When your job is to help lead the national response to Covid-19 and its health initiatives, finding time to catch your breath is an extreme sport. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, has it covered. Here’s how the 45-year-old husband and father of two keeps his cool despite the madness:
6:00 a.m.: Sunrise and Sanctuary
Dr. Murthy wakes up and starts the day with “some form of meditation, gratitude, or prayer,” he says. Then it emails for any medical fires it needs to deal with, such as increased Covid cases or other new outbreaks.
7:00 a.m.: Be DJ Daddy
Every minute with his children is precious, and Dr. Murthy says the time spent helping his four-year-old daughter and six-year-old son get ready for school “is truly sacred. It’s time to just be with them and DJ while I drive them to school.
8:00 a.m.: Find the moments
Staff meetings, media interviews, coordination with White House and health officials, etc. “From morning to evening, we are back to back,” says Dr. Murthy. “I try to use the moments between meetings to breathe and be fair, even if it’s only for ten to 15 seconds.”
5:30 p.m.: ride and connect
On the way home, Dr. Murthy talks with friends. “One thing I realized the hard way is that if I don’t stay in close contact with my family and friends, I become unhappy and burnt out,” he says. “I used to not call people, because I thought I needed more time to catch up with them. Now I call even if I have two or five minutes. It’s better to have several short conversations than to wait weeks or months for long conversations to take place.
6:30 p.m.: dinner and disconnect
Dr. Murthy turns his phone on, then places it away from the table so he can be reached in an emergency, but the phone is not in the foreground. Dinner usually consists of vegetable dishes with lentils, rice, and kid-friendly dishes like corn and broccoli. “I don’t want to constantly give you the impression that we only eat healthy – my kids always ask for ice cream,” he says.
8:00 p.m.: Bedtime stories
After dinner, Dr. Murthy gets the kids ready for bed. “I am the designated storyteller in the family. When I was a child, I made up bedtime stories and told them to my older sister. That’s what I do now with my children. Sometimes the characters have magical powers, sometimes they’re ordinary people like us, but my kids really love them, and that’s what we do.
10:30 p.m.: Read something uplifting
After reviewing his briefing book for the next day and speaking with public health officials, Dr. Murthy ends his day by reading. “I try to read something uplifting or inspiring that has nothing to do with work. I have a bunch of writings from three of my heroes – Nelson Mandela, MLK Jr. and Gandhi – and I’ve read them. I love inspirational speeches, they are my favorite.
This story originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of Men’s health.
Taylyn Washington-Harmon is health editor at Men’s Health, with previous signings at Health Magazine, SELF and STAT.