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Maladaptive responses to stressors are ingrained in our profession, but we can unlearn them and embrace a culture of well-being.

Fam Pract Manag. 2024;31(1):12-16

This content conforms to AAFP criteria for CME.

Author disclosures: no relevant financial relationships.

Physician well-being has received growing national attention over the last 15 years, but despite these efforts, we continue to experience high rates of stress and burnout. Changing the system requires advocacy, leadership, and time — and changing the culture requires additional tools and permission. While institutional leaders and health professionals work to alleviate unnecessary system-based stressors, we must simultaneously unlearn culturally ingrained, maladaptive responses that contribute to burnout. Our focus on empowering individuals does not detract from the need for system change.

The purpose of this article is to explore the following:

  • How the culture of medicine shapes our stress responses,

  • How to apply the “ACE” (accept, choose, and embrace) framework to our stressors and integrate it with three evidence-based well-being strategies.


  • Maladaptive responses to stressors are modeled in training and ingrained in the practice of medicine, contributing to physician burnout.

  • The ACE framework — Accept authenticity, Choose meaning, and Embrace positivity — can help physicians unlearn destructive coping mechanisms and respond more effectively to stressors.

  • This framework can support evidence-based techniques such as emotional intelligence, cognitive reframing, and appreciative inquiry.

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