Are You Setting Yourself Up for a Career Ending Injury?
By Elizabeth Anderson-Peacock, DC
We love to serve patients and help people. We love to serve so much that we often forget to serve ourselves. We dole out help like an outpouring of water from a pitcher. The only problem is one day we may wake-up to find the pitcher dry because we've forgotten to dip that pitcher back in the wellspring of energy to re-vitalize ourselves.
We're good at spotting the impact of this in our patients; aches and pains, new injuries, lack of concentration and focus while at work or play leading to accidents, exhaustion, burn-out and pre-mature degeneration, but how good are you at catching this in yourself?
What's tapping you on the shoulder and are you listening? Have you noticed that when we don't listen, the messages eventually get louder or cycles repeat in different forms? What if you could catch yourself sooner, before the "big event" occurs? What are the signs and what can we do about them? This is not a piece that's going to tell you what to do.
Hopefully, it serves as a reminder to recognize signs sooner and act upon them.
Perhaps you can relate to the early years when building your practice. I remember when I started from scratch and the thought of saying no to a new patient or an office visit that was an "emergency" didn't occur to me. I wanted to be available as I was hungry and happy to serve. What I learned fairly quickly was that if I wasn't running the show, the patients were.
I'd realized quite quickly that emergencies rarely were. They were mostly people fed up with their chronic "whatever" and they wanted help in that moment. They were demanding and not accommodating. While other groups of evening patients were enjoying being home with their families to have dinner, de-compress, do afterschool activities, or workout so they could then come in to see me afterwards. My scheduling of them did not allow me to enjoy the same connection with my family and community. So, I put parameters around when I saw patients. Yes, some emergencies snuck in here and there for my existing patients, but my change was to be in the office either with an "early in-early out" or "late-in, late out" on an alternating basis. This gave me opportunities to be home some nights and still capture those patients either before or after work/school. In other words, it allowed me to participate in other things important to me.
My lesson was that the current frequency of availability at any time was not a long-term strategy that was without consequences – physically, mentally and spiritually. And if I persisted, I believe I would have become resentful.
Introduce clear practice hours that fit the values and desired life one wants to create with discretionary flexibility.
Early in my practice career, I didn't take time off. I clearly remember my first vacation and the greatest feedback from patients was, "Good, it's about time you finally you took some days off!" Sometimes our patients (staff and family) know when we are in need of a change of pace before we do. Is it selfish to take time for you? Learning to just say "no", means we're saying "yes" to ourselves. Difficult for many, but not impossible to do.
Regularly scheduled vacations and down time through out the year to reset, rejuvenate and gain perspective.
Burning the candle at both ends? Exhausted from doing too much and unable to catch up? Not enough restorative sleep? This is when I found I created injuries.
In the office, just say "No." Have you found when you attempt to be all, to all, we dilute our energies? With patients, I've learned to put responsibility squarely back on them for things they should be responsible for. Their job is to do the homework in changing up their lifestyles and apply recommendations. As you know, many will try to pass it off to you. We don't serve them when we rob them of their self-responsibility. They do not learn, grow and develop when we tell them what to do in every scenario. So, I am a fan of teach them how to fish vs. giving them the fish. As I see it our job is to empower and assist them in making change.
Outside the office, say "Yes" to your highest passions and priorities with limits you set for yourself. Pause before you say "Yes" to avoid impulsive responses. If a request is not of your highest value or passion, say "No." Allow someone else the opportunity to take on that commitment. Re-evaluate each quarter where you are and if you should add or delete.
Doing it all in the practice; CEO, CFO, HR, chief adjusting doctor, the media spokesperson, trainer, motivator and conflict resolution officer. We play lots of roles on the office which can be problematic if what you love to do is adjust. Far more than that is required to run a successful office. When we start practice I believe there's an advantage of understanding and performing in these roles but there may come a time when you can let go of micromanaging.
Leverage yourself through delegation of non-essential duties. Enrolling and empowering staff or allied professionals like accountants, radiation techs, clinical and clerical assistants. Stop micromanaging and teach self-leadership which is far more powerful than management. If you keep to your priorities, passions and do what's aligned with your values, it becomes easier to see when ego becomes infatuated with the thought of what we think we should do, versus what is true for you.
