Mar 2006 Table of Contents

THE LAST WORD

What to Do When the Thrill Is Gone

With a little soul-searching, you can conquer boredom in your life and work.

Fam Pract Manag. 2006 Mar;13(3):92.

Boredom can be extremely stressful. It usually takes some time for physicians to develop this feeling, since the early years of practice are filled with an abundance of challenges that stimulate the intellect. However, as the years pass, the practice of medicine becomes more routine. At certain times of the year, you’re especially susceptible to getting in a rut, and this is one of those times. How many patients with cold and flu symptoms have you seen so far this year? At such times, the words of Shakespeare in The Life and Death of King John may ring true: “Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale, vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man.”

If your days seem dull, it may help to remind yourself that boredom is a normal part of life. Not every day is filled with excitement for most people. However, if your feelings of boredom persist for long periods, it may be time for a more careful assessment of your well-being. Extended feelings of boredom may be a sign that you’re suffering from burnout or depression, and you may need to enlist the help of another physician or a counselor or clergyperson to evaluate your symptoms and help you see the bigger picture.

While routines, norms and habits lend stability and comfort to our lives, we can become entrenched in them. If every day seems monotonous, the following strategies may help:

Rediscover your passion. Often when we get caught up in making a living we neglect our humanity and our life gets out of balance. Think about what drew you to family medicine. Is there something you used to love about patient care that you have been neglecting or have replaced with a more mechanical process? If so, return to it. Try to awaken your curiosity about each of your patients and their feelings, circumstances and families.

Try something new. Maybe you have stopped challenging yourself or have stopped seeking to be creative. It could be that you have reached a plateau and need to push yourself to achieve some new level of expertise or certification. Or perhaps you need different goals in your personal life.

Forget yourself. Although it sounds counterintuitive, sometimes giving of ourselves feeds the depths of our souls. Consider a volunteer effort outside of medicine to broaden your interests, challenges and experiences, and to enhance the lives of those who are in need.

Get some rest, diversion and exercise. We get far too little of these. Enough said.

Don’t continue taking tedious and laborious habitual steps that no longer have meaning and lead nowhere. A new venture, hobby, philosophy, theology or approach to relationships can bring vitality to what may feel like a mundane existence. Step out, take a calculated risk, shake things up a bit and try something new. It might just transform your life.

About the Author

Dr. McBride is director of behavioral medicine at Floyd Medical Center’s Family Practice Residency in Rome, Ga. He is a credentialed pastoral counselor and licensed family therapist. Conflicts of interest: none reported.

Send comments to fpmedit@aafp.org.

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