All posts by Susan Kersley

Time out for doctors

IMG_2212What was most important to the doctors who participated in Connect and Change in Cornwall last weekend was that the group were all doctors.  It was vital to understand  each other’s points of view and life experiences. Although we were all at different stages of our journey from Medicine to a life either after Medicine, or a life in Medicine, but without the burn-out, we all wanted to be able to live in the way we wanted to live, and there was a definite  commonality, understanding and connection between us, that non-medics might not have appreciated.

There was a strong sense of gratitude for the chance to take time out away from home and work, yet a strong reluctance to advertise what they were doing this weekend  to their colleagues.

Everyone needs time to be listened to, have the chance to  bounce ideas onto someone who understands but doesn’t tell them what to do, and also time to process new ideas and consider alternatives when life has become overwhelming.

We had already stretched our bodies with yoga before indulging in a delicious breakfast:   before a day to Nurture the Nurturer.

On Friday it was a glorious day and we walked and thought and connected with the fresh sea air and the rocks and the beauty of a Cornish beach. We found lovely pebbles and later decorated these with sparkles. We made a treasure map which showed what we really wanted in life.

Later we played with percussion instruments and made  harmonies and had fun creating amazing sounds.

We foraged for wild foods and prepared and then ate a slow cooked meal. It was a chance for a small group of medics to connect with each other and with me and together we planned what to do next for journeys of change.

 When you feel overwhelmed by patients and work load, take a little time each day to connect with your breath for a few moments. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Experience how empowering it is to be mindful, to be in the moment.  A few minutes  letting worries about the past or the future  drift by and connecting with your breath is a powerful technique we experienced in the session on mindfulness. It’s a technique that every doctor could use when feeling stressed and overwhelmed by huge work load.

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Time for something different?

Doctor, running around ragged?

I remember what that feeling of overwhelm was like when there wasn’t time to finish one task before more and more were demanded: from ‘Doctor, this won’t take a minute, can you just take a look at so and so’ to ‘You haven’t dictated all the letters yet,’ or ‘I put a couple of extras onto your clinic list for today, I knew you wouldn’t mind.’

How do you describe that feeling of ‘running round ragged’?  Please click ‘leave a comment’ at the top of this post and tell me.

Doctor, do you procrastinate……?

…….and then miss your chance to do something you really want to do!! We all have our differing ways to make decisions about something especially if it involves stepping out of your comfort zone. What do you do? Wait to hear what your colleagues say, or your partner? or your friends? or go by your gut reaction and take a leap of faith to jump into the unknown?  Do put your comments in the box below!!

 If you’ve been procrastinating about coming to Cornwall in April for Connect and Change -there are very few places left so contact me to find out if one of them is for you!!

Doctor, Is Medicine eating you up?

Don’t delay your life until  you reach a certain  point in your career: to remain a whole person make sure you look after yourself body, mind and spirit. When you do that you will be a whole person who also can cope much better with the stress of working as a doctor.

New Year Resolutions: what I’ve learned!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

It’s the start of another  New Year  and everyone, including me, is  making New Year resolutions.

But is it worth doing this? Will making resolutions lead to disappointment when I fail to keep to them for more than a few days? Or will I feel elated and happy that I’ve managed to change some habits which need to be changed?

What I’ve learned over many years of making resolutions at this time of the year is as follows:

  • It’s useful to make resolutions even if I don’t stick to them.
  • Resolutions indicate that I am aware that something in my life is making me unhappy, frustrated or angry and I  realise the need for change. When I make a resolution what I’m saying to myself is that I recognise the problem and  know things could be different. I may not have actually worked out how they could be different but at least I’ve taken a step forward, by being more aware.
  • I need to be more specific in the resolutions I make.
  • A resolution is just that: a statement that I’ve resolved to make a change in my life, hopefully for the better. I know I want something different and I’m stating this by making a resolution.
  • But a resolution is just that: a statement of intent – it doesn’t necessarily identify the steps I will need to take to achieve what I want. It doesn’t specify how long it will take me to achieve, so possibly leading to me giving up after a few days when I haven’t achieved something which might take months rather than days to happen.
  • Nor does it say how I can identify exactly what success at getting  that resolution completed will actually mean in practical terms.
  • If I say I want to get fitter, for example, how exactly do I  plan to do this? What does the term ‘fitter’ actually mean to me? If I want to lose weight, how much weight will it take to satisfy myself that I’ve achieved what I resolved?

What I’ve learned is that it’s a great exercise to make resolutions so long as I am very clear what I want and how I’ll get to it and be able to congratulate myself for any changes I make however small and however short lived.  Some changes need to be attempted many times before they become permanent , so it’s important that I don’t give up yet!

