By Dr. Carla Weis
As physicians, we put the health and well-being of others before our own.
The passion to help others is what inspired us to pursue the journey into modern medicine. Noble work? Absolutely. Work that justifies destroying our own physical health and perhaps soul? No.
How can we truly serve others, if we don’t take care of ourselves? Put your own oxygen mask on first, right? For most healthcare professionals, this is easier said than done. But I ask you, how can we be fully present for our patients’ healing and provide them with the best possible outcomes, if we ignore our own spirit and soul?
The answer is quite simple: “Physician, health thyself.” How? First, examine yourself and how you live. It’s hard to take this first step, however, when we feel so much stress. In fact, we often accept stress as a way of life. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few tips to find relief from stress.
De-cluttering is often touted as an important step in de-stressing, and in fact, it is a huge part of facilitating a greater sense of inner peace. Make a commitment to yourself that over the course of several months you will get rid of all that stuff in your home that doesn’t add joy to your life. Consider renting a large bin or dumpster, have it delivered to your driveway or the front of your house, and just start tossing stuff. You’ll be amazed at how fast it fills up and how much of a difference there is in your sense of calmness and inner peace. A good rule of thumb is to keep only what you need or love. We keep so many things that are simply carrying an emotional attachment for us, but are unnecessary and drag us down on many levels.
I highly recommend reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
Meditation is one of those things we know would be good to do, and maybe even recommend it to our patients, but it will always hold the lowest position on our list of priorities. Why is that? Well, we just don’t have the time, of course. That’s the funny thing about meditating. It takes time and that’s exactly what we don’t have enough of!
Years ago, I joined a gym and took advantage of the free consultation with a personal trainer. She asked me what my fitness goals were. I thought about how uncomfortable it was to do cardio and I wanted to be more comfortable with cardio. I said, “I’d like to be more fit on a cardiovascular level.” She said, “Ok, add 20 minutes of cardio training to every workout.”
I was silently aghast. I didn’t say I wanted to do more cardio. I just wanted to be better at it. And so, I learned a very poignant lesson. The only way to become better or more comfortable at doing something is to do more of it. If you would like to have more inner peace in your life, more quiet time, guess what? You must bring more inner peace and quiet time into your life.
Start with just five or 10 minutes a day. Find a time that works best for you. For me, it’s first thing in the morning before I’m even really awake. For others, it’s at night before sleep. And for some, it’s both. You choose. Just set the timer on your phone and sit quietly with your eyes closed, focusing on your breath and relaxing your body with each breath. Bring your attention to your body inwardly. It’s useful to simply practice the art of noticing any distracting thoughts as they come in and then bringing your attention back to your breath and the present. You may find that this is the best part of your day!
3. Love yourself more
We take care of others, but how good are we at taking care of ourselves? Pay attention to the inner dialogue within your mind as you go about your day. Do you talk nicely to yourself? Often, we speak quite harshly to ourselves and aren’t even aware of it. Take moments during the day to be aware of your inner dialogue and then redirect the way you speak to yourself in your mind. Re-train yourself to talk lovingly to and supportive of yourself. Realize that the most important person to give and show your love to, is yourself. From there, you will have so much more love to share with others. “Physician, heal thyself!”
4. Invest in a stress -reduction program
Invest in a stress reduction program. I highly recommend receiving a stress-reducing modality called a Life Activation, where you will receive a greater connection to your spirit within.
5. Bring spirituality into your life
What does this really mean? Are we talking about God? Religion? A higher power? Don’t we often think of spirituality as something for mystics and philosophy buffs to ponder?
Spirituality gets lumped into those areas of our lives that we’d love to pay more attention to at some point — when we have more time. When is that? No doubt, life is busy. But the truth about spirituality is that it’s part of who we are. It’s not about worshipping a God in the sky or giving our power away to any religious figure. Maybe it’s something we’ve allocated only to one day a week. And, of course, as physicians, we often work on that day, so we get a pass from spirituality, right?
I suggest starting to explore what spirituality means to you. There’s no right answer and in fact, the answers are infinite! Because we are infinite!
Dr. Carla Weis is a board-certified neonatologist and member of CHOC Specialists. She practices primarily in the neonatal intensive care unit at Hoag Hospital Newport Beach. She received her medical degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, and completed her fellowship in neonatal-perinatal medicine at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Her metaphysical/spiritual training has been with the Modern Mystery School, International. Her primary focus is supporting healthcare workers to find balance in their lives, and guiding others to explore life concepts including and beyond the physical.