Dr. Hodgson shares 5 simple, actionable steps you can follow to improve your work-life balance.
Do you ever feel guilty for not giving enough time to your family, friends, or yourself? This is a sign that you need to re-evaluate your work-life balance.
Especially in professional industries like dentistry and medicine, it is not uncommon to find overwhelmed and overworked students and doctors. If you fall into this majority, don’t worry, there are easy steps you can take to improve your work-life balance and intentionally devote time to the tasks and people you care about most.
We spoke with Dr. Hodgson, DDS, MS, to put together 5 tips to improve your work life-balance. The benefit? A happier, guilt-free life. Why not start today?
Dr. Cara Hodgson is an Orthodontist living in Southern California. She grew up in Hong Kong, Hawaii, and Malibu, and attended UC Berkeley for her undergraduate degree in Biology. She taught highschool AP Bio and AP Chinese and later attended dental school at UCLA.
Her journey to becoming an Orthodontist was not the typical one. After she attended a mission trip in Nicaragua, she knew she wanted to pursue dentistry. She always loved the arts from a young age, and loved the combination of art, science, and engineering in dentistry. Her experience working with teenagers is what drew her to the specialty of Orthodontics. A last minute decision that she is now grateful for every day.
Dr. Hodgson knew early on in her dental career that she would need to prioritize finding a healthy work-life balance in this industry. She was surrounded by peers who were torn down and worn out by the stress and pressure of their academics and careers. She noticed that if all you did was study or work, it would eventually get to you, and your health, happiness, relationships would suffer as a result.
Dr. Hodgson admitted that focusing on living a balanced lifestyle sometimes means you need to make sacrifices. Sometimes she wouldn’t get the grade she wanted on a test because she hadn’t stayed in the library all weekend with her peers. (But she’s still working alongside them now!) One of her professors even told her as a student that she would never be able to do Orthodontics. And when she did decide to specialize, an advisor at her school ripped up her resume and told her that she would never be competitive enough to get into residency for Orthodontics.
Dr. Hodgson wants every dental student to know that you can do it. The culture that says that dental students can never see the sun in order to fulfill their dreams is untrue. If you live a balanced lifestyle, you can still accomplish your dreams, and do it with a smile on your face.
These are Dr. Hodgson’s 5 main tips to build a healthy, balanced lifestyle. These are techniques and resources she uses in her own life that help her stay motivated, focused, healthy, and happy.
Dr. Hodgson recommends that in order to prioritize spending time with loved ones, you should schedule it into your day. Invest time into the relationships that mean the most to you to feel fulfilled and avoid feelings of guilt. Dr. Hodgson also recommends using a planner, whether it be virtual or physical, to block out these slots of time dedicated to loved ones.
It’s also a good idea to block out a day or evening each week to spend time with friends and family. Dr. Hodgson always leaves Friday night open for date night with her husband. Sunday is for friends, and Sunday evening is committed to chores and preparing for the upcoming week. The trick is to be firm about your schedule, and make it a priority to stick to it. She also plans a get-away once a month with her husband. Whether it’s a road trip, plane flight, or bike ride away, getting out of your normal routine to spend time with the most important people in your life will help you feel refreshed and balanced.
Another easy way to maintain a balanced lifestyle is to dedicate some technology free time. Most of our jobs are tied to technology, so physically removing yourself from any distractions or responsibilities can help you clear your mind and focus on the present moment. On Saturdays, Dr. Hodgson and her husband put their phones away in a cabinet to focus on each other. She also leaves her phone outside her bedroom at night to avoid screen time before bed. Whether it’s a whole day, or before bed, try to disconnect yourself from the constant distraction of technology every once in a while.
Getting a full 8 hours of sleep will help balance your life in more ways than one. Dr. Hodgson recommends searching a 5 minute sleep meditation on YouTube to follow along with before you go to bed. Even if you have a busy night, taking 5 more minutes to calm your mind before bed can help you have a more restful sleep. She also recommends the Pelotonon meditations if you’re a member, they’re her favorite!
Dr. Hodgson recommends using Sunday evening as a time to prepare for the week whether that means meals prep, scheduling, or just collecting your things. Her and her husband prepare their food for the week so they always have their meals ready to warm up and eat. This helps them have more time during those precious weeknights and avoid grabbing unhealthy options when they’re in a time crunch. She recommends using a Crock-Pot to make easy, big meals that you can spread out throughout the week. Oh She Glows is also her favorite vegan cookbook! Check out her favorite Caesar Salad recipe here!
If you follow any tips from this list, make it this one! Working out consistently is so crucial to living a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Worried about holding yourself accountable? Dr. Hodgson has some tips. First, lay your workout clothes out between your bed and your door so you have to walk past your perfectly ready workout clothes if you try to skip your morning workout. Also, plan your workout before. Whether it’s queuing up a video on YouTube or texting yourself a set, make it easy for your sleepy morning self. Finally, have a workout buddy. Dr. Hodgson says that 95% of the time she works out with friends and this helps keep her motivated, accountable, and makes it more enjoyable. She’s now been doing workouts via Zoom with her friends, but it still means you have to call your friend to tell them you’re skipping if you decide to sleep in!
Some of Dr. Hodgson’s favorites are Popsugar videos on YouTube, or following along with a barre or yoga video.
Try out some or all of these tips to live a healthier, balanced lifestyle and be the judge for yourself. If you think you could benefit from living a happier and mentally and physically healthier lifestyle then you should give these tips a shot. Don’t wait until next week. Now is the best time. Text a friend, pickout a workout outfit for tomorrow morning, and replace your late night Instagram scrolls with a 5 minute meditation. Little adjustments can make a huge difference. Why not today?
Thank you, Dr. Hodgson for your amazing advice and recommendations! Check out her Instagram for more healthy lifestyle advice.