When Life Gets Stressful, Reset Your Mind

Updated on June 12th, 2022
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[Today’s post is from Dads, Dollars, Debts, a cardiologist blogger who lives and works in California. Work, life (or both) can get stressful for all of us from time to time in our lives. DDD reminds us about a simple technique to help reset your mind in these situations. And he definitely knows a thing or two about stress: he is in the process of rebuilding after his previous home was destroyed in the Tubbs Fire in October 2017. This post previously ran on DDD’s blog in February 2017. -WSP]

The other day I was doing my taxes and I was in an endless loop of error. I was entering my backdoor IRA conversion information and for some reason my tax refund was getting smaller. I knew this was wrong. The numbers should stay the same, not decrease. I used a trusted website to help direct me through the steps, but it would not work. After 4 times I finally took a step back and took a breathe. That night, I decided to put my taxes to the side. The next morning, I came back and tried and badda bing, it worked. This got me thinking about how important it is to take a step back and breathe in life.

Breathe

In many ways taking a step back and breathing is a practice of mindfulness. It is a pause in the normal pace to allow us to reset. I practice this with my 20 month old son as taught to us by Daniel the Tiger. As he says “When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four”…you can see the video here. For toddlers they teach mindfulness for angry feelings but as adults, use it for when we are frustrated, stumped, tired, and just can’t deal with it anymore. By taking a step back and breathing we can reset how we feel about the situation.

Whale breath

How can this apply to our practice of medicine?

  1. Between patients we should try and take a moment to let the feelings/emotions from the prior encounter (particularly if they were negative or frustrating) go away before starting our new encounter. Try to look at each encounter as new to avoid getting into a rut. That way we can provide the best care for each person. It can also prevent burnout.
  2. When we are on the third consult in a row at 4pm, breathe and remember our colleagues called because they need our assistance. No one wants to call a consult, particularly not at 4pm. So if they call, just take a breath and remember that they need our help. This will allow us to be more respectful on the phone.
  3. When we need a break and just can’t seem to find the time. Just take a second. Close our eyes. Take a deep breath. Focus on the breath. Then get back to it. We will feel better for the time we took for ourselves.
  4. When going home, it’s important to breathe and leave the day’s struggles at the hospital/clinic. There is no benefit in bringing negative feelings home to the family.

Conclusion

A very simple step, to take step back and breathe can actually make a difference in your day and life. Consider giving it a try and come back here and let me know if it has improved your day and maybe your relationships and encounters.

What do you think? What relaxation techniques do you use when work/life gets stressful?

6 COMMENTS

  1. Solid advice, for sure.

    Deep breathing and focusing on the breath itself as it goes in and out really can calm down you down and bring you peace.

    By the way, I particularly love the 4pm consult when the patient has been there since 8am.

  2. My husband and I have taken up the practice of meditation recently. Mostly we meditate at home on our own time using an app on our phones, but we also attend a group meditation class once a week when possible. We try and meditate on a regular basis, we think of it as exercise for the mind and soul. I know sometimes I miss a day or two because life gets in the way, and sometimes it’s difficult to quiet the mind after a long stressful day, but that’s ok. I just keep trying. Meditation has definitely helped me manage the stress of daily life and I see the benefits of it at work every day.

  3. Your post brought back some old memories. As a radiologist luckily we don’t get 4pm consults (although some stat last minute CT or dvt study can still come in but no where near the pain of last minute consult).

    I think it is sound advice but getting harder to do as practices are forced to see more patients in same amount of time just to keep pace with decreasing reimbursements.

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