ODs Share the 4 Self-Care Habits that Help Them Prevent Burnout

August 15, 2023
Taking time to take care of and focus on yourself is an important step in preventing burnout. AOAExcel talked with 8 doctors of optometry to discuss how they practice self-care.
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Though doctors of optometry are a passionate and dedicated group, the reality is that many of them still have had first-hand experience with burnout. “I’ve witnessed burnout,” says Dr. Blair Holden. “I’ve seen situations in which a colleague didn’t feel supported and didn’t maintain connections—it was isolating.” Dr. Lee Peplinski states that he is a burnout survivor. “Burnout is real,” he says, “it hits people differently, and there isn’t one single solution that applies to everyone.” Dr. Dori Carlson, too, has seen burnout over her career: “I’ve witnessed burnout, and I experienced many stressors when I was new to practice. Sometimes you have to take a step back and remember to breathe.”

Preventing burnout is crucial not only to your health but to your patients’ health, as well. “Being healthier mentally and physically only helps you take better care of your patients and be more successful,” says Dr. Matthew Jones. In order to help with taking a step back and re-energizing, AOAExcel talked with 8 doctors of optometry to discuss how they practice self-care. Here’s what they had to share:

Quality Time with Loved Ones

The most unanimous self-care activity the doctors AOAExcel talked with engage in is setting aside time to spend with family and friends. Dr. Jones said, “I spend time with my family and try to leave work at the front door the best that I can.” Schedule management can be challenging, but prioritizing time for loved ones is always worthwhile. Added Dr. Chris Wroten: “I make a concerted effort to dedicate time each week for family and friends. No matter what, spending quality time with my loved ones and learning from and investing in others is paramount.”

Fitness and Recreation

Many doctors of optometry also practice self-care through fitness and sport. “One of my self-care priorities is spending time outdoors in order to counteract all of my indoor, dimly lit time in exam rooms as an optometrist,” said Dr. Holden. “Nothing beats a hike on a sunny day in the mountains!” Dr. Bibin Cherian also likes to build in time for exercise in his schedule: “I go to the gym before work, and I love to play basketball to relieve stress. Maintaining a consistent routine can be hard, but when I do, my mind seems to be better focused and I’m happier for it—making plans to work out with a friend definitely helps.”

Spirituality, Faith, and Meditation

Several of the doctors we spoke with identified spirituality, faith, or meditation as a key component of their self-care routine. Dr. Peplinski starts each morning “with prayer and scripture to get [his] mind set for the day.” Similarly, Dr. Cherian meditates and prays in the morning. Taking time to reflect on a daily basis is an important practice for many doctors—Dr. Wroten said, “I try to set aside time every day to reflect on my faith and the many blessings in my life.” As Dr. Lori Roberts-Hauser put it, “Time is a gift; be intentional a few minutes every day to enjoy it.”

Involvement and Self-Development

Society involvement, advocacy, and self-development are all popular sources of self-care for doctors of optometry. As Dr. Cynthia Baker said, “mentorship and society involvement are huge.” She continued, “I love talking with students, visiting optometry schools, and attending AOA meetings. Advocacy is such an important part of my personal and professional satisfaction.” Dr. Carlson agreed: “You have to do something that recharges you mentally and professionally. For me, that includes attending meetings, learning new things, and socializing with colleagues.”

Whether through family, recreation, spirituality, or involvement—or otherwise—finding a way to unwind outside of the office is necessary to stay healthy and practice to the best of your ability. Dr. Roberts-Hauser summarized: “It’s important to know what your outlets are—art, sport, relaxation—whatever gives you peace and allows you to let the stresses of life go.” However you choose to practice self-care, make sure to make your mental health and wellness a priority.

For more best practices from doctors of optometry on preventing burnout and other topics, visit the AOAExcel Career Center. In addition to informative resource updates, the Career Center hosts an optometry-exclusive job board and resume database that makes searching for qualified candidates and exciting opportunities simple.

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