Manage your energy, manage your time (a.k.a. Life outside the hospital is possible!)

The long hours and high levels of stress experienced while training to become an MD are legendary.

As a former neonatal intensive care nurse, I understand the pressures and time management issues associated with being both a student and clinician.  Currently I am a Holistic Health & Nutrition coach with a mission to improve the health and wellness of health care professionals.  I truly believe that if the people delivering health care are taking care of themselves that both they and their patients will benefit.

Proper nutrition, sufficient water intake, regular exercise, frequent meditation, adequate sleep, a spiritual practice, and satisfying relationships — all play an important role in finding balance in our lives. “I don’t have time for all of that” may be your knee-jerk response here, but perhaps I can encourage you to consider the concept of energy management rather than time management in order to create more stability within your rigorous schedule.  The energy you devote to your studies and skill acquisition is enormous—it probably represents 60% of any given day, so there is still a lot to accomplish in the remaining 40%.  With a shift in perspective, you can map out an energy template to take advantage of your natural rhythms.  Take out a piece of paper and make columns for each day of the week. First block out your class/clinical obligations, then schedule sleep.  Now track your energy for a couple of days and ask yourself a few questions:

  • When is your body telling you it needs fuel? When can you schedule meals & snacks?
  • When could you carve out 20 minutes for exercise?
  • When is your mind focused for studying?
  • Could you spare 5 minutes before you fall into bed exhausted to meditate and discharge the stress of the day so you can enjoy restorative sleep?
  • Are there 2 or 3 hours per week you could devote to grocery shopping and advance food preparation so that you could eat healthfully during the busiest part of your week?
  • What energy slot would be available to spend quality time with your significant other, friends, and family?
  • Laundry, cleaning, bill paying need some weekly attention.  Can you multi-task laundry with exercise?
  • Spiritual renewal in whatever form nurtures your soul and will return to you more energy than you spend.  When do you crave connecting with a higher power?

By utilizing this energy mapping exercise, you will discover that all the obligations you swore you didn’t have time for naturally find a consistent place in your schedule—reducing stress and improving the quality of your life.  The satisfaction of taking the time for self-care and the resulting increase in your energy will benefit both you and your patients.


About the Author

MJ McConnell is a former Captain in the US Army Nurse Corps who earned her BS in Nursing from New York University.  She is certified as a holistic Health Coach by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and was trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  She works with clients via phone/Skype to help them lose weight, increase their energy, and decrease stress.  Her volunteer work with underserved women facing breast cancer at “You Can Thrive” continually reinforces her belief that an integrative approach to health care improves wellness. Learn more at:

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