LIVING A BALANCED HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

Challenge

How many times, while flying on an airplane, do you routinely ignore the flight attendant giving safety instructions? You might be busy sending that last email, giving your staff on the ground some last-minute instructions or reading a book. You get the idea. But, while you are busy, you may be missing an important flight-safety instruction:

SECURE YOUR OWN OXYGEN MASK BEFORE ASSISTING OTHERS!
Learning to take care of their own needs is often counterintuitive for physicians. After all, most physicians enter medicine because they want to help others, and, often, they don’t think of themselves. The flight attendants give the instructions they do because we must take care of others before we take care of ourselves. This is a basic, fundamental aspect of having a rich and rewarding life.

Solutions

Let’s first consider what constitutes a healthy lifestyle, one that will enable you to “walk the talk” of a healthy and balanced life, yet still have time to be a doctor.

We all know that physicians lead incredibly busy lives and often struggle to maintain their own health – in mind, body and spirit. This module addresses mindfulness, or awareness, as well as your emotional well-being, before moving on to weight, nutrition and fitness.


Mindfulness
“Mindfulness can best be described as an intentional focused awareness – a way of paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” (1 Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York: Hyperion)Nonjudgmental inner experience occurs when people are aware of their thoughts and feelings without evaluation or critique. The process allows thoughts and feelings to come and go without taking action to fix or change them or becoming distracted by the experience.

When a person can approach daily routines and behaviors from a place of mindfulness, change is more likely to occur, and awareness of one’s environment, openness to new information and observation from different perspectives increase. All of these facilitate a sense of empowerment and control, which can decrease stress and increase creativity. (Langer, E. J., & Moldoveanu, M. (2000). The construct of mindfulness. Journal of Social Issues, 56 (1), 1-9.)

Increasingly, evidence shows that regular meditation can improve physical health and make a person more productive. It also can also improve memory and focus. In 2009, Krasner and colleagues (2009) found that physicians who practice mindfulness show improved overall well-being and effectiveness in clinical practice. They also found that physicians who practice mindfulness become more aware of the presence of stress, better understand the source of stress and are more able to mediate the effect of stress. Approaching their daily practice with mindfulness lowers physicians’ reactivity to events and increases their resiliency in difficult situations. (Krasner, M. S., Epstein, R. M., Beckman, H., Suchman, A. L.,Chapman, B., Mooney, C. J., & Quill, T. E. (2009). Association of an educational program in mindful communication with burnout, empathy, and attitudes among primary care physicians. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 302(12), 1284-1293.)

Now, use the following resources to learn more about the practice of mindfulness.


Focus on Yourself


Weight
Instead of focusing exclusively on body mass index, waist circumference or waist-to-hip circumference, consider best weight as a barometer for weight management. Best weight is the healthiest weight we can achieve and still enjoy life. What does that look like for you? Strategies to lose weight involve changing energy intake or energy output.

If you are interested in changing intake:

If you are interested in altering energy output:


Fitness
While exercise and fitness are essential components of weight loss and healthy living, exercise does not need to take place in a gym or make you sweat. In fact, the best exercise is the one you enjoy enough to keep doing.

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