The first 2 months of 2021 have come and gone. How are you doing with your health goals?
The start of a new year can inspire you to commit to new habits, but motivation quickly wanes when the pace of life quickens. It can be challenging to stick to your healthy lifestyle goals - eating healthy, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly - with a super busy schedule that feels both hectic and unpredictable.
When you feel like you have little to no control over your schedule and the day brings unexpected challenges, you may think you just don't have time to eat healthy. I want to remind you that it's not as impossible as you may think.
Here are 5 practical strategies to help you eat healthy even when you have a busy schedule:
Let me know in the comments which strategy you find most helpful. And if you’d like to see more articles on creating healthy lifestyle routines and habits, click here to let me know.
Have you met your inner critic? You know, that not so subtle voice inside your head that provides a running commentary on all the ways you are falling short.
Our inner critic is ever present and ever busy, judging our circumstances, ourselves and other people. That voice can be harsh, aggressive, direct and unkind.
Underneath all of the criticism there are usually 3 basic thoughts:
The problem is when we don't recognize that our inner critic is just sharing thoughts, not facts. When we believe that what we're hearing is true, we may feel powerless to make changes (if changes are even needed).
Over time, my mindfulness practice has helped me to become more aware of the thoughts that my inner critic shares. As I notice the thoughts, I realize that there are steps I can take to silence my inner critic's harsh tone.
Here are 3 simple steps that I use to help quiet my inner critic when she's on a rampage:
1) Press pause - When you notice the harsh voice of the inner critic appear, pause and take a few deep breaths. Notice the air as it moves in and out of your nostrils, the rise and fall of your chest or simply label the in breath and the out breath. Bringing your attention to the physical sensations of the body brings you into the present moment and disrupts the automatic pattern of your inner voice.
2) Acknowledge the voice - Naming the voice provides some distance between you and the words that you're hearing. I've labeled my judge, Judy (a nod to the popular TV show Judge Judy). This allows me to have a conversation with her and recognize that these are just thoughts, not truths. There is also value in examining whether there is a useful message in what is being shared. Review the facts of the event that led to the inner criticism (without judgment) and reframe the situation to see if there are any lessons that may be waiting for you.
3) Practice self-compassion - Once you've acknowledged your inner critic, the voice won't be as loud. This is the time to listen for the softer voice of wisdom. This voice is kinder and more discerning. Offer yourself a little kindness by placing your hand over heart, or giving yourself a hug - physical touch releases oxytocin which is associated with warm and fuzzy feelings and lowers stress and anxiety.
So, the next time you hear your inner critic doling out harsh, unsolicited advice, use the 3-step process above to silence it and stop it in its tracks.
If you use this process, 'd love to hear how it works for you. Let me know in the comments below or if you want to share privately, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's Valentine's Day. A day where many are celebrating love and relationships. I feel fortunate to be in a thriving marriage and if you ask my wife, she'll tell you it's because we both commit to making our relationship a priority. We treat it as a living and breathing entity that requires nurturing and caring...active thought and planning. And the return on investment is priceless.
This got me thinking about our most important relationship - the one we have with ourself. How committed are we to making that relationship a priority? How much time do we invest in the care, feeding and development of our relationship with self?
If we evaluate the time we spend on the things we say are important to us - family, career, health - do we include self-love on that list? I know I haven't until very recently. On the outside looking in, most people would say I have a successful career and marriage. And yet, I am learning how to improve my relationship with myself. I'm curious about knowing this woman that I have become apart from all of my achievements.
When I look in the mirror, I want to genuinely be excited to greet the reflection staring back at me as I would when I see my beautiful grandchildren's faces. I want to learn how to embrace all of the parts of me...the loving and not so loving, the flawed and flawless parts that make up who I am and how I see the world.
I want to experience unconditional love for myself without the need to come up with reasons for doing so. I want to be intimately familiar with who I am at my core...when all of my "hats" have been removed - doctor, mother, grandmother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, advocate...who am I?
I'm excited, curious and cautiously optimistic about this exploration. In examining the thoughts about myself, I am becoming more aware of what beliefs have been lurking in the shadows. Awareness is the first step in deciding whether these beliefs serve me or not. And if they don't, I get to choose if and when I want to let them go and create new and empowering beliefs.
I believe this journey of truly knowing ourselves and learning to love who we are beyond all of our identities is some of the most important work that we will do in our lifetime. And it is likely a lifelong exploration.
As Aristotle said, "Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom."
Are you doing this work for yourself? If yes, please share any tips or insights you've gleaned along the way. I'd love to hear them.
Recently I received the following question from a member of my private online community,
“What is your best strategy to "disconnect" from work as you transition to your home/family?”
She had experienced periods of being more present with her family during the shelter-in-place orders for the COVID-19 pandemic. She noticed how much she enjoyed the deeper quality connections with her spouse and children and was looking for ways to be more proactive in continuing this practice beyond the pandemic when life returns to “normal”.
This is a common challenge for many of the physicians I work with. Although our physical bodies arrive "home" at the end of the work day, our minds are often still very much at "work".
And even when we're not in full-on work mode, we may find other things to stay busy and not allow ourselves to have some much needed down time.
