Just a couple of days ago I had an interesting conversation with a physician who is so stressed out right now that she became very emotional as soon as I asked her some clarifying questions.
As a physician you have been trained to work through stress and accept stress as part of your life, you adapted so thoroughly to stress in your environment and sometime you may even be unconscious of its presence or of its consequences.
For some of you it may take some longer time off or a vacation to help you realize just how much stress you’ve been under. How many of us get sick on holiday, or need at least half the time off just to unwind from a year of strain? And then during the last few days of the holiday, worries start to creep back in along with visions of overflowing in-boxes and jammed emails, tainting our “holiday.” Or worse, the unnoticed accumulating stress finally results in a breakdown on physical, mental or emotional levels. After all, burnout is a very common consequence in the healthcare world. And so the vacation or time off gives a little bit of relief but if you don’t make any long-term changes in your way of practicing medicine or leading life, eventually you can experience a major breakdown either in the form of medical errors, being written up for inappropriate behavior, low performance, burnout or a personal crisis.
Here is an analogy that I really love and it hits home for many who experience huge amounts of stress on a daily basis. For a fish growing up in the Hudson River next to Manhattan, their perception of water would be a rather murky one. Water seems to be slimy, oily, and full of odd items floating around. Yet once you introduce that fish into a clear mountain lake somewhere in upstate New York, that same fish might at first be shocked by this “water” but would quickly adapt to its purity and clarity.
Many physicians have adapted so thoroughly to a certain level of anxiety, tension or frustration, they think that’s the only alternative; another way of functioning seems an impossible dream. But once you experience new ways of dealing with certain situations, new ways of being so that you can control the stressors rather than the stressors controlling you, you quickly discover a new level of personal balance, a new level of living, and a more satisfying way of practicing medicine. And you quickly enjoy its fruits just like the fish that was transferred from the Hudson river to the clean lake in upstate New York.
The question is – what do you prefer?
If chronic stress is dominating your life, if you are bombarded with problems and challenges not only in your practice but also your personal life, if you don’t know how much longer you will be able to keep up – you want to take a little break, assess your situation, clean up some of the stressors and problems and get yourself on a more balanced and harmonious path of practicing medicine and living life. After all, your way of being has an impact on your patient care and you deserve a good life like everyone else. Living a stress-less life is very possible with the right approach and tools.
If you want to make that transfer to a cleaner lake, you may want to take advantage of some outside support to show you the faster way because you don’t want to dry out along the way. I’m here for you if that is what you want to do and I feel confident that you will enjoy your ride too. 😉