More Than Medicine: Giving more on Empty

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Building happiness is better than fighting burnout.

Are you running on empty? At times like this, many of us are told that all we have to do to fill back up is to eat healthier, sleep more, exercise more and spend more time with the people we care about.


While these are good suggestions, the keyword here is more. How can we possibly do more when we feel like we’re already giving all we’ve got? How do we manage to take care of ourselves when our lives seem to demand so much from us, and there are only 24 hours in a day?

Change Your Mindset: Instead of asking, “How can I fight burnout?” ask yourself, “How can I build up my happiness?” Realizing that positive thinking is a choice can be an absolute game-changer, not only for you, but for the people around you. It’s more fun to have fun. It’s more fun to laugh. Positivity is contagious.

Are you having a hard time figuring out how to change your mindset? Start very simply by focusing your energy on modifying the modifiable and letting go of the unmodifiable.


Self-Reflect: While identifying the modifiable and unmodifiable, consider what makes you who you are and what does not. What fills your cup? Remember that we will have nothing to pour into others if we don’t fill our cups first.

Actively Schedule Time: Once you identify those top-tier things that bring you joy and help you to recharge, actively schedule them in. In the same way that we schedule shifts and meetings, we need to make an effort to prepare for the things that give us energy and motivation. This can be anything from scheduling time for dinner with your spouse to scheduling time to read for fun.

Are you having trouble figuring out what fills your cup? What hobbies have you put on the back burner because you got busy? What are things you’ve wanted to try? If all else fails, ask the people around you about what seems to make you the happiest…

Accept the Give and Take: Another key to resilience is balance. As we all know, there are only 24 hours in a day. Some of those hours have to be spent working, and some have to be spent sleeping, so the goal is to find a way to get the most value out of the remaining hours of the day.


This is also a good time to remember that it is okay to say no to things you don’t have time to work in your schedule. Compromising something that fills your cup to fill someone else’s can only happen so many times before you’re empty, so there is no need to feel guilty about putting yourself first sometimes.

Expect the Unexpected: Not if, but when something important comes up that you were not expecting, results in something you initially planned to do getting cut. Knowing in advance what you are willing to cut will help you to adapt more seamlessly.

Start Small: Not sure where to start? Start by finding small projects. Completing these projects can give you the encouragement you need for the next project or to make it through a rough day. Not sure where to start? Look around you to the people that appear happy and resilient. When you find a person that looks like they have it together, first remind yourself that they probably don’t have it together as much as it seems, and then ask them how they do it!

Hard Reset: If your routine seems to be getting mundane or you are not happy with things the way they are, don’t be afraid to hit the reset button and reevaluate.



EM OVER EASY is a podcast by three EM physicians, Andy Little, Tanner Gronoowski and Drew Kalnow, with a focus on #MoreThanMedicine. The podcast can be found on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and more. For more about the content and hosts, visit and follow them on twitter @emovereasy.

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