 
Happy New Year

What are you resolving to do to improve your work life balance so that you can be a doctor and have a life? Please put your comments in the box below!

PS Booking for Connect and Change must close at end of January 2014 or sooner when last 3 places filled. Don’t miss this opportunity!!

 

5 Ways for a doctor to easily improve work-life balance

 Perfect Work Life Balance

Perfect Work Life Balance

1. Decide what changes you want to make

If you know that the balance in your life is not ideal and it falls far too much on the side of work, it’s time to make appropriate adjustments in the way you live your life. The vital first step is to decide precisely what you want to change and then how you will go about making that change. Too often people are very clear about what they no longer want to happen but haven’t yet clarified what they want instead.

2. Do things you haven’t considered doing before

Because you have got stuck into a rut  in relation to the way you spend your days it’s important to brainstorm all sorts of new ideas, including whatever comes into your head, especially noting possibilities which you might not have considered before. At this stage don’t think too deeply about the practicalities. Those come later.

3. Keep on track with your projects 

Of course however lacking in balance your life seems to be it is nevertheless important to get certain things done each day. So devise a way to keep on track with those essential jobs and ongoing projects while also being willing and ready to let go of those not so important or necessary.

4. Only promise what you can actually do

It’s very important to become much more aware of how often you agree to do things when you have neither the time or the energy to complete. This means setting new personal boundaries. Instead of saying yes to all and sundry begin to consider your own needs for rest and relaxation and time  and start to say no when you are unable or unwilling to oblige and do what has been asked of you.

5. Energise yourself

This means re-charging your personal batteries in whatever way works best for you. It may mean for example taking time out for meditation or relaxation or doing some strenuous exercise such as running or brisk walking.  Exercise such as yoga combines physical movements with relaxation and concentrating on the postures enables your mind to be re-energised too. Whatever you decide to do make sure it is combined with eating healthy foods most of the time, plenty of sleep and time spent away from work, time with friends family and partner is a great way to build your energy and not forgetting time for you to indulge in your hobbies and interests.

Making big changes in life can be very stressful, so it’s important not to neglect yourself during the transition. If you begin to feel overwhelmed by all the things you have to do when circumstances are new, you may not feel as confident as usual.  It’s important to remember to find some time just for yourself. Don’t only say yes to change, remember to say yes to time for rest and relaxation too. This might be making sure you have some fresh air during the day and eating lunch. It also means saying yes to leaving your work place to go home at a reasonable time, finding time to look after your body, mind and spirit. Movement can address all of these. This doesn’t have to be strenuous like going to a gym or running but could be yoga, tai chi or dance to  relax you after a hectic  day.

What can you do to  keep your body in good working order and improve  your general well being?



 

What do you do to improve your work life balance? Let me know  below!

Taking time out is a way to be less stressed.

If you are an overworked and stressed  doctor who wonders if there is anything you could do to be happier, more relaxed  and have enough time to do things for yourself,  instead of allowing the monster that is Medicine, eat you up, then here are some suggestions for you.

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You can’t go on like this, because if you do then something has to give and that something will be your personal health and well-being so that you are unable to function as a doctor efficiently and effectively any more.  This will impact on your ability as a doctor and the way you feel about your patients and your medical work and eventually can lead to burn out and having to leave the profession on health grounds.

Not only your medical work, but your life in general already can be affected when you are on the go all the time. This results in you finding  it difficult to make decisions or decide what is best for your life now. Your relationships suffer and your self-care is decreased and you will feel frustrated and ineffectual. You may long to take some ‘time out’ but don’t know how or what to do!

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What can you do to change your situation?

You could:

  • Leave the Medical profession completely, which might solve the problem  yet feel anxious about what to do instead
  • Consider retirement yet wonder if you will be bored without the routine of work
  • Continue as a doctor and try to improve your work-life balance but don’t know how to
  • Free up more time for you – but don’t believe it is possible
  • Carry on as you are until you cannot cope any more and become completely burnt out

 What could happen if you don’t care for yourself more?

You will:

  • Become more stressed and unhappy;
  • Get fully burnt out;
  • Be unable to enjoy Medicine any more;
  • Become confused about what to do next…….

You long for some space and time  to:

  • decide what to do for you
  • discover for yourself that it is possible to be a doctor and live your life in whatever way you want…..

Life doesn’t have to be like that for you….

You can be:

  • more relaxed
  • refreshed
  • find answers to your dilemmas
  • decide on steps to move forward…..

