Welcome back to Serenity. We’ve talked here about looking after ourselves, finding our identity and last time some simple rules to help get us through life. Today I’d like to talk about facing difficulties. Throughout our lives – personal and working, we will face difficulties and challenges to our happiness and balance of well being. How should we deal with these challenges? You might think that this is just common sense but there are some things to consider and ways to approach these situations that might make life a little easier.
Don’t Panic –
When things start to overwhelm us, and we face a difficult , one of the most important things is not to panic. As a general rule doctors are fairly good at this. We are trained not to panic, we learn and practice not to panic and to deal with emergency situations. We have algorithms and flow charts, we have contingencies and protocols, we are usually the ones patient’s and other people turn to in an emergency situation. Unfortunately that very training and long list of protocols which make us good to deal with those scenarios can make it daunting to deal with things we don’t expect, or to deal with things that have to do with us rather than a patient.
What would Batman do? An amusing line that comic book fans say, has some relevance here. First take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Now think what would Batman do? He would grab the problem with his hands, choke the resistance out of it, and beat it into submission! Now does that image appeal to you regarding your current problem? If you’re sitting there with a half smile and some of that tension and anger or fear has leaked out good! Fear and anger can paralyse and stop you thinking, so what ever you need to do to clear that head and kick-start that smart brain that has got you this far in life, do it!
The quip about Batman is to suggest that you need to view the problem or difficulty with an outside perspective and approach it in a calm and intelligent manner. Besides Batman or Yoda, you as the doctor or GP are often a source of sage advice and guidance to patients. I know I’ve been asked many times by a patient facing a difficult situation or time in their life what to do, and how to face those problems. I’m sure most of you would have as well. So what would you advise a patient coming in with the problem or difficulty you face?
Start with slow deep breaths, and pushing that fear aside, getting that cognitive part of your brain working again, and start dealing with the issues in front of you.
Identify what the actual problem or difficulty is, and how and why it’s there in the first place. Are there any immediate things you can do? Are there immediate things you should not do?
Get Help – beyond not giving in to panic, the second most important thing to do is to get help. This is one of the areas that we tend to not do too well. We are taught through our training as doctors to know when to ask for help. However, at the same time I think there is an underlying implication that we should be able to deal with things, and often there is a perceived sense that we can be seen as failures if we do have to ask for help.
Why is this?
Basically I think it comes down to pride. There is fear as well, but that is mainly to do with fear of what people will think/disappointing others, and all that comes back to pride. We have to learn to put aside that pride, and reach out to others. To admit that we are fallible and that we need help.
So start with people close to you who love you and care for you, because they probably already know something is wrong, and not having to hide that from them will ease off some of that burden. From there look at mentors or senior colleagues, there are services like the Australian Doctors Health Network (adhn.org.au) which I mentioned in an earlier post. There are groups like Share GP and GPDU where you can get some advice on certain things (though do have caution on posting certain things online). Family and friends, can provide, insight and support. RACGP and other college bodies, and MDOs often have some support services. Reach out, don’t shut yourself in, and falsely believe that you are alone.
So what now? You’ve quelled the initial panic, you’ve started to formulate a strategy and plan, you’ve reached out for help. Now what? Now comes the hard part…
Acceptance – having done what you can, the hardest thing to do is to accept the new situation you’re in. Whatever happened, the world you live in now is fundamentally different from the one you were in before. Its easy to loose yourself in ‘what ifs’, ‘this shouldn’t be happening to me’, and the old ‘its not fair!’. Whatever the situation, whatever has happened, and however unfair or undeserved it is, it has happened. Now you need to accept and own your situation. Until you can do that you can’t move forward.
Think that’s enough for today’s post, I’ll continue the – Facing difficulties, in part 2. Apologies if the above seem blatantly obvious… it can be… But sometimes when you are in that hole and things are overwhelming you, the blatantly obvious isn’t so obvious or easy.