3 Simple Steps to Start the Workweek with Less Stress

Have you felt anxious, overwhelmed, or nervous going into the workweek? I am going to cover with you three simple things that you can do to help yourself feel more confident and prepared to take on anything that comes your way.

When I was in full-time clinical practice, I worked very hard to find an effective way of preparing for and completing my weekly work. 

Interestingly, just as I created a pattern that was easy and reproducible, I decided to transition to part-time clinical practice so that I could help other physician moms through life coaching. The transition into having multiple pursuits didn’t result in a 1:1 exchange of hours in my schedule. This was no big surprise to me because I recognized that it was a new pursuit, I was learning new skills, and learning new processes – and therefore I was again working to create balance between how I dedicated time to the different areas of my life.

I say this to illustrate that I cannot know what specific piece of advice will work for you, because I don’t know all of the details of your life and there are many moving parts. I won’t tell you to look ahead at your schedule and prep your notes. I won’t tell you to create order sets. Some of these strategies may work and others may not. I have been given a lot of action-based advice on how to stay ahead in my clinical practice – some things have worked, other things haven’t, and some things have worked only for a period of time. It is ultimately up to you to try different things and see what works for you.

But here are three suggestions that you can apply in any situation that will create a positive change if you apply them regularly. You can start to see things feel easier relatively quickly. And importantly, you will be able to search for solutions less frantically, from a place of calm intention. I want to provide you with ideas that can help you manage your thinking and feelings in order to feel in control. This will put you back in control of your work week.

Circumstances are neutral and thoughts are just sentences in your mind.

If it is Sunday evening and you are already noticing that you are anticipating a busy week, notice the thoughts that make you feel anxious, frustrated, and overwhelmed. Take a few minutes to write down these thoughts. Notice that they are just sentences in your mind and nothing more. I am not pretending that these thoughts won’t be there, but for a few minutes allow yourself the awareness to see that these are just interpretations that your mind is offering to you and that they are optional. This awareness can be important to help you make a change in your thinking when the time is right, and sometimes awareness naturally leads to a change in mindset on its own. 

The next piece of this exercise is to refocus your mind on the neutral facts. What is it that you are heading into this week? You might look at your schedule and notice that you have 18-20 patients scheduled each day. There may be a certain number of people on your inpatient list. There may be a couple of sick visit slots open each day. You may have meetings scheduled for certain times. Focusing on the neutrality of the circumstances can help you neutralize some of the negative feelings you are having. 

Some emotions will come up regularly, and that’s okay. Process those feelings and create an intention.
Notice that there may be some negative emotions that regularly come up for you. After years of experiencing anxiety, even now as I feel so much more in control of my day, that anxiety still shows up. I talk about it as if though it was a passenger in my car. Previously it used to speak up a lot, but now it just sits there, less vocal. I learn to just be with that feeling, to process it. 

Next, I create an intention for how I want to feel about the week – productive, excited, committed, or fulfilled for example. In order to feel what I want to feel, I must be intentional in my thoughts. One suggestion I have is to focus on your patients and think about how you want to help them and connect with them.
Put your highest priority items on your calendar. There is enough time to get done what needs to get done.
The first thing I suggest you write on your calendar is all of the things that need to happen to make life happen – laundry, cooking, bathing and dressing, paying the bills, childcare, etc. Second, carve out some time for silence, meditation, rest, or rejuvenation. You can decide how much time you want to allot to this to start, but I recommend you do this next because it is often the last thing that we try to schedule, and then never find time for it. Third, write down the top five things that must absolutely happen this week. These may be steps to reaching a goal, meetings and appointments, or other responsibilities. If there is time, you can add other items based what you want to accomplish this week. By prioritizing and constraining what you put on your calendar, you counter the common belief that there isn’t enough time. In doing so you take active steps in your thinking and actions to overcome the feelings of urgency and overwhelm.

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