be time to reevaluate your approach toward medicine and establish some new habits and boundaries.

5 keys to achieving work-life integration

For today’s physicians, it’s nearly impossible to separate the work of practicing medicine from a fulfilling home life. But that doesn’t mean either area of your life has to suffer. Here are 5 things to keep in mind.

  • Redefine "balance"

    Instead of balance, which puts work and life in competition with one another, think of your goal as work-life integration. As a doctor, work will likely be a major aspect of your life. Try to learn to work around it, or make work and life work together. Talk to your employer about flexible working arrangements or compressing weeks to allow for longer periods of time away from work.

  • Practice mindfulness

    Meditation can help students and physicians create a more thoughtful and less automatic response to stress, notes Ulrick Vieux, DO, MS, the psychiatry residency program director at Orange Regional Medical Center in Middletown, New York. However, mindfulness meditation takes practice, and it may take some time before physicians notice results, so this mental exercise may be more helpful to combat mild symptoms of burnout and depression.

  • Take a break

    Realize when you need a break by identifying common triggers. For many, being easily angered or consumed with stress is a signal that you could use time away. Ask yourself why you're acting differently and try to implement positive coping skills, such as meditation, yoga or anything that reduces your stress in a healthy way.

  • Be more social

    Social media, that is. Physicians must be mindful of the type of information they make public on social networks. It's visible to patients and employers alike. However, when used carefully, social media can be a great way to maintain contact with friends and family. It's a platform to express views about who you are and how you practice. And, it can be a great resource to help connect you with peers who are experiencing similar professional challenges.

  • Talk to your family

    Your spouse and children have responsibilities outside of medicine, which can make balancing family activities and priorities difficult. Talk to your family, especially your spouse, about the difficulties you are facing. This will help alleviate some of the stress when things become rough. With children, communicate early that you will miss some important events, but will schedule time for special family activities.

Recommended for physicians by physicians

The following resources have been useful in helping physicians avoid burnout and build resilience.

Mindfulness guides

Mindfulness is defined as the mental state you achieve when you focus your awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, both mental and physical.



Meditation apps

  • Calm: This web-based app facilitates meditation through soothing images, audio and instruction. Opt for 2-, 10- or 20-minute sessions.
  • Buddhify: Mobile app providing mindfulness-based meditation through a series of guided lessons.
  • Insight Timer: Home to more than 3.7 million meditators, this free meditation app can be downloaded via Android and iOS stores.
  • Simple Habit: Meditation app for busy individuals looking to reduce stress, improve focus, improve sleep, relax faster and breathe easier. The app provides 5 minute exercises, making it easy to fit mindful moments into busy lifestyles.
  • Headspace: Hundreds of themed sessions of everything from stress to sleep. Bite-sized meditations for busy schedules.

Deep breathing exercises


Sensory counting

  • Focus on one stimulus (something you see, hear, smell or feel)
  • Block everything else out
  • Focus on every aspect of that stimulus, then notice your other senses

Therapy worksheets

Worksheets related to:

  • CBT
  • Self-esteem
  • Anger

Learn more



  • Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn (2005)
  • Deep Work by Cal Newport (2016)
  • The Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte (2013)
  • Heal Thy Self: Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine by Saki Santorelli (2000)
  • The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being by Daniel J. Siegel, MD (2007)
  • The Art and Science of Mindfullness: Integrating Mindfulness into Psychology and the Helping Professions by Shauna L. Shapiro and Linda E. Carlson (2017)
  • Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams, Danny Penman, et al. (2012)
  • Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back by Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy (2013)
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