Building resilience -your 5-a-day

As work gets increasingly demanding and stressful, often not balanced by energy repletion at home, it is all too easy to neglect our own well-being. As Dr Paddy Barrett notes in the Dr Paradox,

For physicians to sustainably provide help” to patients, they must first and foremost help themselves. Not to do so will ultimately degrade one of the most sacred of relationships: that of the patient in need and the doctor who can tend to that need .” 

5 a day

The Edge identify five things that you can do in order to improve your mental health and well-being which will, in turn, make you more resilient:

  • Connect  with friends, family and colleagues.
    • Build connections and maintain them. There are many amazing support groups on social media, in particular Tea and Empathy on Facebook which I recommend highly. It is a national peer support group for doctors and nurses, which is growing rapidly in popularity.
    • Health psychologist, Kelly McGonigal, suggests in her TED talk “How to make stress your friend” that “human connection is our body’s built-in mechanism to stress resilience” and that “when you choose to reach out to others when under stress, you create resilience”. This talk is well worth watching.
    • It is also useful to think about connection or re-connection with your purpose and passions. I am not sure how often we do this as doctors. We identify goals for the purpose of appraisal, and climbing the career ladder. But how often do we actually identify what our values, purpose and passions actually are and if we are anywhere near meeting them? Kelly McGonigal suggests in the same TED talk that the best way to make decisions is to “go after what creates meaning in your life and trust yourself to handle the stress that follows.”
  • Be active.
    • Walk, run, cycle, dance, swim, workout in the gym or whatever other physical activity makes you feel good.
    • Try and do something every day however small. Even a walk to the shops, a home visit.
  • Take notice.
    • Find the time to be curious, notice beautiful sights, comment on unusual ones.
    • Appreciate your surroundings and the people you are with.
    • Yoga, tai chi and mindfulness are all techniques that can help you achieve this by encouraging you to focus on the now. Our minds all too easily wander and re-play the past or rehearse and worry about the future.
  • Keep learning.
    • Try something new or rediscover an old interest, learn to knit or play a musical instrument or change a tyre, challenge yourself to something new.
    • It is hard to engage with this when you are feeling low or overwhelmed, but from personal experience, it really does help.
  • Give.
    • Do something nice for someone: say thank you, help an elderly person with their shopping, pick up a child’s toy. You might try volunteering or joining a community group but always find ways to connect with others in your community.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on:

  • How you build and maintain your resilience?
  • And what are your 5-a-day?

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