The Importance of Self-Care
The new year always brings with it an exciting new chapter, the buzz of what’s to come, new challenges and new routines. It’s easy to get carried away and before you know it, March Madness has whizzed on by and you wonder why you’re feeling flat. You’ve forgotten to look after yourself.
We have heard it all before, but have we really listened?
Self-care is important, and we need to make sure we are looking after ourselves – that we have good work/non-work balance, that we take time off when we’re sick, have adequate holidays, nurture our relationships.
One of the many challenges as health professionals, and particularly GP’s is that we become involved in the lives of our patients. It is never possible to be completely objective, and that the quality of our relationships with patients can assist in their healing.
In our medical practices, we need to ensure we have a variety of different roles, that we have people to debrief with and share our experiences with and importantly, that we have our own GP. We need to be aware of what are our early signs of depression and burnout are so that we can take steps to address the problems. We also need to ensure that our organizations are able to support us to stay healthy.
Another point to note, is we need to look after each other. Simply asking a colleague if they are okay can be difficult, and the most likely answer will be ‘Sure I’m fine’. But mentioning that they are looking tired, putting on weight, not keeping up with their paperwork, arriving late for work, irritable with the staff etc. and that this is not what they are usually like, can help someone open up about what is worrying them.
Assisting other doctors to look after themselves before they start to make mistakes means that they will not need to come to the attention of the Medical Board, who are only interested in unsafe doctors who are putting the public at risk. Listening and supporting can make an enormous difference. Acknowledging that as doctors we are used to trying to solve everyone else’s problems – but that this is actually an impossible task. That we too are human, have human needs and human failings, and that medicine is extremely complex and often unsupportive.
Stress, is the feeling that the outside circumstances are too overwhelming for our personal resources, is often an everyday occurrence and if this is going on day after day, health will suffer. If our colleague needs to work through how they can increase their resources or change the outside circumstances, we can help them find appropriate people to talk this through. Remember that we are not the doctor or counsellor for our distressed colleagues, we are their friend and should encourage them to seek appropriate assistance.