As we residents, ED attendings, medical students know, finding time for wellness can be a challenge, especially in the face of contiguous shifts, conferences, and multiple inversions of our sleep schedule. It can feel like the weight of Atlas’ world is resting on your shoulders. My intention with this POTD is to reflect on the lessons I have learned navigating self-care in residency, in the hopes that it will prove helpful to someone.
After perusing articles by wellness gurus and our own PD, Dr. Arlene Chung, I realized that what I do for wellness is different that what many people do. At first, I thought that the difference between my experience and experts meant that I wouldn’t have anything to contribute, but then I realized that wellness is personal, and maybe my experience will prove helpful for someone who reads this POTD. The following are my tips for wellness:
First and foremost, approach all advice regarding wellness with curiosity and skepticism, including my own. It might be right for you. It might not. My intention is not to write you a to-do-list, but to help you examine some areas of your life that may have potential for exercising self-care. Experiment and see what’s right for you.
Some residents don’t eat on shift. If this is a choice, either as an intentional approach to intermittent fasting, or because you don’t need to, then that's great. However, it needs to be a choice. Experiment, and learn who you are and follow what’s best for you. If you need to eat regularly, then prepare for this need.
I bring hydration and food from home and eat before coming to shift. There is not always time to go out and grab something and I enjoy bringing food from home. Waking up early to prep food for myself is a form of self-care. I feel prepared, and loved by myself, when I can grab a frozen Tupperware meal from the fridge. The same is true when I can enjoy a nutella sandwich. I also enjoy prepping a meal/snack for my loved one. We can go a few days without seeing each other on a long stretch, and knowing that we have that connection through a prepared food is like a lifeline to connect us when we can’t physically be together.
Also, I get hangry. Nutella keeps the Bruce Banner version of Allie in the ED, so no one has to get their rapid strep test from the 8 month pregnant Hulk version of Dr. Kornblatt.
When I come home, I often will feel my brain racing and have thoughts of patient tasks zipping in and out, causing me to stress and have dreams about patient care. So before bed, I actively try and clear my mind to think of nothing at all. Sometimes if I’m having a rough time with this, I use a body scanning meditation technique so that I can focus. I recommend the free first ten guided medications on the app “Headspace.” (I am not paid to endorse Headspace, or a meditation expert at all). The more you practice, the easier it gets and I find in stressful situations, I can clear my mind so that I focus on the task at hand.
SCHEDULE ACTIVITIES IN ADVANCE:
If you see you have a weekend off, schedule something in advance. In my experience, if you wait until that weekend itself, you’ll just sit at home and not do anything. If you do need that time at home to recharge, then plan that, ahead of time. Planning for a weekend under the covers can make it feel intentional, and relieves any guilt associated.
FINAL TAKE HOME THOUGHTS ON WELLNESS:
We often think of our accomplishments in numbers: test scores, numbers of procedures/requirements completed, class rank, etc. Sometimes this is helpful—comparison to our peers let’s us know if we are falling behind, or in a position to act as a leader and help our colleagues succeed. Not so with wellness.
Wellness is not comparable, it is not a competition on who is the most well. Experiment and find what’s right for you. If you try to compare or adopt the habits of others, you are destined for disappointment.
So, go be well, whatever it means to you.
Your friendly TR this month,