So you’re a medical doctor who takes care of people all day. Rushing around from one appointment to the next. Dealing with complicated cases. Responding to the million messages from your patients in between each appointment. Exasperated with the lastest insurance headache you had to deal with. Balancing all that with your research and leadership responsibilities. Not to mention any personal life stuff that’s going on.
All of this can leave you feeling frenzied, tense, and stressed. It’s hard to concentrate on the task at hand when so many things are being thrown at you. It leaves you exhausted by the end of the day.
Luckily, there are some simple tools to help you feel more present, help calm your nervous system, and improve your work performance. In mindfulness circles these are called “informal mindfulness practices”. The research on mindfulness has found powerful benefits for your cognitive performance, concentration, anxiety and mood. Practicing just these few quick techniques can make a big impact on your day and your health.
Here are my best tips on how to easily incorporate mindful moments in to you daily life:
Pause as you put your hand on the doorknob to enter each new patient’s room. Take 3 deep breaths before entering.
As you complete each patient’s chart note, take a deep breath and say to yourself, “I have done my best for this patient today, I can let any thoughts of them go”.
Make sure to actually take a lunch break, if even if only a few minutes is possible. Get outside of your office, if you can see nature, even better. (UCSF Doctors Pro tip: The staircase next to the Parnassus library has some amazing views). Practice eating mindfully without any distractions. No screen time or phone calls. Just observe the environment around you quietly. Savor each bite of your meal. Challenge yourself to do this for at least 5 minutes, but the longer the better.
If you have to wait for a patient (or a meeting) practice slow mindful walking in the hallway. Focus on each footstep. Breathe in as you lift your heel, breathe out as you place the other foot on the floor. Take 5 mindful steps going in each direction. Repeat as many times as needed.
As you leave your office for the day, take a big exhale (audible and strong). Release the tension from the day. Say to yourself, “I can let my work go. I can return to it tomorrow”.
In addition to these quick tips, I also recommend everyone practice mindfulness meditation on a regular basis to help train your brain to be present and get the most benefits from mindfulness. Just 3-5 minutes a day can make a huge difference. Check out the Calm or Headspace app as great mindfulness meditation tools.
If you’d like to dive deeper in to mindfulness, please reach out to me or a therapist near you to schedule an appointment.