I’m in my home stretch (last week!) of officially being in medical school. I’ve done the harrowing work, the hours of endless studying and long days at the hospital. At this point as I look ahead to residency, I see a life full of excitement because I’m finally doing what I’ve always wanted to do, but I also see what a lot of physicians complain about: the pressures of outcome measures at the hospital, nagging insurance companies, unfair administrative practices—all of which eventually impact patient care as well as the lives of the healthcare providers themselves. I’ve wondered if there are more effective ways to combat this, and luckily I happened upon the answer just a of couple short weeks ago.
I was flying to visit one of my dear friends and had recently checked out a self-help book (no shame!) precisely because I was worried about my career, my future, and basically everything else. The book was on being able to achieve anything you want just by thinking that you can do it. This sounded like a bunch of crazy to me. How was just thinking I could do something enough to actually make it happen? I am admittedly as skeptical as they come, but I figured I’d give it a shot because I only stood to gain some peace of mind from trying this out. So, I did. I vowed not to be a victim of my circumstances and every time a negative thought entered my mind like “I’m not good enough” or “I can’t do this”, I changed it to just the opposite.
I’m not going lie—it was hard. I felt like I was monitoring every thought I had and it was exhausting. It also made me realize just how wired we are to be hard on ourselves. It was also strange because I’m not used to being so intentional about my thoughts. But slowly I noticed a change, and it felt like the world around me began to change. I began to feel as if doors were opening in places I’d never thought possible, and I felt like I had a true shot at doing anything I wanted to do. I was more at peace with my circumstances and even the idea of starting intern year couldn’t phase me—I was rather excited for it. This stuff works.
Despite my own experiences, I can’t blame those who have trouble believing me; it’s really something everyone must experience for themselves. The Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital deals with this idea and offers continuing medical education credits for providers who attend. There is ongoing research being conducted at various institutions, including Harvard, Yale, and Mayo Clinic that speaks to the power of positive thinking, meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, and many more techniques on fighting stress and burnout. These are all so simple and can help us live better lives. I’m experiencing this for myself even in a matter of a few short weeks. I’ve read about so many people whose lives have changed for the better and that power is incredible. Imagine a healthcare workforce that is not stressed or burnt out or tired but rather energized and revitalized. That’s the kind of environment I want to work in, and each one of us can contribute to that kind of change.
As I’ve said before, I’ve never taken this stuff seriously but now that I’m so close to entering practice and being a doctor for the very first time, it’s important that I develop these healthy coping/preventative mechanisms now instead of after the fact. The power of positivity has truly begun to change my life, and I meditate for at least five minutes every day (if not more) in addition to eating healthy and getting regular exercise. I feel calmer, sleep better, and find that the small things that used to bother me just don’t anymore. I accomplish more each day, have more energy and am not afraid to dream big because it has restored my sense of self-confidence. Choosing a mantra for myself for when I’m in a tough spot is helpful as well i.e. “I can do this; I can do anything.” It’s super cheesy, but it works. I’m confident that this will shape a happier, healthier, more positive tomorrow. Give it a shot!
As my medical school journey comes to an end, my column is ending as well. I’ve enjoyed cataloguing my experiences and hopefully it’s been helpful to many out there. Thank you for following along for the last four years; it’s been quite the ride. I appreciate the readership and support. Remember to stay strong, stay positive, and be amazing every single day!