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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

The 4 Words You Need to Repeat to Yourself When You're Stressed at Work

“Calm down, you’re not saving lives.”

That’s probably what you hear from unhelpful friends when you humblebrag about how much you have to do at work or how stressed you are.

And you can’t really argue against it. We all know doctors are the ultimate symbol of hard work—they put in long, grueling hours, they make huge sacrifices, and they face some of the hardest decisions and circumstances on a daily basis.

But even they understand that there’s a limit to how much you give to your job. In a recent LinkedIn article, Louis M. Profeta, an emergency physician, makes a telling statement to all workers, even people in his own field:

“It’s just a job.”

Yes, you read those four words correctly. He believes that no matter what you do, no matter how “important” your job seems, it shouldn’t define who you are: “Even though I prefaced it during my talk by elaborating and saying that medicine is a deeply rewarding career choice, I insisted that it’s not our life. I tried to express that it’s simply a wonderful, marvelous, and mystical avenue to allow us the opportunity to pursue meaningful work, make a good living, support our families, and to do a job that allows us to see and do many magical things.”

As Muse founder and COO Alex Cavoulacos says, we live in a world that glorifies tiredness as a “badge of honor,” while “if you’re sleeping instead of working, well you might as well be a soulless corporate drone with no understanding what it means to be passionate about what you do.”

But measuring our success in how much sleep we miss, how much emotional turmoil we experience, or how much of ourselves we give up for our jobs is not only wrong—it’s unhealthy. Sure, you should be passionate about your job, but at what cost?

Profeta emphasizes to colleagues in his field that they don’t have to suffer for the sake of their patients: “Our role is to be there, provide comfort, alleviate suffering, listen, and be engaged. We don’t have to feel every bit of it viscerally, but certainly there will be times where we truly connect and we will. But it’s also OK when we don’t.”

Similarly, we don’t have to put all of our energy and passion all the time into our careers. It’s normal to have days where you’re just not feeling it. It’s important to take time off when needed to prevent yourself from burning out. And, it’s important to prioritize things such as spending time with loved ones or staying active and healthy over your career.

The point? It’s OK to be selfish and take care of yourself—even as a doctor—if it means you’ll ultimately do better work as a result.

Photo of person working hard courtesy of Geber86/Getty Images.