Dr. Mamta Gautam
The holidays are over, and things
should be calmer and stress free, right? Not entirely true! While
some stressors have been relieved, they have just been replaced by other
ones. Stress is a fact of life in medicine. While it can be enriching and
reward ing, it can also lead to distress. This is a great time to
remind ourselves of things we can do to manage and reduce our level of
stress. They seem deceptively simple, but are not easy to do consistently,
and require ongoing commitment and practice.
Dealing with stress -
The number one cause of stress,
regardless of the cause, is a sense of lack of control. We perceive that
in this situation, we have no choice, and feel trapped.
Thus, the number one skill in
dealing with stress is to chal lenge this perception, and to regain a
sense of control.
Our share of the role in the
stressful situation is usually very small, say 2% of the entire situation.
We think logically, and so focus on the bulk of the problem, the 98% that
is not about us. Yet, control is an illusion; we have no control of
anything outside of ourselves.
Thus, we appropriately perceive
that we have no control. We need to remember that our 2% is the part that
we have 100% control over, and identify and focus on this. This includes
our thoughts, hopes, wishes, needs, expecta tions, weaknesses,
strengths, reactions, skills, expertise, education - the responsibility of
this part becomes our strength!
positive- specific strategies
There are many things physicians
can do to focus on our 2%, and optimize this.
Take care of yourself first. As we hear in the airplane
safety demonstrations, we are no good to anyone else if we pass out.
Self care is not a luxury, but an investment that allows you to be more
available to those who rely on you. This includes regular exercise,
proper nutrition, having a family doctor, and regular medical checkups.
Time management. Organize your day and activities, set
priorities, plan ahead, and delegate. Learn to say no. Try not to take
your work home.
Take regular time off. Plan to have regular holidays,
and weekly breaks, using the Tarzan Rule, where you do not end one
without booking another one (just as Tarzan does with vines as he is
swinging). Do not wait for a crisis to force it. Look for unplanned
breaks in your day, and enjoy them as gifts of time, instead of getting
irritated and frustrated.
Use support systems. Surround yourself with people who
are good for you - a good friend, a mentor, a loving pet.
Share your stories. Reach out to people, and get support
when you need it. While it seems that everyone else is coping well, you
are not alone in our difficulties
Laugh more often and be positive. Humour has therapeutic
benefits. Children laugh over 500 times a day, but by adulthood, we are
down to 5-15 laughs daily. Look for humour in your day, laugh, and
enjoy. Add fun to work.
Relax. Try out different relaxation techniques or
meditation. Practice daily, for 15-20 minutes.
Learn to waste time. Put aside time when you do not have
to be responsible for anyone or anything. Take a break, do nothing you
have to do.
Create a financial plan. Money is the second key factor
that prevents us from making a positive change to reduce stress. Plan
your finances, so this is not a barrier.
Let go of your guilt. Guilt is the
main reason why physi cians do not do things that are good for
them. We feel highly responsible, work compulsively, and feel guilt if
we do not meet these presumed responsibilities all the time. Usually,
what we are considering doing is reasonable, legal, moral, ethical,
possible, healthy and is the very thing that we should do!
Medicine is ripe with rich and
rewarding possibilities. It is worth investing the time and thought
necessary to minimize the inherent stress and to maximize this