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. Jonathan Auth

CHOC Children’s wants its medical staff and patients to get to know its growing team of physicians, including primary and specialty care providers. Today, meet one of our pediatricians Dr. Jonathan Auth.   After graduating from USC Keck School of Medicine, he completed his residency at UCLA, for which he served as chief resident.  He’s been on the CHOC medical staff for seven years.

Dr. Jonathan Auth, CHOC Children’s pediatrician

Q: What are your clinical interests?

A: I am especially interested in newborn care.

Q: What are your most common diagnoses?

A: I see a lot of patients with fevers, viral upper respiratory infections, conjunctivitis, gastroenteritis, asthma, allergy, rhinitis, rashes and eczema. I also provide well child care.

Q: When did you decide to become a pediatrician?

A: Growing up in a large family with seven brothers and sisters, I always enjoyed being around children. As a young child, I enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together.  Combining my love for fixing things and my personality as a people person, it became clear to me in high school that I was called into a life of medicine.

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

A: A teacher. So much of what I do every day is teaching and explaining how the body works.  I love having the answer and being able to see the look of understanding develop on another person’s face as he or she comprehends a concept for the first time.

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

A: I enjoy gardening, woodworking, food, wine and the cinema.

Q: What’s the funniest thing a patient said to you?

A: Children really do view the world differently. Referencing my patients’ charts during office visits, I will frequently acknowledge recent birthdays.  Patients are often in awe, wondering how I knew it was their birthdays.

Dr. Auth and his colleagues at Sea View Pediatrics, are part of the CHOC Children’s Primary Care Network. You can reach him at 949- 951-5437.

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. Reshmi Basu

CHOC Children’s wants its medical staff and patients to get to know its growing team of physicians, including primary and specialty care providers. Today, meet one of our pediatricians Dr. Reshmi Basu.   Following medical school at University of California, San Diego, she completed her residency at CHOC. She’s been a member of the CHOC medical staff for eight years.

What are your clinical interests?

I am especially interested in asthma, sleep issues in children (infants through adolescents), and helping new mothers breastfeed.

Are you involved in any research?

I am a physician leader for the American Academy of Pediatrics, Chapter Quality Network U.S. Immunization Project. Practices here in Orange County and across the nation are participating in the project to improve vaccination rates for children two years and younger.

What are your most common diagnoses?

In our practice, we see a lot of patients with viral respiratory illnesses, ear infections, abdominal pain, asthma, allergies, eczema and headaches. We also spend much of our time on routine well checks for infants, teens and young adults. These appointments are important for keeping children current on vaccinations, and making sure they are growing and developing normally. We work hard to address parents’ concerns during these visits, as well.

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

I am proud to be a CHOC Children’s provider because CHOC undoubtedly provides the highest quality of care for patients and families. One of my patients was being treated for cancer during the holidays. Not only did CHOC make sure she received the most advanced medical care, the hospital’s child life team did everything they could to bring the holidays to her. Her room was filled with inspirational banners, Christmas lights and even beautiful new bedding on her hospital bed.

When did you decide to become a pediatrician?

I decided to become a pediatrician after my pediatrics rotation in medical school. I had always liked working with children, and was already drawn to pediatrics after volunteering at CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital. (I grew up in Mission Viejo.) As a volunteer, I enjoyed spending time at the hospital, whether it was holding the babies or coloring with children. After my pediatrics rotation, though, I realized that children need advocates to fight for them, and that is something I wanted to do. My goal is to help all my patients grow and thrive to become healthy, successful adults.

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

I pursued medicine and eventually pediatrics because of my interest in science and my love for children. If I wasn’t a pediatrician, then I think being a teacher would be another way for me to help children.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of medicine?

I enjoy spending time with my husband and children. I have a 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son who keep me very busy. We like being outdoors, whether it’s playing at the park or riding our bikes. We travel as often as we can. I also like to read, when I can find any free time.

What’s the funniest thing a patient said to you?

Several of my pre-school aged patients have told me I look like Doc McStuffins. This helps me to connect with them and put them more at ease during their visits. I dressed up as Doc McStuffin for Halloween a few years ago, and my younger patients were star struck!

Dr. Basu and her colleagues at Pediatric & Adult Medicine, Inc. are part of the CHOC Children’s Primary Care Network. You can reach her at 714-565-7960.

Patients Say the Darndest Things – Happy Doctor’s Day!

In celebration of Doctor’s Day, we asked a few of our physicians what’s the funniest thing a patient has ever told you?

Dr. Mary Jane Piroutek

Dr. Mary Jane Piroutek, emergency medicine specialist

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

A:  Kids say funny things all the time. One of my favorites was a little 4 -year-old girl who had ingested coins and they were stuck in her esophagus. When I asked her what happened she shrugged her shoulder and with a mischievous look in her eyes said, “I ate the money, I’m not supposed to eat the money.”  Also recently a patient told me I looked like Snow White (which I don’t) and she called me Dr. Snow White the whole time I took care of her.

 

Dr. Gary Goodman

Dr. Gary Goodman, medical director, pediatric intensive care unit, CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital

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

A: Just recently, I had a patient, who has a mild developmental delay, call me “the boy.”  I would stop in the patient’s room each morning, at which point I’d get asked, “What do YOU want?”

 

Dr. Kenneth Kwon

Dr. Kenneth Kwon, emergency medicine specialist

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

A: An adage in pediatric emergency care is when a child comes in with a nosebleed, you don’t ask if he picks his nose, you ask him which finger he uses. When I asked this question to one of my pint-sized patients, he answered that he used all of them, and then proceeded to demonstrate by sticking each of his 10 fingers in his nose individually. It was priceless.

 

Dr. Maryam Gholizadeh

Dr. Maryam Gholizadeh, general and thoracic surgeon

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

A: There was a young child around 8-9 years old and we were going to remove his appendix with laparoscopy. I was standing on his left side because with laparoscopy we make our incision on the left side. Just before he went to sleep he looked up at me and said, “Why are you standing on my left? My appendix is on the right.” I was amazed at how knowledgeable this kid was!

 

Dr. Jennifer Ho

Dr. Jennifer Ho, hospitalist

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

A: “I want to be a doctor like you … but only for unicorns and fairies.”

 

Dr. Andrew Mower

Dr. Andrew Mower, neurologist

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

A: “I don’t eat apples, doctor.”

“Why?”

“Because they keep the doctor away, and I like you, Dr. Mower.”

 

Dr. Laura Totaro

Dr. Laura Totaro, hospitalist

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

A: I was examining the mouth of my patient when he proudly showed me his loose tooth and whispered to me that his family had a secret. He then excitedly admitted that his mom was the tooth fairy!  His mother looked at me quizzically and then burst out laughing when she realized what had taken place. Earlier she had admitted to him that she played the role of tooth fairy at home but her son took this quite literally and believed it to actually be her secret full time job for all children.

 

Dr. Mustafa Kabeer

Dr. Mustafa Kabeer, general and thoracic surgeon

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

A: A patient asked me what my first name was, and I told him it was Mustafa. He then promptly told me that was the name of his pet lizard!

 

Dr. Sharief Taraman

Dr. Sharief Taraman, neurology

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

A: One of my patients told me that I look like the character Flint Lockwood from Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs and another one thinks I look like the character Linguini from the movie Ratatouille, both of which I found very funny.  Apparently, I give off the nerdy guy vibe.