Challenging the Meaning of life is the truest expression of the state of being human. - Viktor Frankl
Leo Tolstoy says, "The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity." Surely, this rings true for many who enter the field of medicine. Many derive a sense of meaning and purpose from the work they do, those they help, and goals they aspire to. But, what happens when this connection to meaning fades, or is stifled by stress, burnout, systemic burdens, and fatigue? This can lead to physician turnover, low job satisfaction, relationship issues, and/or mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. This section is dedicated to exploring the answers to the question: How do I cultivate and maintain a sense of meaning and purpose?
In order to safeguard, or nurture wellbeing, studies suggest that a connection to meaning and purpose is crucial to work towards not only surviving, but thriving. Extensive research has demonstrated that people with a strong sense of meaning and purpose in life experience greater happiness and fewer psychological problems. These approaches emphasize the study and practice of how to not only alleviate suffering and distress but how to enhance a sense of purpose, satisfaction, and ability to flourish.
When asking yourself, "What gives me meaning in my life?" you're really asking three questions:
What is important to me?
For many, this can be very difficult to answer. When we are younger, this is often defined by the people around us. When we are adults, we are still influenced by our friends, partners and colleagues, and the media. But, how may of us have stopped to think about our values? And, how well are these values aligning with our lifestyle and choices? Here is a values list. Take a look and rank order your top 10 values, and then reflect on if and how you are living out these values daily.
“The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion.” – Thich Nhat Hahn
Mindful living is a practice that involves paying attention, on purpose, to each present moment. It is about observing your thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and experiences from a place of non-judgmental awareness. It is a way to learn to non-reactively observe your thoughts and emotions, de-center from them, and assume an open problem-solving approach to cope with them. This practice helps us put space between ourselves and our reactions. Mindful living practice also helps increase gratitude, satisfaction, and contentment. It enhances the skills of focusing on the present moment, which in turns enables us to feel more in control of the state of our mind and attitude. When we are focused on the present, we are freed from the shackles of the past and worries of the future.
Mindful living is an essential exercise to achieve positive mind-body balance and improve wellbeing. This section is dedicated to providing education, resources and practical tips on how to live mindfully.
Ever find yourself staring blankly at a friend, partner, child, and you have no idea what they are saying? Mindfulness helps you give them your full attention and enables you to practice deep listening. This improves empathy, connection and intimacy.
Connection with others.
It can be frustrating to have the mind stray from what we are doing and be pulled in six directions. Mindful living practice hones our ability to focus and pay attention.
Mindfulness can be especially suited to physicians, because it can help counteract worrying, perfectionism and self-judgment. It also increases self-compassion, and internal resources to overcome difficult situations. Mindful living helps physicians listen more carefully to their patients, show more compassion, and improve concentration.
Burnout Prevention & Treatment
Evidence shows that those who practice mindful living have lower stress levels, greater contentment, and improved resilience and ability to cope.
Decrease in stress level.
Sometimes it feels impossible to slow the racing thoughts in our mind. Mindful practice teaches us how to give our minds a break from the chatter, and cultivate peace in our thoughts.
Quieting the mind.
Mindful Living Activities
Click here for more Mindful Living Techniques for Physicians
“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” – William James
Strong relationships are important to happiness, resilience and well-being. This section is dedicated to providing education, resources and strategies on building and maintaining connections with others.
hear with your eyes, then talk with your heart
It has been suggested that around 90% of our communication is through body language and non-verbal cues. Body language and actions are often the first cues of disconnect or something being “off.” Being able to cue in tells the other person that you are seeing them. Talking with your heart involves talking to the person (personhood) you know, not to the behavior you see.
Family and Friend Engagement
With the high demands and loaded responsibility of the job, physicians often struggle to find a work-life balance. Particularly in residency, there is reported less time for family and friend engagement. This lack of social connection can lead to isolation, and increased risk for burnout, depression and anxiety. Meaningful relationships and support have long been known to contribute to personal happiness, resiliency and wellbeing.
The articles and handouts below offer a few ways you can enhance your well-being by building and maintaining relationships:
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines collegiality as the cooperative relationship of colleagues. We expand that to include characteristics of work relationships that include mutual respect, compassion, empathy, support, and active listening. Positive relationships improve work environments and are crucial to creating a culture of wellbeing. Here are some strategies to build positive working relationships and resources for you to connect:
Building Relationships through Communication
Local, National, and International Associations
Doctor, Go to the Doctor
In order to care for others, we must first care for ourselves!
Within the culture of medicine, values such as competition, individualism, independence, strength, achievement, and persistence are praised and reinforced. While many of these values can lead to accomplishment, they can also be barriers to seeking and receiving assistance when in need. Physicians may view taking time for self-care or asking for help as selfish, weak or irresponsible. Or, they may fear that coworkers, faculty, attendings or employers will view them negatively.
Some of the barriers for residents seeking care include: concerns about confidentiality, time restraints, stigma, a desire to avoid negative evaluations, fear of negative judgment from peers or bosses, and questions about reporting to medical licensing boards. Often, this leads to the individual putting their own self-care needs to the side. This is particularly true for mental health concerns. Many people still believe that to struggle reflects a lapse of willpower or some inherent deficiency, so this prevents them from reaching out. Those in "helping" professions, like physicians, must find a way to put their own health and wellbeing back on their list of priorities. So Doctor, go to the Doctor!
Physical Health Care
How to prioritize your health:
Attend your regular preventive care appointments
Make your food- avoid packaged, processed foods
Schedule time for exercise
Get a good night’s sleep
Cut down on stress
How well are you attending to yourself? Where is your own health on your priorities list?
Click here to complete Self-Care Assessment and develop a self-care plan!
Mental Health Resources
Florida Hospital Center for Physician Wellbeing (CPW) offers individual, couples and family counseling and coaching to AdventHealth physicians, residents, APPs, and their families. Contact (407) 303-9674 for more information or to schedule an appointment.
When you need professional, confidential advice to manage life's troubles, the state's Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help. The EAP, provided by E4 Health, offers employees 24-hour telephone access to confidential help from trained counselors. The counselors talk with you about your concerns, give guidance and the right resources. The EAP provides assistance that supports your and your family’s total wellbeing on a variety of issues.
Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere. There are no age or education requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem.
NA is a nonprofit fellowship of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem. NA is for recovering addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean. This is a program of complete abstinence from all drugs. There is only one requirement for membership, the desire to stop using.
Al‑Anon is a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. By sharing common experiences and applying the Al-Anon principles, families and friends of alcoholics can bring positive changes to their individual situations, whether or not the alcoholic admits the existence of a drinking problem or seeks help