Kindlelife

Insight, Inspiration, Motivation

Catch ’em Early!


On my radio show, Stress Busters’ Corner, on the Health and Wellness Channel of Voice America, (http://www.voiceamerica.com/show/2423/stress-busters-corner), I was discussing with my guest, Wayne Markell, who is a Platoon Commander for the Emergency Medical Service (EMS), the issue of Stress and Burnout amongst the paramedics.

Wayne talked about how he encourages his staff to “raise their hands” and be vocal about how they feel, and when they feel distress. He talked about how the staff are encouraged to seek help, for the sake of their own mental health.

As a coach, who believes in (mental) Health Promotion, I think that is precious little, and unfortunately, that is how it is with most healthcare professions. We are expected to seek help, if and when we need it.

If a person is not seeking help, the automatic assumption is that they are coping just fine. Indeed, many of us would say just that, if asked directly, how we are doing! Therein lies the peril!

I strongly believe that all healthcare professionals should be aware of their own vulnerability, and be willing to reflect on their lives, and be able to recognize signs of impending burnout, and seek help long before it happens.

I would actually go one step further, and say that we should target people who are seemingly doing just fine, and help them become aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, their own stress triggers, and help them develop more tools to deal with stress. That way, we catch them before the stress becomes a problem in their lives, and the negative consequences are kept to a minimum – just as I like to say, that the best time to stop somebody from hurting themselves by smoking, is even before they light that first cigarette!

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March 18, 2015 Posted by | Personal Journey, Psychology, Refocus and Thrive, Self Improvement, Stress and Resilience | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Work – Life Balance” – The Very Term Seems Flawed!


I was at the biannual CUSEC (Canadian Undergraduate Surgical Education Committee) meeting in Ottawa last week, where burnout was a recurring theme in many of the presentations and discussions. Dr. Judith Brown, from the University of Western Ontario, gave a presentation titled ‘Seeking balance: The Complexity of Choice-Making Among Academic Surgeons.’

A very poignant question that arose from the discussions, (thanks to Dr. Geoffrey Blair, University of British Columbia), was the idea of ‘work – life balance.’ Geoff (rightly) questioned the term, because it seemed to imply a separation of “work” from “life”! While seeking a balance between one’s personal and professional life is what people really mean to convey, we have, for long, loosely used the term, ‘work-life balance.’ For a person (like most physicians), who enjoys his profession, this instantly produces a subtle discordance,and its pursuit, even a sense of guilt! Isn’t work supposed to be a part of our lives, and a very important part at that? Isn’t work supposed to bring us great satisfaction? Isn’t it supposed to make us better people, through the challenges we face and overcome, through the miracles we see, through the joys and the pain that we see and share, through everything we learn and teach?

When inserted into this particular term, however, the word, ‘work’ has such a negative connotation! The part of this work that we really need to balance out is the repeated stress and the exhaustion, from which everybody should get adequate time to recover, if we should prevent Burnout. The important thing is to make sure that other aspects of life are nurtured just as well. Make sure that we do not sacrifice everything else for this work, especially those things that make us happy.

Let me know what your thoughts are, as you ponder over these terms and what meaning they hold for you.

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Personal Journey, Psychology, Self Improvement | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Burnout – FAQs


In my last post, I answered one important question that physicians often ask, when the question of looking after themselves is brought up.

Another question that was asked of me recently, was this: “OK, so, I recognize that I am burnt out, but it is such work (sic) to get help! When I think of seeing a coach/counsellor, I worry that they are going to give me ‘homework’ and that is added burden to my already burnt-out life! So, I prefer to just go on, hoping that things will get better. Isn’t it better to do that, than to jump into something (coaching) and then halfway across, find that I am treading on thin ice, and then be unable to turn back?”

Quite a poignant point, don’t you think? Well, there are many points raised in this question, which I shall try and address.

The first point is that it is, of course, important to recognize burnout – but what is more important is to figure out, what is it costing you to stay in status quo??? If you are already aware of your situation, then either you are very self-aware, or something is already going wrong, in your life/career. Chances are, based on the question, that the latter is more likely. What is the price you pay, for not fixing the problem? Is it discontent at work, disrupted relationships – with colleagues/family members/friends, lack of time for self, illness-physical or psychological, or is it lack of recreation time, or a lack of well-being? How badly does this affect you, make you unhappy? How badly do you want to change this situation? Once you figure out the value of change, and if that value is big enough, then you will have the motivation to change.

The idea of “hoping that things might get better” is really hoping against hope, if you do nothing about it. You cannot sit on the sidelines of your life, and ‘hope’ for things to get better. It just doesn’t seem to happen, at least, not with any reportable frequency!

As far as coaches giving you ‘homework’, I think the term itself conjures up a very negative emotion! While most coaching sessions end with the client making a commitment to an action towards their stated goal, it is entirely upto the client to decide how they want to get to the goal, and what the reasonable action is, to get there. For example, if a person decides that they want to have a positive attitude at work, a simple step towards this goal would be to become aware of one’s thoughts/speech, at least a few times during the day, and if it is negative, replace it with a positive thought. Writing things down would make this exercise more effective.

This does involve some work, indeed, but if the motivation is to change one’s thought pattern, and if you want it badly enough, then you cannot help noticing your thoughts, and you would not consider this as unpleasant ‘homework’. The only way to change your life is to change something that you are doing – to that extent, there is homework to do. There are habits to change, and this can only happen with conscious action, done repeatedly.

