Self-Care As it Affects Your Professional Self

Of the patients waiting at the Out-Patient Dep...

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Self-Care Tip #236 – Think about what self-care is doing for your professional self.

When speaking with managing editor of the Journal of Participatory Medicine (JoPM,) Kathleen O’Malley yesterday, I struggled to explain the presumed simple description of what effect self-care has had over the past many months on my professional self.  I realized that I hadn’t spoken much about that yet.  The words spilled out, messy and ungraceful.  I’d like to say it better so I’m going to try again, and then many more times.  Self-care has helped me be a better physician.

I see people differently.  I look at them from the self-care angle.  I look for those sticky bits where we can connect and collaborate.  I expect things from them.  I ally myself with their self-respect, with their intuitive desire to be a friend with themselves.  I am bored at work when I don’t do this.  I am bored at work when my patients don’t do this too.  Yes.  My quality of practice has definitely improved.

Who isn’t blessed when they see the courage to face stigma, shame and bewildering illness?  Who isn’t more informed every time someone chooses the freedom to do self-care, chooses to live when disease is damaging them, fights hard like my niece did and shows what that fight is worth?  Who doesn’t learn from that?  Who doesn’t want more?  When someone loses their identity to the defacing ravages of disease but still knows who they are, is for me, one of the best places in the world to be.

Working harder on myself personally is working harder to improve myself professionally.  One healthy is another healthy Me.  Self-care has helped me find more pleasure at work because I know I am responsible about how I feel when I’m there.  I take care of myself when I’m there and then I’m able to give more to my patients because of it, including just being present.

Being present is really a lot to get and a lot to give.  I sense this in my kids who want me to see them.  They call out for observation of activities; riding without training wheels, jumping super high, running in fast shoes, building awesomeness.  But those are code.  They want me to see them.  I just can’t do that when I’m self-neglected.  It carries over in all spheres of my life, including the office.  Who wants to consult a physician who is half asleep in the chair?  (Now if I need a nap, I just go all the way and sleep! j/k.)

I know my self-care is participating in the practice of this kind of medicine with you.  I’m hoping to get better saying it.

Questions:  What has self-care done for you in your professional world?  How has it helped you work better as a team-member?  How has it helped you receive better from others who have something to give – such as teach you or give directions?  Please tell me your story.