As doctors, we are often used to high levels of intellectual stimulation and being on the go. The absence of a regular routine leaves more space for contact with our own emotions and psyches. We can be faced with the re-emergence of uncomfortable feeling states that have been overshadowed by our outside world pursuits.
This is a time where it is helpful to cultivate an attitude of self-compassion. We spend our working lives providing care and compassion to others, but unless this is directed inwards towards ourselves our job is incomplete.
It is important to take care of ourselves on all levels – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Our uniqueness and diversity mean that it is up to each of us to find the things that make us come alive, bringing a sense of joy and vitality to our lives.
Once we know what they are, we have to consciously choose to seek out and implement these things, to optimise the re-energising function of time off work.
- Regular exercise: This helps to keep us energised and uplifted. It doesn’t matter whether we are regular walkers, runners, swimmers or yogis. Whatever it is that we are drawn to is what we should keep up throughout the year. It’s important to keep active.
- Be aware of our alcohol consumption. Alcohol has a depressant effect on the body and can exacerbate feelings of low mood or anxiety. We also need to be mindful of the physical effects of too much alcohol; the kind we spend the rest of our year educating our patients about!
- Socialising: It is important to maintain a social network to avoid the negative effects of social isolation. The amount and frequency of this varies for us all, but, ultimately, we are relational beings that require some level of social connectedness. If you are someone with few family members or friends, getting involved in the community can be helpful. Even volunteering your time to do something for others can be an uplifting experience.
- Letting go: We often hold on to so much of our past that can function to weigh us down and keep us stuck. The old year as passed and we can consciously let it go. We create new and fresh energy in our psyche, ready to open to new experiences.
- Meditation: This is something that is always useful in cultivating a sense of inner wellbeing and peace. We can do this anywhere, alone or in the company of others. However, when we unite with like-minded people, it can have a deeper and more profound impact on our psyche. Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates are just some of the other more active practices that incorporate this element of mindful meditative movement. When we are focused and engaged in any activity, it can be a form of meditation, even things such as watching sport or surfing, for those of us who normally shy away from formal mediation practices.
- This is something unique to each and every one of us, but we are all spiritual beings having a human experience here on earth. We are not our thoughts. We are not our body. We are not our emotions. By allowing things to flow through us, rather than become consumed or taken away by ruminating thoughts, overwhelming emotions or physical sensations, we can become free to experience our life in its totality and fullness in the present moment.