Membership & Fellowship: Boost Your Mood in 150 Minutes

As a physician, you're more likely to experience burnout than professionals in other industries. You feel pressure to succeed. You have a hectic schedule. And you might struggle to stay emotionally level.

In this edition of the ACOG Member Insurance Program's work-life balance series, we'll show you how you can boost your mood. As you'll see, it only takes 2.5 hours (or 150 minutes) of your day.

Early Morning

The alarm clock beeps and shrieks. Some grogginess clears, and you turn over to slam the silence button.

You roll out of bed, and your morning officially begins. You need to leave for the practice soon.

Coffee – 15 Minutes

Before you do anything else, make a stop at the coffee maker. Pour the water in, fill the filter with grounds and hit "START."

Coffee tastes great, and it's a cheap air freshener for your kitchen, but it also offers several benefits for the mind and body. Outside of boosting energy levels, coffee helps burn fat, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, and reduce your chance of getting Alzheimer's disease by 65 percent.1

Walk – 15 Minutes

Caffeine works wonders, but so does exercise.

If you spend 15 minutes walking, you can reduce stress, improve circulation and strengthen your memory.2

Breakfast30 Minutes

We hate to sound like your mom, but don't skip breakfast.

Stay away from refined carbs. Pastries and sugary breakfast cereals are tasty, but these simple carbs give you temporary energy that quickly depletes.

Avoid a crash by reaching for complex carbs such as fruits and whole grains, because they take longer to digest and they release more energy over time.3

When you're rounding out your breakfast, aim for healthy fats like almonds and avocado, and use lean proteins like egg whites and turkey.

Now you have the rest of your routine to knock out. Clean up and head to work.


You arrive at the practice. It's quiet now, but soon the waiting room will buzz with patients’ conversations as the front desk phones ring off the hook.

Before business picks up, talk to your team.

Chat – 10 Minutes

You set a bad precedent if you rush through the door and make a beeline for your office. Even if you're eager to start working, stop by the front desk and ask your teammates how they're doing or if they need help with anything.

Even when you're not feeling like a ray of sunshine, a simple smile can brighten anyone's day. This seems like a common-sense gesture, but there's science behind it.

Studies show smiling reduces the stress-causing hormone cortisol and releases endorphins that trigger happiness hormones.4

Plan/Calendar – 20 minutes

After you talk to your team, plan your day. If you have several appointments, you should avoid setting too many goals.

Outside of seeing patients, you might try to:

  • Catch up on CE
  • Clean your office
  • Make follow-up calls between appointments
  • Drink eight glasses of water
  • Check the financials (if you're in a small practice and assume this role)
  • Work on generating referrals

Can you accomplish all of this?

Prioritization is your friend, especially if you take the Zen approach of completing three daily goals. When you use this method, you prevent mental clutter, and you avoid the disappointment of completing a small percentage of a large task list.5


You're hungry, but you breathe a sigh of relief. You can finally take a few minutes for yourself.

Lunch – 20 Minutes

You save money, minutes and calories by bringing your own lunch, but you shouldn't eat at your desk and use your computer. It lowers productivity and makes your keyboard more germ-filled than a toilet seat.6

This is another way of saying: Don't use your break to catch up on work, because you won't be efficient, and you won't give yourself any mental rest.

Read – 20 Minutes

When you pick up a book (or a Kindle), you open infinite portals to other worlds. After you eat, let literature give you a quick astrophysics lesson from Neil deGrasse Tyson or a journey to London and Paris with A Tale of Two Cities.

Reading will expand your vocabulary, improve your memory, reduce stress and help lower your blood pressure.7   

Late Afternoon

The afternoon flew by in a blur, and the last patient just left. It's time to close shop.

Meditate – 5 Minutes

Silence your cell phone. Find a quiet space with a comfortable place to sit, and turn off the lights, if possible.

Set a five-minute timer and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing and posture, and try to ignore thoughts of schedules, patients and checklists.

Meditating helps you control anxiety, improve sleep and regulate cortisol.8

Empty Your Communications Queue – 15 Minutes

Benjamin Franklin was a smart guy. He said, "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today."

Your emails and voice messages have your undivided attention, so eliminate a potential worry for tomorrow. Make sure to read or listen to all of your messages. Respond, if needed, and you'll have one less stressor in the morning.

You've put in a lot of work, and now you can leave.


You help a lot of patients, and you might worry about the ones who aren't doing well. You sometimes find it difficult to not think about work when you get home.

But, above all else, you deserve to focus on yourself and your own life. Science supports the importance of mental breaks, because they increase productivity and restore motivation.9

It won't always be possible for you to follow these mood-boosting tips, because nobody's perfect. On some days, you'll get pulled in a thousand directions and have no time for breaks. You might sleep in and not have enough time for exercise or breakfast.

But if you practice mindfulness and focus on elevating your mood, you'll be well on your way to reducing stress.


1Gunnars, Chris. "13 Health Benefits of Coffee, Based on Science." Healthline. 15 June 2017. Web. 6 November 2017.

2Smith, Jessica. "10 Amazing Benefits of Walking." MyFitnessPal. 25 March 2017 Web. 6 November 2017.

3Blake, Lauren. "Eat This for Breakfast to Improve Your Mood All Day." U.S. News. 12 April 2017. Web. 6 November 2017.

4"The Science Behind Smiling" Pick The Brain. 12 November 2016. Web. 8 November 2017.

5Brandall, Benjamin. "How to Prioritize Tasks and Do Only The Work That Matters." Business 2 Community. 7 June 2016. Web. 8 November 2017.

6Holub, Anne. "Why you should never eat at your desk again." Business Insider. 26 April 2017. Web. 8 November 2017.


7Winter-Hebert, Lana. "10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day." Lifehack. Web. 8 November 2017.


8Thorpe, Matthew. "12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation." Healthline. 5 July 2017. Web. 8 November 2017.


9Selig, Meg. "How Do Work Breaks Help Your Brain? 5 Surprising Answers." 18 April 2017. Web. 8 November 2017.


The purpose of this article is to provide information, rather than advice or opinion. It is accurate to the best of the author’s knowledge as of the publication date. Accordingly, this article should not be viewed as a substitute for the guidance and recommendations of a retained professional. Any references to external websites are provided solely for convenience. The ACOG Member Insurance Program disclaims any responsibility with respect to such websites.



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