The idea of turning back is interesting. The whole point of starting a new program is to make a significant change for the better in life. People only do this when they feel unhappy enough with their current lives. Any change, however, is a step towards the unknown. It is a step outside your comfort zone. And a person would only do that when their current situation is uncomfortable or unsatisfying. To expect things to e easy is rather naïve. When considering the idea of turning back, the question is – towards what? The same situation you were turning away from in the first place? What good would that do? Most worthwhile successes in this world have happened when people have stuck it out just past the point where they wanted to turn back! So, one can only start knowing fully well that any change is going to cause some discomfort, but it will be worthwhile in the end.

Please send me any questions/suggestions you have, that I can address in future posts.

 

 

May 28, 2013 Posted by | Personal Journey, Psychology, Self Improvement | , , , , | Leave a comment

Dreams and Dreaming


Just completed a one day workshop with Marcia Weider, America’s ‘Dream Coach’. What a great experience that was! Thought I would share some of the insights I had, from what Marcia said, at the workshop.

First of all, the idea that dreaming is bad – Marcia has spent 30 years teaching people to dream, and to do it well. It is not the dreaming that is bad.

Dreaming without strategy makes it just a fantasy . In other words, it is not enough to dream, not matter how big your dream is, but it is very important to take action – one step, however small- towards it, to make it work. This will open up the resources and the opportunities, that will help you realize your dream.

Most of us spend our lives with one foot firmly planted in ‘Reality’ and the other one in ‘Doubt’. We need to make the shift, and slide our feet so that one foot is now in our ‘Dream’ and the other one is in ‘Reality’, our present state, from which we can take our first action.

This does not mean that Doubt is a bad thing at all. The doubter within is actually the protective instinct, trying to warn us of what could go wrong. It does not help to suppress or ignore this voice, because it will not go away, if we do this. It will get louder if ignored, and if suppressed, it will get soft, and sabotage silently. The only way to deal with doubt is to face it, acknowledge it, and strategise for all the potential problems that it raises.

Some ‘doubts’ are mere beliefs, which are clearly not true (for example, the belief that many people hold, that “I am not worthy”). Then, there are doubts that require strategy to overcome. For example, the idea that there is not enough time. If a person decides to make one hour each day by cutting down on an unnecessary,time-wasting  activity  will get 7 hours a week and 365 hours a year!

Marcia also spoke about Integrity – ie, living your life on purpose. If we do not live our lives doing what is meaningful to us, utilizing our unique gifts, and being of service with those gifts, then we are not living a life of integrity.

When we live a life of integrity and believe in ourselves, dreaming will come easily to us. Dreaming means believing in something, simply because it matters to you.

So, what is your dream? What are the doubts that threaten you? what is the one step you can take, to commit to making your dream a reality?

 

August 26, 2012 Posted by | Personal Journey, Psychology, Self Improvement | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Physicians Burnout – and Why They Don’t Seek Help


In my last blog post, I wrote about the problem of surgeon burnout. Although the particular paper cited was about surgeons, burnout is not a problem of surgeons alone. It is common amongt all physicians, and even among medical students and residents these days. It is becoming more prevalent, as the stresses in life all around us seem to be getting worse.  I have been pondering on the reasons for this, and have come up with the following:

Physicians are High Achievers – Most of them have been high achievers from their school days, and have been consistently working hard, putting in long days and nights, through their medical school and residency, and even afterwards, in most cases.

Delayed Gratification that wasn’t! Many of them chose to “work while their companions played” (a little poetic justice used there), thinking that if they worked hard now, they could have the good life later (trust me, I know. My father promised me that if I worked really hard in the last 2 years before college, and got into med school, I would never have to work so hard again)! They often come out of their residency with huge student loans, that they find themselves working even harder to pay off. If they have a family, or other responsibilities, then it is one thing after another, and before they know it, they hit the middle ages, and feel cheated.

The Ever Changing Health Care System– It is becoming more and more difficult to practise medicine with the diminishing resources, and increasing expectations, that there is a great deal of frustration on a day-to-day basis.

High Expectations – Physicians are seen as knowledgable, and ‘life savers’ by their families and their patients, and when they do not get good results, they often find it difficult to accept. While they enjoy their successes, many take the treatment failures quite badly. They also want to be really good at what they do, and so are their own worst critics.

Sources of Strength – Physicians are the sources of strength for their patients and families, at their most vulnerable times, ie, when they are sick, or have a sick relative. Because they carry out this function really well, most of the time, they are somehow seen as strong people, and so, they try to live up to that image subconsciously, even in the face of their own stress.

Why do they not seek help?

Unfortunately, physicians are their own enemies, in that they are the last to acknowledge their own problems, and even when they do recognise it, are unwilling to seek help. This may be because of two main factors.

Fear of appearing weak – Physicians may not want to seek help because they are afraid to be seen as weak in any way, considering they are the sources of strength at home and in the community.

Lack of Support – There really isn’t much support to the physician at risk of burnout, or who is going through excessive stress. There are physician hotlines for when they have reached a pathological level that they are unable to function, and have either broken down completely, or worse, are considering suicide!

What we really need is coaching to help guide them through troubled waters, and PREVENT suicidal ideation, rather than treatment for it.

Tell me, what do you think might be some other factors in physician burn out, and what you have found helpful in your own experience, to overcome it.

March 10, 2012 Posted by | Personal Journey, Psychology, Self Improvement | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

   

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