What 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.
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.
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!
What can you do to change your situation?
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?
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:
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 whichwill 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:
I remember many years ago asking a patient if she had experienced any abnormal bleeding. ‘No, no, doctor,’ she replied. ‘ No bleeding. But I have been haemorrhaging badly.’ !!
We used to avoid saying the word ‘cancer’ to patients. Instead we talked about them having a ‘lump’ or a ‘tumour’ or a ‘growth’ anything so long as the dreaded C word wasn’t said out loud. Nowadays it seems to be the fashion to say it even with little definite evidence. An elderly lady in her 90s told me she had bowel cancer, and she was desperately upset by this. She was told by her GP before any definitive investigations had taken place.
I’ve used a word recently – the word: ‘retreat’ which I realise might have very different meaning to some people who read it. I meant it as an opportunity to be away from your usual surroundings and by doing new and creative things you could experience being able to ‘sort things out’ come to conclusions about ways to improve your life, work life balance, self- care or decisions you need to make.
I didn’t mean a shutting away in silence as in ‘religious retreat’ Instead an opportunity to have a few days connecting and discovering new ways to change the way you think about a situation you may be stuck about.
Anyway from now on I will truly make every attempt to use words without ambiguous meanings!
I wrote previously about doctors and holidays and have just read an article from Software Advice about the same subject you might find interesting. I wonder whether you think the same rules apply to those of you who have their medical practice in the UK?
What struck me is the stories of so many doctors who never take holidays at all. This can only lead to increased stress and an effect on general health and well-being.
Here is the article: (Click the heading to read the whole article )
5 Rules for Taking a Vacation as a Solo-Practice Doctor Software Advice (blog) It’s hard enough for any of us to consider taking a vacation in the current economic climate, let alone those of us responsible for the health of …
Holidays are supposed to be a relaxing and enjoyable time, even if you are a doctor. It should be a time to let go of the overwhelm of your medical practice and reconnect not only with family and friends but also with yourself.
But your experience may not be the idyllic time of fun and relaxation portrayed in the travel brochures. Your holiday may equal your expectation of what ought to happen when you take time away from work.
Instead of feeling refreshed and relaxed you come back to your patients feeling worse than they look, exhausted, frustrated and wondering what happened to your dreams of rest and relaxation.
While away you found it was almost impossible to forget about work- related worries and however much you tried to leave technology at home you found yourself checking and answering emails and discussing work issues with colleagues via email or Skype in spite of the irritation and annoyance of your family or friends.
You’ve been left wondering if it always has to be like that: whether as a doctor you can ever ‘get away from it all’, and enjoy a holiday.
But it doesn’t have to be like this! There is an alternative if you can do just three simple things:
look after yourself
Setting boundaries: decide before you go away what you will accept in relation to emails, telephone calls and dealing with emergencies: by making sure you have arranged adequate cover for your routine work, told those who need to be told what you do not want to be contacted about and who will deal with any urgent problems.
Looking after yourself: remember to address your needs in relation to: body, mind and spirit so exercise regularly, by walking swimming or whatever opportunities your holiday destination offers, eat and drink well but not excessively; and enjoy the moment whether it’s a wonderful sunset a magnificent view from the top of a mountain or across the sea or whatever inspires you in your holiday environment.
Relax: Be aware of areas of tension in your body then consciously take a deep slow breathe in and as you breathe out let go of that tension. Repeat this exercise during the day whenever you think about work or things you have to do when you return.
There are of course many other things you could do when on holiday to let go of the work stress and return refreshed and face the challenges again.
However if you make a start with these three and please put a comment below this post with your thoughts about more ways which help doctors enjoy their holidays more and leave work stress behind them for a while so that they, and you, can come back to work refreshed and ready to tackle problems.
Because there is so much competition to get into medical school there may be a culture among medical students and then amongst doctors to take life extremely seriously. Of course there is nothing wrong with this because the responsibility of working as a doctor is huge and the outcome from making a mistake could be enormous.
However with the huge pressures put on doctors there may be a tendency for them to work too hard and forget how important it is to spend some time, preferably every day, living life more lightly. Whether it’s worrying about how they dealt with the last patient, preparing for a presentation to colleagues, or trying to keep up to date with medical journal reading, life can be very serious for a doctor.
So how can you change that? How can you bring more fun and laughter into your life? It all depends what makes you laugh and what you enjoy doing. Bringing some laughter, fun and enjoyment on a regular basis is vital for your own health and well-being.