I can hear you thinking, “What?! Not more about self-care. Don’t put the onus on us. Fix the system!” Before I tackle that perspective, let me lay out my plan for the next 4 weeks. I’m going to get back to the basics of self-care – restorative sleep, good nutrition, movement/exercise. We have human bodies, and every human body functions best with these three things. So, while self-care can look different for each of us, there are some core things we need to focus on.
The information I’ll give you is compiled from various sources and mentors I’ve gathered over the years, and I'm collecting them in one spot for you.
Okay, so on to the broken system of healthcare that adds to moral injury and just plain makes it hard to do our jobs the way we want. I totally agree with you! But I want you to take back your power from the system. I want you empowered to take back your health despite it. The system change NEEDS to happen, but what if it takes 10 years to get it operating well on all cylinders? Can your health afford neglect for that long? I vote no.
The next objection that follows is often, “I just don’t have time.” And it's true, many of us have more to-do list items than time to get all the things done. So, it comes down to a matter of priorities. I would love for you to recognize that 1. Self-Care is not Selfish. And 2. You will be more efficient, more productive, more effective, and more present when prioritizing your self-care. 3. I also like to think of it as being a good steward of what was given to me in the human body. Use this if it works for you; dismiss it if it's not helpful.
Now, those things being covered, I want to add one more helpful perspective shift. Dr. Sasha Shillcutt, a national leader in medicine, puts the shift this way: “If we look at self-care as one more thing we HAVE to do, it adds stress. If we look at self-care as a step toward success, it adds peace.” Can you begin to think of self-care as something you deserve, that is FOR you, and will help you achieve your goals? When you start to open up to that, then it becomes easier to prioritize self-care. And when you prioritize it and start to see the benefits, it’s a wonderful positive reinforcing cycle. “It feels so good to move.” “My body loves nutritious fuel.” “My thinking is so much clearer when I get a full night’s sleep.” These thoughts lead to “How can I afford not to prioritize my health?”
One more side-benefit of taking care of yourself – you will lead your patients with integrity. No more compartmentalizing what you tell patients to do for themselves while remaining blind to the fact that you’re not doing them. No more cognitive dissonance to drain more mental energy around preaching one thing but practicing another. AND you will learn tips and tricks that you can pass on to patients as they have some of the same barriers as we do. You will be a more impactful physician.
So, I see self-care as the Triple Win. When we practice self-care 1. We are healthier. 2. We are more effective in all the tasks, more present with all the people and more efficient. 3. We lead by example and make an exponential impact on the patients' lives we touch.
So, start to tear down those defenses that come up around self-care. Next week, we will tackle restorative sleep as busy physicians.
Have a joy-filled week!
Now is a great time to see how I work with family medicine residency programs to help physicians enjoy their chosen careers. Learn more here.