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Provider Edition: Here’s my list of unbeautiful self-care!

December 9, 2021

Friends,

Last week, I talked about necessary steps to engage in “Unbeautiful Self-care” and attached a piece of writing from an incredible author. If you haven’t had a chance to marinate in her words, please take the time to do so.

As I’ve sat with providers, clinic leaders and medical organizations over the past many months, it is clear that caring for oneself is not an intrinsic tool. It needs to be made explicit and given permission to practice. As selfless healers, caring for oneself is actually “trained out” of us. Putting our needs behind others is a badge of honor, a way of being and encouraged as standard practice. Here are things I hear from providers:

  • I try not to drink water so I don’t have to use the bathroom as much
  • I try to pack small snacks because I don’t have time to sit down and eat lunch
  • My milk stopped coming in because I didn’t have time to pump
  • I can’t take vacation right now because my team needs me
  • I’m working 60 hour weeks because of staffing issues
  • Sleep? I’m used to not sleeping.
  • I don’t feel safe walking into my office right now
  • I’m having panic attacks in my car

 

If this is you, you are headed towards burn out if you’re not there already. I want you to give yourself a gift and take an honest inventory of where you might be neglecting yourself, where boundaries are necessary and where more compassion might be necessary. It’s more than self-care friends, it’s necessary practice to continue doing the work we do.

As an incredible provider confided in me, “I don’t even know where to begin, so I’ll use your list for now, Amy. Then, perhaps, I’ll be able to create my own.” Here are the steps she followed – much of this was inspired from work that I have been doing in the leadership space for medical providers, the work of Nagoski & Freudenberger, as well as listening deeply to the needs of healthcare professionals and my own.

The Self-Care You Don’t Think You Need Right Now

  1. Breathe deeply – 90 seconds a few times a day decreases cortisol hormones significantly.
  2. Laugh – find a Netflix episode, listen to Comedy Central, re-watch Friends, tell bad jokes. Belly laughs release those feel-good chemicals that are important for recovery.
  3. Creative expression – paint, draw, sing (even horribly!), knit, bake – something that gets you into a different part of your brain and connected with artistry.
  4. Move your body – you need not run a marathon – but move, stretch, bend, dance. If you need motivation here, check out my buddy, Gurdeep Pandher.
  5. Hug someone – physical contact releases another amazing chemical – oxytocin. You know it. You love it. That’s our bonding chemical – the attachment magic that makes us feel safe.

 

On a practical level – here’s what my list might look like:

  1. Before I get out of bed, deep breaths. Just 90 seconds focused on my body.
  2. Take the stairs at work. Park at the back of the lot. Stretch between patients.
  3. Big hug to my teenagers when I get home. Dog cuddles.
  4. Watch something OTHER THAN NEWS. Something that makes my heart happy. Bridgerton anyone?
  5. Read a book, bake something yummy. I do not sew or paint, but I make a mean cupcake with cream cheese filling. YUMMY.
  6. More hugs, hand-holding, hands-on belly, and deep breaths.

 

If I really want to challenge myself:

  1. Peloton in the morning – Alex Toussaint will kick your butt. Or, if I want to torture myself (because I’m horrible at this) – guided meditation for 10 minutes. Yes, 10 minutes of meditation is harder for me than 45 minutes of pure cardio – guess which one I need more?
  2. Ask for a hug. This is hard, but necessary (Why am I so bad at this??? I’m working to get better!). Let them be the first to let go. Or, offer a hug to a friend/colleague.
  3. Say no to something this week. What feels like more of an obligation than rejuvenation?
  4. Do something creative that makes me work – a new recipe is challenging but fun. Or, give myself a break and order food in (trigger, mom guilt), but make a yummy dessert. Did I mention I love dessert?
  5. Let myself feel ok for not getting back to people right away. How do they know I got the email??
  6. Read a book for me! Something I want to read. I’m diving into Brené Brown’s new book right now.
  7. Go to sleep when I’m tired. What??? Yes, listen to my body, put away my computer.
  8. Say no to making holiday cards this year – I’m embracing this one fully.

 

Even these small steps help us begin to heal and address overwhelm. So, borrow my list for now – the simple or the challenging one. Let me know how it goes. Let’s all do some UNBEAUTIFUL SELF-CARE!!

Finally, if you want more of this, I encourage you to sign-up for my Provider Lounge membership! This is the LAST week to sign-up for a space of true collaboration and learning AND get it at a founding members’ price. Learn more and sign-up here.

With kindness,

Dr. Amy

 

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