When was the last time you paused for a moment to feel your energy? I mean, really get in touch with the energy you hold inside your being?
Could it be as physicians, we have gotten so used to that stressful feeling or that drained feeling at the end of the day that we’ve forgotten how to feel at ease and be in a state of joy as we take care of our patients, team, family and ourselves?
Recently I received a text from the mother of a newborn who had been in the neonatal ICU almost six years ago. After birth, he was rushed to the NICU. After a brief honeymoon, he became very sick, intubated on the ventilator, umbilical lines then a PICC line, had feeding challenges, and even had laser surgery for retinopathy of prematurity.
Caring for critically ill patients as he once was, is stressful, overwhelming, and daunting. Each patient encounter is an investment of more than time and knowledge. An emotional and energetic investment comes with doing our best for optimal patient outcomes.
Living in that state becomes our new norm. In the midst of a crisis, we hold our breath. We forget the importance of exhaling and taking a deep cleansing breath to regain clarity and focus. When the pager goes off at 3 a.m. we forget to have faith in the team and exist in a state of isolation, believing that we carry the burden alone.
Living in that state makes our natural state of ease, calm, and wellbeing foreign to us.
Seeing the pictures of that once sick neonate, now a little boy with his siblings, being silly, laughing, and living reminded me what it feels like to hold the energy of ease and flow and joy and life within my being. While I’m sure the family lives with the impact of his Neonatal ICU hospitalization, we spoke of none of that. The conversation focused on life.
Living. The pictures reminded me of my capacity to live each moment to the fullest. It reminded me that in those moments when my chest feels tight, I can choose to take a deep cleansing breath that brings me back to my wellbeing, especially at the most critical moments.
There will always be times in medicine and in life when the stress and overwhelm try to get the best of me. In the over two decades of being a doctor, I’ve learned that making my well-being a priority is as important to delivering optimal patient outcomes as is the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired.
Stephanie Wellington is a physician and can be reached at Nurturing MDs.
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