I have felt a little ill at ease lately.
A tiny bit anxious.
My country, my immediate world and indeed the larger world, are in flux. Change is afoot, change that in many regards I have no direct control over. Change that I am forced to watch and to endure the best way I can.
Personally, I am the happiest I have been in some time. Years, truth be told.
The world, though, seems a little irritable.
What are we to do?
Well, I can only speak for myself, but when I get these unsettled feelings, for any reason at all, the best thing for me to do is to fall back on my tried and true methods for centering myself. I need to pay attention to what I am doing, what I am feeling, how it affects me and how it affects those around me-spouse, family, friends, patients, and coworkers.
I am at my best when I take good care of myself.
I am at my best when:
- I am well rested. My propensity is to stay up late and get up early, which I have been able to do for many decades. It started in college in earnest, and medical school and residency only cemented those not- so-good habits. I still like to get up at five, because my quiet morning time gives me space to read, listen to news, have that first cup of coffee, or plan my day. However, in order to get up that early, I now understand that my body expects me to go to bed earlier, like ten PM, eleven at the latest. Just ask my wife (who has my number in more ways than one) how difficult that has been for me to incorporate into my regular daily schedule. She will most likely add five years to my life expectancy because of the way she helps me live healthier. (Thank you, my love.)
- I exercise regularly. Today was a federal holiday of course. After sleeping until 9:30 AM (hey, my wife is in Amsterdam and I didn’t have to work today! See how that works?) I got up and had a leisurely morning. Then, at about 1:30, I struck out on a wonderful, three and a half hour, eight mile exploration of the beauty of spring in my neighborhood. That plus cold brewed coffee as a mid-walk break. I know that I feel better when I walk, lift weight a couple of times per week, ride a bike, hike a mountain, or otherwise push myself. I even got a standing desk setup this week so that those long telepsych shifts will not entail sitting for hours at a time.
- I am learning something new or stimulating. Trina and I went to a neighborhood concert of Irish music in a local home this weekend. We heard three wonderful Irish musicians play and sing music that is not what I normally listen to. I sat next to a man from Ireland who had married a Georgia girl and works here now. It’s a very small world, and there are things to be experienced and learned!
- I am “in the zone”. Whether working or writing or exercising, it is better for my general health and wellbeing if I give my entire attention to the task at hand and “get in the zone”. You’ve felt that way I’m sure. That time when things flow, when you have to expend very little effort to get stellar results and when you seem to be moving effortlessly through your day.
- I reveal just a little bit of myself to those around me. As I have been reading in multiple articles this week, physicians and especially psychiatrists are often trained to be stoic, resilient, and in our case, “blank screens” that divulge little of what they feel and less of what stresses them out. I have found over my career that this does not work well any more, especially when I am working with those with major psychotic mental illnesses. They often need to know that I am “real”, that I have a team I pull for in the Super Bowl, that I do have grandchildren, and that I like to hike to relieve my own stress. I was very well-trained in my youth, but the older me now knows that there is something to be said for judiciously and professionally sharing some of oneself with others when it is indicated. and that both parties will leave the relationship or encounter the richer for it. Do I also need to mention that this works well for friends and family and spouses? I am (still) learning that as well.
- I enjoy the stories that I hear every day. I have already written a recent post about this, but I need to say again that if I do not regard work as a stressful chore, but look at it as a way to learn about others and hear fantastic stories that they trust me to hear, that I can have fun and help others at the same time. We cannot change the way that life throws stress at us sometimes, but we can certainly decide how we are going to respond to it.
- I let myself be human. Your struggles are my struggles. Mine are yours. I know some things and have some specific expertise. So do you. Contrary to what some have espoused, we cannot do this alone. Life is a team sport, a contact sport. If we let someone have our back and we have theirs, whatever comes can come.
- I give time to my family, friends and my spouse. Let’s face it. We are all busy. I work two jobs. My wife travels internationally. My children live in three states and my four grandchildren are an eight-hour round trip from my home. If I want to see people, I sometimes have to make time to travel and see them! My new bride and I love our time together because we already know how precious it really is. Our parents are aging and need our phone calls (Yes, I called my mother this morning to catch up) and our personal visits. We are at our best when we give of ourselves, our time and our attention to those we love and who really love us. That time is never wasted. Never.
So, if you feel a little anxious, a little stressed, a little out of focus in the weeks or months to come, figure out what grounds you, replenishes you, recharges you and feeds you, body and soul.
Make time for those things. Take care of yourself, because you know as well as I do that others are not going to do it for you. It ain’t happening, so get over that right now.
Figure out what makes you the best you can be, and do it.
Have a great week!