As a busy doctor working hard, trying to have more balance in your life, you must avoid ‘emotional blackmail.’
There are two opposing forces inside you: the part of you that wants to have a happy and balanced life and the other that doesn’t want to let colleagues down.
Here is a typical scenario: a colleague is away, perhaps through illness yet there is a clinic to finish, a ward round and emergency patients to admit. You are already overwhelmed with work yet you are asked:
‘Can you just see these extra few patients?’ ‘It won’t take long, can you speak to someone on the phone?’ ‘Please, will you check Mrs So and So, she’s not feeling too good?’
You know that it will take more than the few minutes and you sigh as you realise your other plans will have to be cancelled again. You know that a doctor you must be willing to drop everything in the case of emergency and so you will need to make a rapid assessment of each request. Have you the confidence to say an assertive ‘no’ to all except those extremely urgent and important scenarios?
Similarly, when you are asked to do extra clinic sessions and you had planned to do things at those times. You find yourself saying ‘yes I’ll be able to do that,’ because you don’t want to upset the person asking you. Instead, you could try: ‘I’m sorry I can’t help you out this time.’ Doing that may seem difficult but do you know what the likely response will be? It could be, ‘OK. That’s fine. I’ll ask someone else. It’s not a problem, don’t worry.’
It’s important to look after yourself as well as you look after your patients.
Doctors are stressed and many believe there is nothing they can do to make a difference to their lives. But it doesn’t have to be like that. When you make small changes you will experience work and life differently. Here are some suggestions to get you out of those prickly spots!
Please try them and let me know what happens!
1. Get your boundaries really clear: don’t expect others to be mind-readers. Stop getting frustrated if colleagues, nurses, or secretaries don’t seem to understand what you want them to do: maybe you’ve made assumptions and haven’t been really clear about what you are expecting from them.
2. Decide what you want. When you know what it is you want then you will be more able to tell others and no longer have to put up with unsatisfactory performance.
3. Communicate clearly. Give a positive feedback sandwich if you are not happy with the way someone is behaving. Say something complimentary then get the to point about what it is you really want, finally end on something positive about them.
4. Be responsible for yourself rather than everyone else. You can’t be responsible for others. You may be avoiding making a decision for change because you think someone will be upset. Tell them what you are going to do and when and then allow them the chance to deal with it in their own way.
5. Improve your self-care. Stop neglecting your own needs for care of your body, mind and spirit in whatever ways are good for you.
What do these 5 things mean for you for a calm and happy you? Please comment in the box below.
We are coming to the end of another year and it’s the time when you may be making decisions about what you want next year. It seems to be an opportunity to do things differently and set out on a new path.
In spite of a huge number of resolutions made at the start of the year most people fail to keep them more than a few days of a few weeks at most. Resolutions are your goals and you need to plan how you will achieve them.
I’ve made a decision myself recently: after fifteen years of coaching doctors I have decided to concentrate more on writing books and coaching programmes instead of one to one coaching.
What do you want to change or do differently next year?
You can make resolutions at any time. However there is the influence of others at New Year when your friends and family are asking you what you plan to do during the year ahead and so you may respond to the peer pressure to state your resolutions at this time too.
Trouble with New Year Resolutions is that they often don’t get kept for very long.
Before I stop one to one coaching I am offering just 6 people the chance to make the changes you want. CLICK HERE to find out more.
It’s always worth making resolutions even if you fail to keep to them. This is because doing so enables you to consider what you want different in your life and to at least start the process of change.You may not get to where you want but you will have at least acknowledged that you want to change something and once that thought has begun in you then eventually you will be able to make the change you want to make.
Let me help YOU make and MAINTAIN the change you want.
Create boundaries and do your very best to keep to them. However hard you try you can’t be perfect you can only be as good as you can be. That means learning when to stop and when to say ‘no’ if you are being asked to do something which you know either isn’t your job or you really don’t have the time or the skills to do it.
Decide how long you will spend worrying about a particular patient and when you reach your limit seek advice from colleagues. You learn by watching others and talking about what you find difficult. So stop worrying, identify the person who knows how to deal with the situation and ask for help and advice from them.
You don’t have to deal with every problem entirely alone. Talk to someone else about the parts of the job you find difficult and if necessary put aside time to learn the extra skills you need. This is better than struggling on for ages not really having much idea about what you are doing.
It’s OK to say ‘I don’t know what to do’ or ‘ I can’t deal with this situation, I need to talk to someone else about it.’ This is how you will learn what to do next time and it is the time-honoured way you can learn what to do.
Decide what can and can’t be achieved in the time available and set realistic goals. Plan to go home at the end of the day. The routine work will be there for you to continue next day. Learn to differentiate between the urgent and important, and urgent but not important (and who else could deal with those things) from that which is neither urgent nor important.
Place importance on your out of work life so that you don’t neglect it. There is a life outside of Medicine, even though your work takes a huge amount of time and energy, plan social events and don’t neglect your partner, friends and family. Be aware that life is more than Medicine and make sure you set aside some time each week to connect with friends and family and take part in activities completely unrelated to your work.
When you discover more balance between work and the rest of life you will feel better, have more energy, enjoy life more and get things into proportion.
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.
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.
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!
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:
Would you like to find out how to relax more often and as a result be a more effective doctor?
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.
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!