This sequel starts as a cautionary tale – like a horror movie. You can see it coming but the main character is oblivious to it until it is too late. You yell at the screen warning her, but she cannot hear you!
Let me paint the scene in the first movie that led up to this:
You are the main character, the heroine of the story.
You have done the hard work to get out of a state of overwhelm and overcommitment.
You made choices and changes.
You have recovered and it feels wonderful!
You made it out safely…for now.
Then the creepy music starts.
In this new drama, you are curious and decide to test the waters. You hesitantly dip your toe in to start and the feedback is good. Your need to be helpful is met. You are a giver! Then, you step in just a little further while promising yourself you will not go in over your head.
Two things could happen in this drama:
1. You take the next step and find a steep drop-off. Before you know it, you are submerged.
2. You take the next step and the floor below you is steady and solid. You can still stand upright.
How can you avoid drowning and create a happy ending?
How can you be steady and solid or supported rather than submerged?
This scenario is all too real for me. I recently took a sabbatical from clinical practice after switching from one health system to another last year. Despite the pandemic, I filled up my time with interesting and fulfilling projects and valuable time with loved ones. As I transitioned back into practice, I worried that I was going to return to that situation of being overwhelmed because I wanted to continue all that I had been doing AND develop a new practice. Does that not sound like a setup for a near-drowning scenario?
What am I doing to steady myself and use my life preserver to prevent a slip under the water?
I am revisiting my priorities. Oprah Winfrey said
, “you can do all the things, just not at one time.” I am using a published strategy to be productive and I am creating protective boundaries. I am setting up other relapse prevention strategies like setting margin (open space on my calendar). I am not perfect, but I am sincerely trying.
I see this relapse pattern in both the medical and business worlds:
Emily Ley is the creator of the brand Simplified and author of Grace, Not Perfection, and When Less Becomes More. She created a company from scratch and expanded it to a multimillion-dollar business. At the same time, she found herself with three small kids and travel that put her on 100 flights a year. When she started seeing the emotional and physical symptoms of stress strip her energy, she got out a piece of paper and a pen and made some decisions.
She cut out a large section of her business to limit travel so she could be with her family more. Ironically, by focusing her efforts on what mattered to her, the online business grew more profitable and surpassed its previous income. But just like the turning point in our fictional movie, as the success continued, she found herself taking on new projects and writing books. Soon she was stretched thin again, so she created new strategies to support herself. She decided to take a month off from some of the responsibilities in her business each January and let her team buoy her during that time.
I can tell stories of multiple physicians who have pivoted because of burnout and have created side gigs, or second careers, to feed something that either eluded them in their primary job, gave them a new level of excitement, or fulfilled a sense of purpose. But being successful in this new position fills their nights and weekends. They find it difficult to focus on other meaningful things in their life and are at a point of having to choose between them again.
Can you run a business, explore options, and still make it all work?
Can you start to grow in leadership and not lose that white space on your calendar that you so need?
Yes, you can, and I will tell you exactly how over the next few months!
I will leave you with that cliffhanger…until we meet again.
Marion McCrary MD FACP is a practicing primary care general internist in North Carolina. She works with both physicians and non-physicians as a national-board certified integrative health and wellness coach. She is also a Women in White Coats Writers Fellow and Podcast Co-Host. Her website is http://www.marion-wellness.com, and she can be followed on Instagram and Facebook at marionmccrarywellness.