A doctor living with cancer gives me tips on how to slow down; the same conclusions I’m coming to

If you feel the crush of time’s press,

Don’t make of your life a big mess.

     Don’t blame others instead

     Just start with your head

As the place to manage your stress.

The first lecturer of the morning lives with metastatic cancer, and talks about finding a life balance as a physician.

Doctor’s statistics are terrible.  Half of all physicians live in advanced stages of burnout.  Half of family physicians report inadequate sleep at least half the time. 

He asks questions about good sleep, spiritual satisfaction, children, and burnout.

Patients listen to satisfied doctors more than they listen to burnt-out doctors; doctors who find the right balance are better doctors. 

Doctors tend to work to avoid home stressors.  Docs with a spiritual life are 25% happier than docs without.  But docs tend to become organizers in their spiritual communities; the lecturer tells us to quit being in charge when we leave the office. 

Physicians with more than two children are happier than the ones with two children; children teach you efficiency in the face of loss of control; they show us unconditioniality and survival of the cutest.  They bring their adults into communities. 

Intelligent and sensitive,  doctors tend towards opinionated and judgemental.  We’re inquisitive and we’re obsessive and perfectionistic and competitive, we crave recognition. 

A five-minute break twice a day manages stress better than a week’s retreat every seven years.

Physicians have trouble delegating, and the lecturer gives tips on empowering staff.

Selection of medical students biases towards the obsessive-compulsive and medical education enhances the behavior.  Normal behavior for doctors meets the DSM IV criteria for pathology.

Cutting back hours doesn’t do as much good as working on the doctor’s personality. 

Without business training we try to be businessmen. 

Keeping up with the literature is impossible, but we access data easily. Better reactive, looking up the information you need than ineffectively proactive, keeping a stack of unread journals. 

We, the physicians, are change-averse people in the face of increasing speed of change.

The lecturer says if you’re lost admit it, it you are still lost, stay put.

No one stands between us and what we want more than ourselves.  Lose the BMW, he says: bitching, moaning, and whining.  It wastes catecholamines.

At the end he shows the same video clip twice.  The sequence shows a man taking a taxi into New York and the things that he sees; the first time accompanied by strident, discordant music.  The second, identical series of visuals has a string quartet playing in the background.  The perception of the scene changes dramatically with the change in music.

Stress management starts in the head, changing one’s perception of the world.

He talks about how to deal with toxic people: do your best to find something good and concentrate on that; he calls it amygdaloid substitution. 

(For more about the brain’s amygdala, see my previous post: https://walkaboutdoc.wordpress.com/2010/03/08/rage-hunger-lust-and-sleep/)

He advises us to add gratitude to our day: write three things to be grateful for at the end of each day.

It’s difficult to find acceptance of anything if we aren’t will to let go of control.

His words ring true.  I left my prior practice at the right time.


Tags: , , , , , ,

3 Responses to “A doctor living with cancer gives me tips on how to slow down; the same conclusions I’m coming to”


    “A five-minute break twice a week manages stress better than a week’s retreat every seven years.”

    I’m surprised that short of a period of time makes enough of a difference, tho I do not doubt you are right.

    Between mid-February and mid-July I largely walked for exercise at the river front on my lunch hour. It is here that I relearned how to think, and the resulting heavy-thoughts light-living blog was conceived. Observing nature as spring unfolded a little bit more each day before my eyes was a treat I had never given myself before. (Re: your sandhills post.)

    The combination of fresh air, exercise and free association thinking left me ready to face the afternoon much “de-stressed”.

    While selling tires does not really compete with doctoring in the stress department, I am the better for having taken these walks.

    Thanks for your continued support!

    Your writing is another treat I give myself! No calories either…Ha!

  2. Suzanne Carty Says:

    “intelligent and sensitive, doctors are also opinionated and judgemental. We’re inquisitive and we’re obsessive and perfectionistic and competitive, we crave recognition.”

    I love this. You have summed me up as if you knew me. I am not a doctor and cannot entirely relate to “doctor specific stress” BUT you find that particular personality across a wide spectrum of occupations. We have to mediate on an ongoing basis between our somewhat self destructive traits and authentic life. Sounds like you are doing it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: