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What is Your Minimum Baseline

burnout choice exhaustion numbing self-care wellness Jan 08, 2022
A woman drinks from a mug wearing a deep green sweater by StockSnap of Pixabay
A few of my clients shared how hard the past few weeks have been. Rising Omi numbers, increased patient demand for care, sick colleagues calling out, more resignations, etc. Feels like 4/2020 all over again, when we were deep in it, exhausted from the crisis response at the very onset, and looking at what felt then like a very long road.
I get it. Exhaustion. Deep in your soul. Feeling like we are never getting out of this.
Plus, mixed with the usual flavor of January post-holiday hangover, dark cold days, fatigue, with a “New Year, New You” flair.
Now is the time, my friends, to attend to your minimum baseline.
Um, What is Minimum Baseline?
The idea of minimum baseline is what are your most basic needs for functioning right now. How many hours of sleep, how much food, how much water, how much interaction with your kids or your dog, etc. What do you need to be getting every day right now to get along? Not focusing on new tasks/chores/goals, no overachieving, just the minimum. Just focusing on taking care of your body and mind in the most basic and sustaining way.
You may feel like you are already doing this, and maybe you are. But if you know you need 6 hours of sleep, and you are only getting 5 because you are up late scrolling, or trying to keep the house clean (which might FEEL necessary right now, but really aren’t), you aren’t meeting your minimum baseline. If you are eating only once per day (and probably going to town at that meal and feeling gross afterwards), how can you feed yourself healthy-enough food that you like, enough times of day to feel comfortable?
I lived for years not doing this. I vacillated between overeating and undereating, getting too little sleep, beating myself up to follow some goal, stuffing my feelings down deep, and not sleeping enough (to be fair, having infants/small children AND delivering babies for many years, some of the sleeping was out of my control BUT I also didn’t intentionally give myself permission for catch-up sleep because I did not respect minimum baseline and it felt terrible).
Uh, how?
Pull out some paper or the notes app on your phone, and write down your minimum baseline needs for sleep, food, water, caffeine, and fun (which might be the funny cat videos or something silly, brief and enjoyable to you, don’t overthink this).
For me, this looks like this:
-6 hours of sleep
-Eat at least 2 meals (I usually do 3 meals, no snacks, but I know that I can and have done ok on 2)
-2 cups of tea/coffee
-A shower
When I get those things, right now, at this place in my life, I can do the things. Other times, it’s been more or less, and if I had figured that out previously, I could have practiced some better boundaries and been more kind to myself (“When you know better, you do better” is my favorite Maya Angelou quote).
Writing it down will focus your mind on meeting these things. Your brain can see those items again and again, and it will start figuring out, “how can I get that amount of sleep?”
So again, pull out your phone or paper, write it down, put it where you will see it, and set your intention for this next several weeks. The work is to meet YOUR minimum baseline. Take care of patients, feed the dog, yes, but also, tend to your minimum baseline. Take care of your very human self, in a kind and humane way.

Hi There!

I'm Megan. I'm a Physician and a Life Coach and a Mom. I created this blog to help other Physicians and Physician-Moms learn more about why they feel exhausted, burned-out and overwhelmed, and how to start to make changes. I hope that you enjoy what you read, and that it helps you along your journey. And hey, if you want to talk about coaching with me, I'm here for that too! I offer a free 1:1 call to see if we are a good fit. Click the button below to register today.

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