This may be the first Tip of the Week not focused on practice management, but I’d like to talk about stress. You invest a great deal of time into improving the health of your business, but is it coming at the expense of your personal health?
When I ask people about their reasons for hiring a consultant, their answers tend to be very business-oriented in the beginning. They will tell me about things like needing to generate more revenue, create a more efficient patient schedule or hire an office manager. It usually doesn’t come out on the first call, but over time it’s extremely common for people to open up about more personal reasons for wanting help with their business. For many, and frankly more people than I was aware of, the stress of operating a business has become overwhelming. I’ve had more than one person break down in tears describing their situation. Often times people will ask, "Am I the only one going through this?" The answer is a resounding "No." If you own or operate a business and feel like you deal with a disproportionate amount of stress, you’re certainly not alone.
Whatever it is that’s causing stress for you as a practice owner, for the moment let’s just accept it. Further anxiety is not the antidote and may actually be preventing you from improving your situation. Let’s look at some of the common effects of stress.
Lack of motivation or focus
Irritability or anger
Sadness or depression
Overeating or undereating
Drug or alcohol abuse
Business ownership requires you to make sound strategic decisions, invent solutions to problems, manage and lead employees, and a host of other responsibilities that require you to be clear-headed and present. Re-read the above list. Can you see how these issues can be counterproductive to "turning things around" in your practice? Is it possible that the effects of stress, while perhaps a normal response, are exasperating the problems and preventing you from successfully executing the things you need to do to improve your situation?
Below I’ll offer some tips for tackling stress. Doing these things won’t make your problems go away, but they may allow you to more successfully deal with the problems. Make your health, both physical and mental, a priority and I think you’ll find that your ability to tackle the problems causing your stress are not as insurmountable as they may seem. Many other practice owners have the same problems as you; the difference may lie in their mindset and approach to dealing with these problems.
Exercise before coming to the office. I promise you’ll walk through the door with a more positive mindset and attitude.
Make sure you’re getting adequate sleep.
Take walks outside during down times. Get out of your dark exam room and get some exercise and sunshine.
Try yoga or mediation. Both are great for stress relief.
Get out of your head. Talk to friends or family members about what you’re going through.
Set limits on social media and news consumption (which tends to be very negative).
Set personal health or fitness goals. For example, lose 20 pounds or run a 5K.
For the record, none of us are immune to stress, and I need to take some of my own suggestions above. Let’s do this together.
Dr. Vargo serves as Optometric Practice Management Consultant for IDOC. A published author and speaker with more than 15 years clinical experience, he is now a full-time consultant advising ODs in all areas of practice management and optometric office operations. For questions or comments about this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.