Beating the pandemic blues: Invigorating experiences for doctors in 2022

By Richard Chachowski
Published December 14, 2021

Key Takeaways

Living through the COVID-19 pandemic has been draining and dangerous for the American physician. Daily, you contend with the clinical realities of the virus while simultaneously facing its implications for your personal life. For example, a 2020 Healthcare meta analysis found that COVID-19 accentuated the challenges physicians normally face, including increased workload, which correlates to increased burnout. 

Fortunately, the situation appears to be improving. Boosters are available to you and your loved ones, and if you have children, they may be vaccine-eligible as well. Perhaps you’re overdue for a break or change of scenery. Of course, we all have to weigh the risks that are unique to our health and the well-being of our families. If travel and in-person experiences are on the agenda in 2022, we have some suggestions for your itinerary.

Travel domestically

A 2020 Lancet review resulted in some interesting findings pertaining to hospital workers who quarantined following COVID-19 exposure. Researchers determined that:

  • Quarantine was predictive of acute stress disorder.

  • After quarantine, staff were more likely to report anxiety, detachment, irritability, and insomnia, among other symptoms.

  • Longer quarantines were associated with poorer mental health outcomes.

  • Isolation  created financial stress, due to loss of income. 

There are real health and financial consequences for being cooped up. If appropriate for your personal health situation, 2022 may be the time to venture out again.

You can travel as far or near as you’re comfortable, whether that means a day trip to the beach (which offers opportunities for social distancing), or to a nearby zoo or aquarium. Hikes and woodland adventures also make for invigorating ways to meet your exercise goals.

According to a 2019 Current Directions in Psychological Science study, cognitive tasks that rely on memory, attention, and cognitive flexibility improve after exposure to natural environments, which may translate to better work performance. Even the sound of nature was found to improve mental well-being and cognitive performance. A 2019 Psychonomic Bulletin & Review study found that participants who listened to nature-centric sounds (insects, running water, birds chirping) performed better at difficult cognitive tasks than those who listened to city soundscapes (busy cafes, loud traffic, etc.).

If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can head to a national or state park for some scenic hiking, biking, canoeing, or camping opportunities. We suggest:

Travel abroad

If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can travel abroad, and check off some of those bucket list destinations.

According to a 2018 Journal of Environmental Research study, a test group that spent 4 nights outside their usual environment were found to have increased the feeling of well-being, boosted recovery, and reduced stress and strain levels lasting up to 45 days after the vacation. Plus, there’s the opportunity to see new and exciting places, and to expand your horizons by meeting new people from different cultures and backgrounds.

We recommend the following destinations:

  • The picturesque Italian region of Tuscany

  • Iceland’s Blue Lagoon

  • The Pyramids of Giza

  • Kruger National Park, South Africa

  • Bora Bora

Wherever you choose to go, visit the CDC international travel page before departure and determine specific COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions for your airline and international destination. Each may differ.

See a concert

Watching the same TV shows and movies can get old. COVID-19 may have put you in a bit of an entertainment rut. In recent months, however, live entertainment has returned. Maybe a concert is on the agenda. 

Think of it as medicine. A 2016 Public Health study found that listening to live classical music may lead to reduced secretion of glucocorticoids and a lower cortisone/cortisol level, indicative of less biological stress. And if classical music isn’t your genre of choice, don’t sweat it. Most up-tempo concerts—the kind that get you out of your seat and dancing—will increase your metabolic rate. Fittingly, a 2020 review by the Psychological Bulletin found that listening to music while working out enhanced physical performance, reduced perceived exertion, and led to improved oxygen utilization.

Take in a show

Broadway has recently reopened in New York, meaning the return of numerous fan-favorite and award-winning shows such as Hamilton and Wicked. But why should the Big Apple have all the fun? Cities across the US have thriving theater districts. Check out:

Live theater also offers some fascinating health benefits. According to a 2021 Journal of Experimental Psychology study, seeing a live performance centered around other people’s lives can lead you to develop greater empathy and more charitable behavior toward  others.

These findings were echoed in a 2018 Educational Researcher study that found a group of randomly selected students who had seen a live theater performance had developed higher levels of tolerance and social perspective than those who saw a filmed version of the same story.

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