But HOW can you achieve this? You must:

  • nurture yourself because when you look after yourself you can better look after your patients
  • relax, reflect so that you can make decisions calmly and in an informed way
  • make new connections  with  parts of yourself which have been neglected for a while so that you become a whole person again, by exercising, stretching, being creative
  • connect with nature so that you find something beyond your day to day work
  • find a new way forward, which you hadn’t discovered before so that you are more confident about changes you decide to make

There is also a once only opportunity to discover new ways to connect and change in beautiful West Cornwall, UK, so you can be refreshed, relaxed and make decisions about what to do next.

You will experience being able to Connect and Change with:

  • Your body which will become energised, exercised and stretched with walking, yoga, relaxation….
  • Your mind, to be able to think more  clearly as you have time to consider  what to do next in your life as you spend time in nature, by the sea, learn about and experience mindfulness… and have the chance to use me and others as a sounding board to discover your own solutions.
  • Your emotions which will become calmer as you put things into proportion while watching the ocean in an area of outstanding natural beauty and have the opportunity for personal reflection and discussion with other medics  and experience coaching as a sounding board for your thoughts and ideas.
  • Your creativity which will be awakened as you have permission to have fun and discover new ways to express yourself through art and music, and discover something new about yourself.
  • Your enjoyment which will be increased….as you enjoy  bird watching, swimming, ….conversations….laughing….staying in a beautiful place  just minutes from the sea, so you can relax and refresh your mind, body and spirit; and experience  a day foraging (with an expert) for wild food then cooking and feasting on it!

When you connect with new experiences you will be able to make the changes you want and discover which direction  to take next, within or out of the Medical profession, in order to live the life you truly want.

To take some time out just for you and discover what to do, for yourself, when you connect with parts of yourself you may have neglected…. find out more here:

http://www.susankersley.co.uk/connectandchange

With Connect and Change you can too take time out and be able to make the changes you want to make in or out of Medicine.

I’m Susan Kersley and I’m inviting you to spend time with me, my colleagues and a small group of doctors, in Cornwall, UK  3 – 7 April 2014

I was a doctor for more than 30 years before discovering for myself that there is a life after Medicine and enabling doctors to realise  this too.

Any questions:

Connecting with nature

Cornwall is an area of outstanding natural beauty!

 

 

 

 

How to be a More Effective Doctor

Would you like to find out how to relax more often and as a result be a more effective  doctor?

Who heals the healers?

Who heals the healers?

Some days the work seems overwhelming. As soon as you finish with one thing there is another patient to see, another phone call to answer and another crisis to deal with. There seems to be no time for anything, no time to stop for a meal, almost no time to breathe. Even though you are convinced there is no time to do anything else there are some things you can do:

 

 

Become more aware of your breathing. Pause and breathe. However rushed you are, however stressed you feel, however much pressure others are putting on you, take a few seconds and pause and breathe consciously, slowly in and out, count to 5 slowly as you breathe in and as you breathe out to focus on your breathing. How long will that take? ten or twenty seconds at most. And the benefit? You will feel calmer and more able to carry on.

Notice your environment At the same time as connecting with your breathing or at other times just take a few seconds to look up and out of a window and become aware there is a world outside of the hospital. Notice the sky and be conscious of a world beyond where you are.  If you are in a room with no windows then look at some flowers or as a last resort just close your eyes for a moment and think about a place you love to be in the countryside or beside the sea. Just a few moments then open your eyes and carry on with renewed energy.

Nourish yourself When you are busy and rushing about it is too easy to skip meals or grab a sugary snack and eat it while you answer emails or search for a patient’s notes. If you take time to get something  more healthy to fill the gap, or take it with you each day and take  some time away from the ward, away from the patients while you eat and enjoy it, you will return with renewed energy and be able to cope much more effectively with whatever the rest of the day brings.

Follow these three tips every day and monitor how you feel you will notice a steady improvement in your concentration, your energy and your well-being and as a result you will be a more effective doctor too.

PS Very few places left for Connect and Change – Retreat for Doctors in Cornwall April 2014  Don’t leave booking until all the very limited places are gone.

Self Care is Vital for Doctors

Deb Boulanger who is a life coach shared  tips on how we can operate at peak performance. She says ”Until I learned how to take care of myself, I wasn’t able to serve those around me very well (and neither will you).”

This is such a vital message that many doctors need to hear and understand but instead shut their ears to how vital it is to care for yourself. Just as in the aeroplane the instructions in case of emergency  are to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs, so it is with being a doctor: to give the best of yourself you must first look after your own health and well being.