But, unplugging is necessary to maintain your overall sense of balance and well-being. If you are having difficulty disconnecting from work it may be time to find some practical strategies to help.
Here are 3 of my favorite "best practices" that work for myself and other physicians:
Carve out small blocks of time to practice disconnecting from work regardless of what else is going on in your life (and the world). The most common complaint I hear from busy physicians is that they don't have enough time. You don't have to take off an entire day to reset. Find little pockets of time to unplug. This could be as little as 60 seconds of solitude (even if it means sitting in your car), 5 minutes of spending time in nature or 10-15 minutes of a movement activity you enjoy.
Connect to any of your physical senses to help bring you back into the present moment when you find your thoughts have returned to work. Pause and practice noticing what sounds you can hear (your child’s voice, your own breathing), scents you can smell (fresh air when outdoors, aroma of food cooking), textures you can touch (the feel of your clothing against your skin, rubbing two fingertips together), etc. Each breath you take can serve as an opportunity to return to your home and family.
Use start up and shut down rituals. The routine of going through the same set of steps each day trains your brain to be able to shut down work mode and transition to home. Here are a few ideas for rituals to help you make the transition.
While you may not always be able to completely unplug on days where you're on call, see how you can find moments to unplug when you're not actively working. Once you set the intention to unplug, you'll begin to see opportunities showing up to support you.
I hope this helps inspire some ideas for you. I’m going to be starting a physician self-care series in my private online community that focuses on developing habits to achieve a greater sense of balance by prioritizing self-care. If you’re interested in participating and not yet a member, click here to join.
I'm curious to know how you disconnect from work. Leave a comment below to let me know.
Since the age of 12, I knew I wanted to be a pediatrician. There were no physicians in my family so I had to figure out how to reach my goal on my own.
I was excited when I got my acceptance to medical school. My plan was to go straight from college to medical school to residency and then primary care practice. I had it all figured out…or so I thought.
Life had other plans for me. I deferred my acceptance for a year and delivered a healthy baby boy after a high-risk pregnancy. When my marriage fell apart with my then husband, I found myself a single mother, starting a residency program in another city without any family locally.
Things ultimately fell into place and my godmother received a job offer that allowed her to transfer to the area where I was to start my residency in only a few weeks.
After 20+ years in academics developing medical education programs, mentoring medical students and trainees, delivering clinical care to children, adolescents and young adults in inpatient and outpatient settings and serving as a subject matter expert in pediatric integrative medicine and childhood obesity, I made the decision to retire from clinical practice and pursue a nonclinical career.
As I look back over the first half of my career that I once described as “traditional”, I now realize it was anything but traditional. I was given amazing opportunities to advance my career within and outside of my academic center and for that I am grateful.
The problem was I was not directing the course of my career. If my career were a car, I recognized the car was mine, and initially I was a passenger allowing others to drive my car wherever they wanted me to go.
At some point, I moved into the driver’s seat, but I was still taking directions from others. Looking over my shoulder always asking where are we going next? Without realizing it, I had become a glorified Uber driver (not that there is anything wrong with being an Uber driver).
Now don’t get me wrong, we went to some pretty amazing places. But, they weren’t necessarily the places I would have chosen to go. Although I was driving, I was passively managing my career.
Finally, I had an epiphany and acknowledged that not only was this my car, but I could decide where I wanted to go. I wanted to actively manage my own career. So, I chose not to ask for directions anymore and to start to chart my own course.
And you know what happened? I didn’t know where I wanted to go.
I had lost touch with who I was and what I wanted at this stage of my life and career. All of my aspirations were based on the younger 20-something year old version of myself. But, I had grown. My life had changed. I was no longer that young woman seeking to please everyone else while sacrificing my basic needs.
I set an intention to get to know who I was now. What did I want? Where did I see myself in the next 5 years? 10 years?
The clarity I gained during the process of introspection and intention setting was invaluable. I got crystal clear on what was working and what wasn’t working. I got in touch with what was missing. And with that high level of clarity and elevated self-confidence, I took control of my professional development and reimagined my career path.
In 2021, I will celebrate 5 years in a nonclinical career that I love. I have a clear vision of where I want to be by age 60 (which is no longer so far away) and my goals each year are designed to take me there.
If you feel stuck on the path and believe you don’t have any choice in how you experience your career, I’m here to tell you that a different path is possible.
Whether you are in a clinical or nonclinical career, this platform will serve as a place for you to learn how to own and embrace your career. My intention is to share insights, strategies and guidance informed by my own experience to remind you of your power to choose again.
You did it when you made the decision to pursue a medical career. And you do it every day when you choose to show up for work…to make an impact on the lives of others…and to serve. But, many physicians are doing this unconsciously. I want you to do this consciously.
So, if you’re not happy in your current position, don’t let 2021 end feeling the same way.
Pause and reflect on where you are. Ask yourself, what’s working? What’s not working as well as you would like? What’s missing?
And then set goals to make meaningful changes. There are many of us who have and will continue to do so.
So how about you? What are your 2021 career goals?
Are you in the passenger seat of your career or are you in the driver’s seat charting your own course?
Let me know in the comments. And if you’d like to connect about your personal career situation, send me a note at Michelle@drmichellebailey.com. I’d love to hear from you.
The Physician Career Path Reimagined
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