#mindfulmed: How MINDFULNESS is keeping me stable.

No, I am not crashing! Set your pads down, you wouldn’t need the crash cart for this one. J

The excitement that follows completing residency (especially if you opt out of fellowship) is often so strong that it seldom accompanies a plan to excel as an attending. I have only been an attending physician for 19 months now and I am well aware that there is a lot to learn in my future but this fact cannot steal from what I have already experienced.

In my opinion, with any career in life, one is going to have to develop a strategy that offers balance and productivity in order for us to stay sane at home and deliver at work. This is where mindfulness comes into play for this new younger and hot- but-not-so-fresh-off-the-press attending.

“Mindfulness” in my relatively short practice of medicine has become a tool that helps me transform what could’ve been an unpleasant experience into a more appealing one. It keeps me enjoying the present moment, leaves me with a new meaning to distress and gives meaning to undesirable circumstances.

It is only natural that when I saw this handle #mindfulmed trending among the medical community on Instagram I chose to share my 2 cents. Reading other virtual colleagues posts made me smile because I realized I was not the only one who has redefined the psychosocial medicine of mindfulness to achieve happiness at work or at home.

If you read nothing else from this post, just remember that these are the 5 things I practice to remain a well-balanced individual. Obviously these come after the fact that I work with phenomenal people and absolutely love my job as a hospitalist!  All these factors combined  makes it easy to excel at work daily. But, I still tend to practice these 5 things when faced with stress filled situations.

  1. Realign my focus
  2. Realize my territory of influence
  3. Reset my gratitude
  4. Repurpose my shortcomings
  5. Redesign my presence

    In these ways I am able to transform even the most stress filled moments into lessons or more pleasant experiences.

Now if you are one for details and that wasn’t enough for you can continue to read the specifics.

To Realign my Focus – I very simply look at the bigger picture. This is the creates way to achieve mental balance. This happens a lot at work and all the times I begin to find reasons to want to complain about “dysfunctional stuff”, I quickly remember days I prayed for where I am now. Overcoming the odds as a foreign medical graduate and infiltrating the system were more challenging than any other scenario I can possibly find myself in. Instead of complaining, I look for a way to improve “said situation”, I question myself as to whether my role in the moment could be one of resolution – whatever that may be.

To realize my territory of influence gives me reason to endure the most unpleasant occurrences. At some point I realized that when I aspired to attain greater heights, with that came greater responsibilities. As a doctor some people’s lives depend on your acts of heroism but also a lot on your mistakes. It is my responsibility to be patient and kind to people especially during the most vulnerable of times as is the case with the sick and dying. It is irresponsible to think that you can be a community leader in service to patients and coast along without having to support others or facilitate life for other people. The added weight which can seem stressful comes with the territory. Very simply said “heavy is the head that carried the crown”. But, I add, that to stay in balanced mode “go ahead and adjust the crown”.

To reset my gratitude helps me find joy in hurtful situations. I started this kick where I write down the most mundane and tiniest things that I am grateful for. Yes even the crazy stuff. When you work in healthcare and see so much hurt, loss and pain it is easier to be grateful for good health but I don’t end there. I mean I am thankful for crazy stuff  i.e. even perfume, nail polish, French toast, my purse, you name it. It leaves me feeling like I found gold in a thrift store.

To repurpose my shortcomings I begin by doing the soul searching and mortifying task of accepting self-fault. This is hard, but with maturity comes humility. Meekness facilitates the process of identifying the ways in which I have fallen short of my own expectations of self. Once I have identified a failure, (usually after briefly basking in self pity/correction #fixitjesus) I quickly look for ways to refurbish the lessons from the experience. It is certainly true what they say: its not about what happens to you as much as what you do with what happened to you.

Redesigning my presence enables me to remain in the moment. I am so easily distracted (aren’t we all?) by mid rounds chatting, unexpected outcomes, healthcare news or political debates, other people etc. I try to mentally realign my focus by bringing my mind back into my present moment; pleasant or unpleasant and just deal with it. I have realized that it’s best to go through the unpleasantness of a season than to skip through it, because it somehow always knows hot to catch up with me.

Now, I know this applies to everyone in every walk of life, my life only seems to be partially consumed by medicine. Feel free to replace specific scenarios with whatever is applicable to your current routine.

IMG_4284 copy.pngNina