Five Tips to Help Doctors De-Stress

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.

Dr. Carla Weis, board-certified neonatologist and member of CHOC Children’s Specialists.

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.

  1. De-clutter

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.

2.  Meditation

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 Children’s 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. 

Continue to follow the blog for more helpful tips from Dr. Weis.

Meet Dr. Alyssa Saiz

CHOC wants its referring physicians to get to know its specialists. Today, meet Dr. Alyssa Saiz, a postdoctoral fellow in pediatric psychology and neuropsychology.

Q: What is your education and training?

A: I attended Pepperdine University to complete my doctorate in clinical psychology. My clinical internship was at the University of Health Science Center San Antonio. I am currently near the completion of my two-year postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric psychology and neuropsychology.

Q: What are your special clinical interests?

A: My clinical interests are working with children and teens with depression and self-harming behaviors, as well as somatic symptom and related disorders. I am also developing my specialty in pediatric neuropsychology. I love being able to help people during the most confused and vulnerable time in their life, and hope to give them a future they can thrive in.

Q: How long have you been on staff at CHOC?

A: Three years.

Q: What are some new programs or developments within your specialty?

A: CHOC is in the process of building both an intensive outpatient program and Mental Health Inpatient Center for children and teenagers through the Mental Health Initiative. This is very exciting because the services provided by both of these programs are greatly needed in our community and will help us provide even better comprehensive and intensive mental health care.

Q: What are your most common diagnoses?

A:  Somatic symptom disorders, depression and anxiety.

Q: What would you most like community/referring providers to know about you or your division at CHOC?

A:  As a department, we are growing and evolving with the community, working on research developments and supporting CHOC’s mental health initiative – all for the happiness of the population here. We are here to serve them, and working hard with them in mind each day. For me personally, I would love for people know how much of a passion this is for me – I’m here doing this work because I truly love it, and admire the courage of my patients and coworkers.

Q: What inspires you most about the care being delivered here at CHOC?

A:  The aspiration to always give more and provide better services to the children and families we work with, as well as the commitment to training the future generations of medical and mental health professionals.

Q: Why did you decide to become a doctor?

A: I am insatiably curious and always wondering how to improve a situation. I also love to connect emotionally with people and understand their journey. So naturally, I was always drawn to psychology as an area of study and found myself looking for opportunities to work with children and teenagers who were experiencing hardship or mental health concerns.

Q: If you weren’t a physician, what would you be and why? A: I would be a florist or have a ranch for rescued animals. Both very different paths, but in the end they’re creating beauty to enhance someone else’s life and provide joy.

Q: What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?

A: I love to cook (usually anything pasta or cheese-filled) and be outside (hiking, walking my family’s dog, and being in the sun). I am also currently learning Spanish, which I am very excited about!

Q: What is the funniest thing a patient has ever told you?

A: When I told a young patient I was going to get her mom from the waiting room, she replied, “Well, she’s probably getting coffee. She can’t live without coffee!” I can relate. Kids hear and take in everything!

 

Meet Dr. Elisa Corrales

CHOC Children’s wants referring providers to get to know its specialists. Today, meet Dr. Elisa Corrales, a pediatric psychologist.

Q: What is your education and training?

A: I completed my bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Davis where I majored in psychology. I earned my master’s and doctorate degrees in clinical psychology at The University of Rochester in New York. While there, my research interests included studying factors of resilience in maltreated Latino children and identyfying patterns of neuroendocrine functioning and behaviroal outcomes in maltreated and non-maltreated populations. After graduate school, I completed both my predoctoral internship and postdoctoral fellowship at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), where I gained specialized training in parent-child interaction therapy, individual child and family therapy, and the diagnosis and treatment of children with various developmental disabilities including autism spectrum disorders. At CHLA, I also completed the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilitites (LEND) Training Program and gained vast experience working with interdisciplinary teams and pediatric populations.

Q: What are your administrative appointments?

A: Currently, I am working as a pediatric psychologist in CHOC’s co-occurring clinic, which specializes in working with children who face both a chronic medical condition and mental health concerns. I recently joined one of our primary care pediatricians in a clinic focused on ensuring the safety and well-being of children and families in Orange County who have been referred to social services often for suspected child abuse or neglect. In this clinic, I provide needed mental health consultation, psychoeducation, case management and support.

Q: What are your special clinical interests?

A:  Throughout the years, I have specialized in working with children who often present with difficult or severe behavioral issues. I also specialize in treating children who have been victims of trauma or child maltreatment.

Q: How long have you been on staff at CHOC?

A:  One year.

Q: What are some new programs or developments within your specialty?

A:  As part of CHOC’s mental health initiative, the psychology department will be starting the intensive outpatient program within the next year. This program will be dedicated to working with children who are struggling with complex issues. The aim of the program is to prevent re-hospitalization.

Q: What are your most common diagnoses? A: The majority of children I work with are often stuggling with issues of depression and/or anxiety.

Q: What inspires you most about the care being delivered here at CHOC?

A: A few years ago, my youngest child suddenly and unexpectedly became very ill and I found myself living at CHOC for approximately two weeks. It was one of the most frightening and emotionally difficult times in my life, but I was able to experience firsthand the amazing care provided by both the CHOC medical and mental health teams. Despite the fact that we were one family among many in the unit, my family was always treated with compassion and sensitivity; everyone who walked in the room was dedicated to helping my family. I am forever grateful for the support I recieved, and after that experience I decided that the CHOC team was without a doubt one that I wanted to join.

Q: What excites you most about CHOC’s mental health initiative?

A: I am excited that we will be able to help even more children in Orange County and provide specialized care to populations of children in critical need.

Q: Why did you decide to become a doctor?

