Last week, I had a one-hour meeting over coffee with a busy and typically emotionally stable, positive, and strong physician. She apologized to me at least three times, saying, “Next time, I won’t be so negative.” Like many women I work with, she is especially stressed due to the election results. Women are reluctantly admitting to each other that they’re not sleeping well, feel shocked, and are fearful about the state of our country. The strong feelings and negative thoughts are taking a physical and emotional toll on physician well-being.
What can you do to reduce stress?
1. Address your stress by sharing your feelings and supporting each other.
Stress is chronic in medical practice. Even a temporary increase in stress can result in lack of focus and limited perspective. Getting less done or making mistakes surely would raise your level of stress.
I was surprised how much better I felt, when shortly after the election, I shared my reactions with women I trusted. Actually, we really were in no shape to do much work before we shared the truth of our emotional states. Our interaction was cathartic. I hold monthly Women Circles for physicians. Even after a long day, the physicians show up, because they feel so supported and energized sharing stories and being together.
It sounds simple, but how often do we speak to one another about how we are feeling?
Tips to Reduce Stress:
- Band together for mutual support.
- By seeking and creating positive relationships to help counteract existing relationships that drain you, you will feel more togetherness and motivation.
2. Focus on what you can do, and do more.
It is common to feel helpless in response to an outcome you don’t support. Rather than concentrate on what is wrong, focus on what you can do to make things better. My sense of shock has motivated me to protect and nurture what I value.
Doing more to feel less stressed sounds like a paradox. However, when you are more engaged in constructive interactions, you can break out of the sensation of being stuck and feeling overwhelmed and cynical.
Constructive steps to consider to reduce stress:
- Find a cause you feel passionate about and get involved. Your contribution matters, and you will feel less helpless.
- Feeling ineffective? Engage in some professional development or coaching, and get the skills and network you need to have more influence.
And even if what is stressing you isn’t an election, other outcomes in medicine can stop you in your tracks. So, start now to expand your supply of constructive relationships and activities. Enjoy the lower stress and your more productive, fulfilling life.