As physicians, we are taught how to heal and help others. The Hippocratic Oath that we take emphasizes helping the sick and abstaining from doing harm. We go into the medical field with a desire to cure and provide remedies. Many times, it can be a life or death situation, in an acute and chronic sense, and that takes a toll minute by minute, year by year.
The stress perpetually adds up and many physicians cannot break the cycle because they have sunk so far deep into it, as if the profession has stolen their life, their mental well-being.
The irony is that we spend our lives taking care of others and promoting patients’ well-being, we often neglect our own.
I would say medical school was no walk in the park. It felt like college all over again, except amplified a million more times. After the pre-clinical years, it was time to break into the real medical world, by doing rotations in medical centers and hospitals. As if sitting in endless hours of lectures wasn’t torture enough, working insanely around the clock in sleep-deprived states can rapidly turn you into a completely different person, almost zombie-like.
Everything from delivering a baby and witnessing new life, to coding a patient and watching them die, the emotional repercussions of the countless interactions with patients and family members, in the good and the bad and the ugly, often makes or breaks the physician. at the end, whether you survived medical school or residency, the stress has long since existed, and it can only get worse if one doesn’t know how to take care of it.
I always told myself to be highly self-aware. To never let my profession interfere with my sanity. To never bring work home with me.
But it is not that easy. There is no switch you can just turn on and off.
And so I looked into my figurative bag of tools, and decided I needed an outlet.
I always have lived a quite healthy life by eating well and exercising, even after I had my three boys. It became an integral part of my life to self-nurture, because after all, if I could do it for others, whether they be patients or family, I knew I needed to do it for myself.
As a mother, as a physician, I recognized that if I didn’t find an outlet for my stress, it could reap disastrous consequences on all those around me. I have an obligation to care for others, and more so because I really want to. Caring for myself became mandatory.
Being of Eastern Indian origin, I encompassed integrative Ayurvedic medicine into my life, professionally and personally. I opened up Synergistiq Integrative Health (www.synergistiqhealth.com) and incorporated yoga and meditation into my life.
I grew up watching my father, who has since passed, do these practices. I was always curious, and so I would read books about it and learn what exactly it could do for me. I started practicing yoga and meditation, and my life changed, for the better.
It became habitual. I would wake up in the morning and naturally meditate. I would integrate yoga into my exercise routine. I felt in control of my life, not like my life was controlling me. I had found my outlet to relieve stress. Mentally and physically I became a new person. It was clear to me that meditation and yoga were practices I would only share with my patients, but with my fellow colleagues.