Focused listening to others while forgetting to tune inward to listen to our own sensations and feelings. Perhaps it shows up as a busy mind that just doesn't turn off, anxiety, becoming emotionally labile, craving more stimulants like caffeine or distractions to "veg" out.
Start listening to the "bigness of the little fellow within." Perhaps we override it with our ego? So create quiet time to reflect, gain insights or spend time in stillness, with movement or meditative practices like Qigong, Tai Chi, Yoga or connect in nature, run/walk in a park or on a beach. Vent stress through breath work or physical activity you love. I am a fan of getting outside as all animals are designed in nature to do. Spend time with yourself and see what your "inner voice" is leading you to do. Reflect, journal or take up something that requires your creativity.
Living a lifestyle that is not sustainable or compatible with healthy living. Thinking "it won't happen to me" like we get some special pass, just because of our profession. We can muscle through short term scenarios but the problem occurs when the short term has become the "new set-point" in a chronic situation.
Tune-in, practice what you preach. Do the best you can with where you are today. Strive to make tomorrow a bit better. Chunk off small goals, so simple you know you cannot fail and build on them over time.
Be a patient of your own advice. If you were the patient of you, what would you recommend? Ultimately you know that answer.
Over or under utilization in one of our many environments. We're immersed 24/7 in a number of environments that impact us. Depending on the method you use, it may be in Demartini's 7 or Coachville's 9 environments (as examples).
To get back on track we may need to add or delete time spent in each environment to re-balance ourselves. Think of the amount, quality of time plus duration you spend in each of the following:
Memetic: self development, learning, thoughts;
Body: physical health, nutrition, activity, fuel source, movement;
Self and intangibles: feelings, values, skills, space in your life;
Nature: outdoors, fresh air, seasons;
Spiritual: spiritual practices, connections with spirit;
Relationships: family, friends, partner, mentors, pets, neighbors;
Network/community: colleagues, patients and other groups;
Financial: money, investments, people who support your wealth – banker, CA, advisor;
Physical environment: home, office, desk space, possessions, gym, sounds/music. Could they be more harmonized?
Lack of awareness of one's bodily sensations and feelings. Our body gives us many clues when something is on or off course.
Do a check in. Sit still for a few minutes in the morning and again in the evening. Close your eyes to bring your attention inwards. What are you feeling? Mad, sad, frustrated, cold, tired? Write it down. Begin to look at patterns as this brings your awareness to the variety of feelings you are experiencing in the moment.
We run our day often unaware of our current feelings yet those same feelings influence our relationships, how we see and interact with the world and how others see us. Our emotions are a vibration that impacts our creativity, resourcefulness and physiology. Awareness in this area allows you to check-in with how your daily activities and thoughts about your experiences have affected your emotional state.
Is what you are feeling representative of your day-to-day feelings? Did you get in touch with any feelings or emotions that were a surprise? Are you satisfied with what you are feeling? If not what minor action could you do to change your feeling to something you'd prefer?
Underestimating time or over committing. Nothing worse than poor scheduling and making patients wait. Your patients and staff get stressed and you're under pressure. Chronic lateness, not only is rude from not appreciating others time as being valuable but it also shows your mismanagement.
Same on the home and personal front. For over committing, the risk of disappointing one of that parties is very real. There's also the lack of giving your full attention to where you are when you are thinking of having to be at the next place.
Re-evaluate how long it takes you to do "x" and schedule accordingly. As noted above, just say "no." Does your private face equate to your public persona or is there a disconnect that's not being heeded?
Less resistance occurs when we are working in harmony, tuning within, listening and adjusting our lives accordingly. The likelihood of a catastrophic situation becomes less because we walk in our lives aware, awake and alert from within and from without.
Dr. Liz Anderson-Peacock is an award winning chiropractor known for her work in the pediatric arena and as an instructor. Her speakers' website is www.drlizspeaker.com.