20 Aug Wellbeing Stories: Beyond Medical School
For Blue Week this year, we asked people at different stages of their journey through medicine to share their wellbeing stories unique to their stage of medical education or career. Through various stages of medicine, we all face our own unique challenges and although it may sometimes feel like we are all alone or the only one struggling, this is often not the case. Each of us has a Wellbeing Story that describes the challenges we face and how we approach them. Sharing these stories creates a community that is positive, understanding and supportive as we work together to create a healthier environment for health professionals. As you navigate your own challenges, we hope these stories encourage you and empower you to talk and share with others.
Junior Doctor Story 1
At this stage in my training, the major struggle that I face is being able to ‘turn off’ when I leave work. As someone who endlessly ruminates and strives for perfection, I find myself reflecting on every action I have taken that day and combing through these actions for ‘mistakes’. Not only is this behaviour unhelpful and destructive, but it is also fear-driven rather than values-aligned. I’m not only obsessing over mistakes because they will potentially impact the care of my patients but also because I worry that people may form a negative perception of me.
The cognitive load of anxiety and rumination exhausts me and takes a toll on every aspect of my life, including my friendships, exercise/eating and sleep. This physical and mental exhaustion all became too much for me recently. My mum, despite living in a different city, noticed these signs of burnout and posted a self-help book to me. As cliched and embarrassing as this may be, reading ‘The Mind Strength Method’ completely changed how I view my anxiety. It allowed me to sit with my uncomfortable feelings, rather than fighting them until I was too tired to live my life. I would highly recommend this book to any medical student or junior doctor struggling with incessant worry and even those who aren’t (as a preventative measure). It is never too early or late to take charge of your mental health.
Consultant Story 1
As a consultant I feel that being overtired is quite dangerous. It brings on so many issues like mood swings, insomnia, fatigue and discouragement. I have always known burn out syndrome is a huge issue in our profession, and was aware that it is risky as well due to the risks of malpractice. I know I am overworked when I become moody or have a foul sense of humour. When this happens, I know I need to go on some well-deserved leave. A few days off resting, enjoying family and sleeping in make a huge difference in our health and well being. It also brings on good energy and positive anticipation to return to work refreshed and rested. It is all about knowing yourself and the signs your body and mind disclose.
Consultant Story 2
I am a GP who moved from England to a practice on the Gold Coast due to having a poor work life balance in England. I have found this to also be a pervasive issue here in Australia though to a lesser extent as there is more autonomy when it comes to hours however that directly affects your income.
My main struggle are finding balance giving enough time, attention and appropriate care to my patients whilst being mindful of creating doctor dependency, as well as seeing enough patients to maintain my income as a GP and ensuring that I get my time at home with still something left in the tank. I can tell when I’m out of balance and need a break when I start getting empathy fatigue, general fatigue and not being present when with loved ones.
When this happens I ensure that I take mental health days impromptu if required. However what I have found works best for me is to have a varied time table during the week with regards to my start and finishing times and planning regular annual leave breaks in order to ensure I’m functioning at my best. This has helped reduce and recognise burnout symptoms earlier, also reduction in sick days and helped me to develop self care practices outside of work that help me overall be a better person and physician.
If you, or someone you know, needs help please contact:
- 13 11 14
- 1300 22 4636
- Eve De Silva (Griffith University School of Medicine)
Image credit: Eesha Bajra