In our profession, like most in the healthcare field, we spend much of our time thinking and caring for others. This is what makes us good doctors. We listen. We empathize. We think of others’ best interests first and foremost. I think a lot of us are attracted to the healthcare field because we are, by our very nature, caring people. And so here we find ourselves best able to use our skills both of optometry and compassion for those with whom we interact.
The past month or so has felt significantly different from those before it: not only have the responsibilities significantly increased, but somehow between residency and various other post residency jobs (tutoring, pre-clinic, Lenscrafters) and meetings, I find many of my days being 12+ hours long. I’m not unique in having this schedule, and don’t try to come across as crying out for pity. Many have much more grueling schedules and more demanding time commitments than I do. In fact, there have been times in my not so distant past (re: optometry school) where I’ve had much more on my plate to handle than I do now. I think I had gotten use to having a fair amount of free time or “me time” over the first half of residency, that I’m simply re-adjusting to this change of pace.
I was reading an article recently about physical manifestations of chronic stress, and realized I have been experiencing way too many of them lately: jaw clenching, irritability, upset stomach. A couple of weeks ago, I had to give a couple of presentations, one to the optometry interns and one to the medical pediatric residents, which forced me to wake up a half hour earlier than usual. I didn’t realize how much of a difference it made taking some quiet time to sit down to eat breakfast rather than eating hovering over the kitchen counter while rushing back and forth around my apartment getting myself ready for the day. I realized I was in such a better mood by the end of a long day because I already had made time for myself, time that I could enjoy, because I wasn’t yet exhausted from a full day’s work. I’ve since tried to continue this trend of giving myself some more time in the mornings just for me: for yoga/stretching, having a cup of coffee, responding to emails. It’s helped me feel like I’m not starting my day completely behind schedule.
One quote I recently read said, “Always be a little kinder than is necessary.” The quote is from James Barrie. The follow-up to that is “Be a whole lot kinder to yourself that you imagined possible.” It made me realize I hadn’t really been very kind to myself of late. Not realizing how much it is that we all do every day, it’s a wonder sometimes we’re as sane as we are. It’s easy to focus on what didn’t get checked off our to-do list today, but instead let’s focus on who we were today, who we listened to, who we helped, that peaceful moment you felt, a smile that made someone else feel better, a smile that made you feel better, and realize these are the things that matter most in life.
Be gentle to yourself today and every day, so we can better be gentle towards others.