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.

14 thoughts on “Self-Care As it Affects Your Professional Self

  1. Reminds me not to be dismissive of others and to be a little more indulgent which enhances the connection quality. Other people have sensibilities and could appreciate our validation of who they are. Sharing self care.

  2. I was delighted this morning to hear a report about Catherine Zeta-Jones’ recent announcement of her brief hospitalization for treatment of Bi-Polar II disease. I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar II disease many years ago, and have spent a great deal of time explaining what it is, and its differences from its more well-known cousin.

    She apparently was exercising good self-care practice, in that she checked herself into the hospital. The tremendous stress that she has been under (being the mother of two young children and dealing with her husband’s (Michael Douglas) recent bout with throat cancer) has been the trigger for this particular episode. Stress is a very large and common instigator of Bi-Polar II episodes.

    It was wonderful to hear it discusssed on the “Today Show” by two physicians so objectively and openly. I hope that it helped to dispel some of the myths surrounding Bi-Polar diseases. (BTW, they quite wisely discussed the disease in general, and did not discuss Catherine Zeta-Jones’ particular case, because they stated emphatically that they have no information nor experience with her personally!)

    One more thing: Some years ago my eldest brother said something to me that has had a huge impact on my life, both personally (privately) and professionally (publically). He advised me to never “own” the disease. He said not to ever discuss the diseases with which I struggle as “mine,” i.e. “MY depression” or “MY Bi-Polar II.” Not only has that helped me to deal more objectively with the disease, but it has helped those around me to be more objective about it as well, and it puts a distance between me and the disease. It helps me to project myself not as a “diseased person,” but as a “person dealing (and successfully, I might add) with a disease.” I believe there is a marked difference between the two,

    Thank you for another stimulating post.

    • wow paula!!!! i have goose-pimples doing a dance all over me because of your last paragragh (not to diminish the loveliness of the full comment of course). But girl, that was some amazing content. You could develop that, tell stories about that, spread it around like the wonderful Miss Rumphius and her lupines. Thank u for sharing. keep on.

  3. self care becomes a world where you can look after your self just that little bit better it has helped me in a few ways one is that i see other people and think maybee what about there feelings it opens a diffrent scope on things for me where as before i didnt care about what other people say now i actualy think what i am writing

  4. What a very interesting post! I can especially relate when you say, ” 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”, since I got into the profession I’m in because of my self care. I’m a personal trainer that specializes in working with people with special health related needs, particularly autoimmune diseases since I suffer from one. I have had many of the health issues my clients have, and have seen the benifits of diet and exercise, so it’s easy for me to identify with the problems my clients encounter. Your words ring so true to me.

    I can also really relate to you when you say, ” I am bored at work when my patients don’t do this too.” You would think that most people who are willing to pay a personal trainer are interested in self care, but that’s not always the case. That’s why I chose to specialize in a field that most trainers aren’t interested in. My clients inspire me as much if not more than I inspire them. I wrote about 4 of them here: http://bluerose9062.blogspot.com/2007/01/illustration-friday-super-hero.html
    but there have been so many more that are just as inspiring. It helps me stay focussed on my self care, and it’s so rewarding to watch these people change their lives and know that I had the privilage of helping them do it.

  5. Hi Sana – I like this concept “I expect things from them. I ally myself with their self-respect, with their intuitive desire to be a friend with themselves” – to me it’s about helping people help themselves if they want to be helped – dare I say that besides genuine depression and event-based misery, some people just love being miserable because they love the drama – often they are not actually seeking help but merely an audience to their endless whingeing. This translates to the workpplace, too, with some creating problems that really don’t exist just because they like the drama of it. Harsh, perhaps, but true, in my experience

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