A:  Before I applied to graduate school, I was working as a probation officer in the Sacramento County juvenile hall. I worked with children on daily basis who were in need of mental health treatment and not incarceration; after this experience, I was committed to working with struggling youth.

Q: If you weren’t a physician, what would you be and why?

A:  I would love to be a chef or attend culinary school.

Q: What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?

A: I love dancing —salsa and cumbia are my favorite. I also love cooking.

Q: What have you learned from your patients?

A: Never underestimate resilience in children. In the face of extreme adversity, many children can succeed and will accomplish just about anything.

Meet Dr. Esther Yang

CHOC Children’s wants its referring physicians to get to know its specialists. Today, meet Dr. Esther Yang, a pediatric psychiatrist.

Q: What is your education and training?

A: I attended UCLA for undergrad, Loma Linda University for medical school, and University of California, Irvine for both my psychiatric residency and child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship.

Q: How long have you been on staff at CHOC?

A: Two months.

Q: What are your special clinical interests?

A: I am interested in cultural psychiatry, the integration of mental health and spirituality, and implementing a holistic approach in treatment by working with therapists and other providers to integrate care. During fellowship training, I received a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to work with minority communities in building awareness about mental health.

Q: What are your most common diagnoses?

A: Depression, anxiety and ADHD. It seems to be much harder today to be a teen than it was ten years ago with social media, bullying, and increased responsibilities.

Q: What would you most like community/referring providers to know about you/your division at CHOC? 

A: In the psychiatry clinic at CHOC, virtually every patient that we see is also seen by a therapist in the same clinic, making it possible to integrate care, and all of our doctors are fellowship trained in child and adolescent psychiatry.  There are many resources and more on the horizon with the opening of the inpatient unit and the intensive outpatient program.

Q: What excites you most about CHOC’s mental health initiative? 

A: It’s an exciting time at CHOC with the upcoming opening of the inpatient mental health unit, programs such as the intensive outpatient program and new clinics – all coming at a time when there continues to be a shortage in providers and services in psychiatric care. It inspires me to work at a place that is committed to the treatment of children and advancing mental health care.

Q: What inspires you most about the care being delivered at CHOC? 

A: I love the concept of a hospital that is dedicated to the treatment of children and that every single person shares that dedication.  I’ve had personal experiences with my children being patients at CHOC prior to working here and it was a very positive experience where we felt genuinely taken care of.  I knew that if I ever had the opportunity to work here, it would be a privilege.

Q: Why did you decide to become a pediatric psychiatrist? 

A: I decided to become a pediatric psychiatrist my senior year in high school after hearing a psychiatrist talk about mental health and the great stigma that exists in the minority communities during a lecture at our church. I’ve never regretted this decision and it’s been an incredible journey. I enjoy listening to everyone’s unique stories and working to break stigmas and barriers to access to care, which continue to exist.

Q: If you weren’t a physician, what would you be and why?

A: Honestly, I would probably be a stay-at-home mom. I love spending time with my family, doing crafts with my kids and cooking. I also believe that the key to healthy kids starts in the home, and my skills as a psychiatrist are sometimes useful at home when it comes to training and discipline.

Q: What are your hobbies and interests outside of psychiatry? 

A: I enjoy reading, baking, and crafting.

Q: What was the funniest thing a patient told you?

A: I told my therapy patient that I would have to transfer his care to another doctor because I was going on maternity leave.  He replied, “Oh, I thought you were fat or something.” I was nine months pregnant.

CHOC Children’s Breaks Ground for Pediatric Mental Health

As part of the transformative mental health initiative that CHOC and other Orange County leaders launched in May 2015, CHOC celebrated the start of construction on the first inpatient mental health center in Orange County.

To commemorate the important milestone, more than 150 leaders from CHOC and the community, including elected officials and members of the mental health task force, gathered for a ceremony at CHOC in support of the initiative, which will ensure children and adolescents with mental illness get the health care services and support they need. Speakers included Kimberly Cripe, CHOC ’s president and chief executive officer, Dr. Heather Huszti, CHOC’s chief psychologist, and Rick and Kay Warren, co-founders of Saddleback Church. The event included a brief tour of the inpatient mental health center currently under construction, highlighted by Kim Cripe breaking down a mock brick wall, as a symbolic display of breaking down barriers associated with mental health.

Rendering of CHOC Children's Inpatient Mental Health Center, scheduled to open in early 2018.
Rendering of CHOC Children’s Inpatient Mental Health Center,.

Scheduled to open in early 2018, the center – located on the third floor of CHOC’s Research Building on the main campus in Orange – will provide a safe, nurturing place for children ages 3 to 18, and specialty programming for children younger than 12. The center’s innovative floor plan was designed with guidance from national experts and incorporates elements of several exemplary programs. It will feature 18 private patient rooms in a secure and healing environment including an outdoor playground area to promote exercise and movement. Additional amenities include a multipurpose room, classroom, and a variety of rooms that support activities for children of different ages and needs.

Since the announcement of CHOC’s initiative last year, CHOC has made tremendous progress including the launch of an outpatient co-occurring clinic, in conjunction with Orange County Behavioral Health Services, for patients whose physical conditions are complicated by mental health challenges; the launch of mental health screenings for all 12-year-olds at their well child visits in the primary care setting; and through a grant, CHOC’s cystic fibrosis (CF) program expanded its social worker’s availability and has a designated psychologist to help patients and caregivers. CHOC is also completing a pilot in the primary care clinics where a psychologist is present to help the medical team screen for and address mental health issues, and help families address childhood obesity.

Staff training and recruitment is currently underway.

To learn more about CHOC and how it’s changing the way pediatric mental health is treated in Orange County, please visit www.choc.org/kidsmentalhealth.