THE BOUNDARY RITUAL
One of the keys to being able to recharge
when you are not at work is creating a
clean, solid, functioning boundary between
work and home. This is how you take the
white coat off, leave work at work and
come all the way home.
Here is how you know you have missed
this boundary: when you are sitting at
home and thinking about work. You can’t
recharge in this situation. Instead of
recovery, you are still being drained by
work stress even though you are not in the
office or hospital.
Creating a Boundary Ritual is a mindfulness
skill you can learn and practice. It is
the energetic equivalent of an off switch on
your role as a doctor. Your Boundary Ritual
marks the transition from the environment
where the patient comes first to one where
you come first.
18 DALLAS MEDICAL JOURNAL • June 2020
Fortunately, we have an excellent role
model of a Boundary Ritual – Mr. Rogers.
Yes, that Mr. Rogers from Mister Rogers’
Neighborhood, the children’s television
show on PBS.
You really don’t know who Mr. Rogers is
before he walks through that door. It only
takes a couple of shows to realize he is
not the real Mr. Rogers until he has completed
his personal three-part Boundary
Ritual. Remember those three steps?
1. Put on his zip-up sweater
2. Change his shoes
3. Sing his song, “It’s a beautiful day in
the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a
neighbor— would you be mine ...”
With his Boundary Ritual complete, he is
the mildly creepy Mr. Rogers we know and
love for the rest of the show.
I have heard of physicians who naturally
understand the importance of a Boundary
Ritual. One friend’s father – a small-town
family doc – would shower and change
clothes after coming home every day. He
wouldn’t talk to his family until this Boundary
Ritual was complete. After the shower
he was just “dad” again.
I strongly encourage you to develop your
own Boundary Ritual. The most effective
rituals involve three things:
• An intention
• A releasing breath
• An action
Here is a Boundary Ritual example if you
drive home from work. I encourage you to
imagine you are actually driving your car and
taking these steps as you read them below.
Park the car. Put your hand on the keys
or off button. Say to yourself “With this
breath, I am coming all the way home.”
Take a deep breath. As you exhale, release
all thoughts and feelings about work with
your out breath, turn the car off, take the
keys, and step out of the vehicle.
This is another tool that works every
time you use it. You will be more relaxed
and thinking less about work if you perform
your boundary ritual than if you had not.
And, as usual, practice makes better.
POWER TIP: Any action can be an effective
Boundary Ritual as long as your intention
is to take off the white coat and come all
the way home: Take a shower, walk the
dog, take out your contacts and put on your
glasses, Mr. Rogers’ three-part ritual, or
make a nice dinner. What is your Boundary
Ritual, and when will you start practicing?
CHOOSE AN IDEA AND TAKE ACTION:
As discussed in previous articles, it is
easy to read an article like this one,
with multiple suggestions, and get
overwhelmed. The key is to take just one
step at a time. Choose just one action
from the options above and put it into
action. That is all. The first step might be
to call your family together and create a
life calendar for next week.
Once you have taken the first step, the
second one will become clearer. You will
know exactly what to do next. It might
involve taking an afternoon off and thinking
about your bucket lists. Whatever it is, just
take the next step, and the next, and the
next ... to put one of these tools into action
in your life. With just these simple actions,
you’ll be on your way to a healthier, more
balanced life. Constructing a strategy to
build and maintain life balance is one of the
keys to preventing physician burnout. DMJ
Dike Drummond, MD, is CEO of www.TheHappyMD.
com and executive coach, trainer, and
consultant on the prevention of physician burnout.
He has worked with 175 organizations and
trained more than 40,000 physicians to date. His
Burnout Prevention MATRIX Report contains more
than 235 ways to prevent physician burnout.