Sadly too many doctors day they don’t have the time to do this – and as a result become more stressed and become less able to cope until one day they find they can’t cope at all and have to take time off because of ill health be it mental or physical or both.

You don’t have to be perfect but you do need to be the best you can be: and that happens when you take the time to look after all parts of yourself: body mind and spirit. You can define these words in whatever way you want, in whatever way is meaningful for you and also decide how you will care more for yourself.

It can mean anything from taking a few moments between patients to take a few deep and relaxing breaths, to exercising, be that at the gym, running, dancing or yoga to reading novels, to spending quality time with friends and family.

You can get a boost by coming to an event next April 2014 in Cornwall, UK. Find out more  www.susankersley.co.uk/connectandchange but don’t delay places filling up and when they are gone, they’re gone!

Give Yourself a  Gift!

Give Yourself a Gift! Start looking after yourself more…..

Compassion fatigue in doctors?

Who heals the healers?

Who heals the healers?

I have a colleague who is writing a self-help book on burnout. She would be very interested in talking to any doctors or nurses who have experienced burnout or traumatic stress. If you, or anyone you know would be happy to share your experience, please email Sarah Kuipers on skuipers1@gmail.com and she will contact you to arrange a mutually convenient time to call you.

 

 

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‘The patient’s treatment begins with the doctor, so to speak. Only if the doctor knows how to cope with himself and his own problems will he be able to teach the patient to do the same.’  (C. G. Jung in Memories Dreams and Reflections)

Who do you turn to when you begin to wonder how you’ll get through the next few years? Do you believe  seeking help and support will be seen as a sign of weakness? Do you make it impossible or very difficult for people to connect with you? Can you make connections? Do you feel  vulnerable? Are you  frightened about seeking assistance for yourself? Do you believe you have to cope on your own? Do you have to know all the answers? Do you hate to admit  that you don’t know? Do  you consider that others will think less of you if you admit ignorance?

Do you put obstacles  between you and other people? Do you put up barriers to communication? Is it easy to enable a patient to tell you their most intimate thoughts and feelings but difficult for you to do the same to your Do you dread the phone ringing because you don’t want to speak to a patient? Are you going to wait until you are at crisis point? Who can support you now? Who can be there for you and accept who you are?

Is now is the moment to  make changes to improve the quality of your life so that  you can have time for family as well as patients, more time for your friends as well as your colleagues. You could have more time to  enjoy being away from work doing things you  haven’t done for years, such as going for a walk, a cycle ride, reading a book, painting, writing,  any other  almost forgotten hobby, whatever you’ve been saying to yourself ‘One day I’ll have time for such and such’ Now is the time to get more balance between your  medical work and the rest of your life, the part of you that may have been submerged for years.

Don’t wait until you’re ‘burnt out’. Re-discover who you are. Start to make small changes right now. Be clear about what you have to do against what you ‘should ‘do. Do what  you love to do. Teach others your skills so that you can   delegate more to them to do some or all of the boring things you are doing now.

Do you think that you are indispensable and no-one else can do what you do? Suppose you are unable to do your work for some reason or another, what then? Someone else will take over. They may not do it the same way you do. They may not even do it as efficiently as you did. But they will do it their way and hopefully it will get done.

It’s OK to  be ‘selfish.’ The word ‘selfish’ may have bad connotations. Start to look after yourself, physically and emotionally. Think about it meaning ‘self-care’ If you take more care of yourself and your own needs you will cope  more effortlessly with the needs of your patients. Don’t wait until you have to find solace in drink or drugs. Don’t wait until you reach crisis point. Start now. Find someone who will encourage and support you unconditionally. Someone who won’t have any expectations of you but will encourage you to achieve whatever you want.

Who can you talk to about your frustrations and difficulties of overwork as a doctor in an environment of being undervalued and endless demands? Do you have a mentor who understands?

When you experience the power of support and encouragement rather than demands and intimidation you will be able to coach your patients to do whatever they need to do, rather than reaching for the prescription pad again to write up yet more tablets destined to be put in the back of the bathroom cabinet with the others. When someone listens to your concerns and acknowledges them as legitimate, you will become a better listener to your patients and hear more of their underlying issues and so be able to give them the help they need. You will be able to convey to them that they can make a difference to their own lives when they take responsibility for it.

Every small change you as an individual make will eventually help to change the system. Take courage, start to care for yourself , much more. What will you do differently today?

“We deceive ourselves when we fancy that only weakness needs support. Strength needs it far more.”
-Madame Swetchine,

PS if you want to care for yourself  treat yourself to a few days away in April 2014 at Connect and Change (but hurry only limited places remain!)