Hi, Sister Doc!
The weather is warm, the days are long, and summer is finally here! It is time to let your hair down, put your feet up on a lounge chair near the pool, and relax a little. As lovely as it sounds, it is not so easy for all of us.
I was coaching one of my sister docs in our Physician Wellness Program the other day, and she told me how she just did not know how to relax. She was so used to always taking care of patients and family members all day long that she just could not sit down and relax and take a breather.
Another sister doc spoke about how she would overwork. She was working three or more jobs and hopping online to see telemedicine patients when she was supposed to be resting. She did this as a way to buffer against negative emotions like anxiety or overwhelm. Yes, that is a thing!
While some may turn to wine, junk food, or Netflix to try to neutralize negative feelings, we overachieving women tend to throw ourselves more into our work. That is because work is a familiar environment, we feel more in control there, and it seems like a “good” thing to do.
But the problem with any type of buffering is that there is a net negative. In the case of overworking, we become more physically exhausted, our relationships suffer, we often sacrifice self-care, and we take ourselves down the road of burnout.
So how do we stop this cycle? First, we must create some awareness of what is happening in the first place. Look and see if you are overworking. If so, ask yourself what feeling am I trying to avoid by buffering. There is always a feeling there, usually frustration, guilt, or overwhelm. For me, when I threw myself into work, it was sometimes because I was avoiding the frustration I felt parenting my young children who would tantrum and fight with one another often.
Then you have to make a decision that you are willing to feel that negative feeling. We often run from negative emotions and think that something has gone wrong when we feel something negative. But life is 50/50 for all of us, and it is perfectly normal to feel positive feelings half of the time and negative feelings the other half of the time.
All we have to do is sit with the negative feeling and simply allow it to be and do nothing; no eating, no drinking, no working, no Netflixing, and no Facebooking. What I have found is that when I allowed the frustration and did not resist it, did not distract myself from feeling it, and also did not guilt myself for feeling frustrated as a parent, the feeling would pass through me within minutes. I did not die from feeling frustrated or anxious or worried or overwhelmed or guilty or angry. Despite my primitive brain telling me feeling negative emotions was dangerous, I have always survived every negative feeling that I have ever felt. Lol!!! All that build-up and avoidance and overworking just to avoid a feeling that lasted a few minutes!
Whether it is frustration, anxiety, overwhelm, or another negative feeling, I encourage you to sit with it and allow it. And when you allow it to pass, you will build your ability to feel all your emotions, become a pro, and will no longer feel like you need to overwork to avoid feeling them.
Here’s to finally enjoying summers!
To Uplifting Women Doctors,
Archana Shrestha, MD, MS
Co-Founder & Chief Wellness Officer
Women in White Coats
Archana Shrestha, MD, is a physician, certified life coach, speaker, author, and entrepreneur in Chicago. She is the co-founder of Women in White Coats, co-author of “The Chronicles of Women in White Coats” book series, and the Chief Wellness Officer at Mighty Mom MD, where she coaches high-achieving women on wellness and weight loss. Learn more about her by going to MightyMomMD.com. She can be followed on Instagram @MightyMomMD