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Keeping Perspective on Life’s Priorities

By John A. Patterson M.D., MSPH, FAAFP

Tom Broster has practiced for 28 years as part of Central Kentucky Anesthesia, a private anesthesiology group at Baptist Health Lexington. As president of the group since 2001, he describes his business and administrative responsibilities as the greatest source of his stress- not his patient care responsibilities.

He knows he is experiencing stress when he sleeps poorly, feels tired and fatigued and when he loses his temper. In especially stressful times, he has felt anxious, frustrated, worried and fearful about the future. When he experiences these signs of stress, he knows it is time to talk with physician colleagues, friends, neighbors and his wife to get another perspective or reassurance on issues that are creating his stress. Playing golf and getting regular exercise help. Swimming laps helps clear his mind and helps him relax. Family and church help.

He has two sons currently in medical school at UK. His advice for them and for physician colleagues regarding self-care, stress management and burnout prevention is to create a network of family, friends and colleagues as a supportive coping strategy. Getting fresh perspectives from this trusted social network can make all the difference in the world. He has learned that sometimes his original plan isn’t nearly as good as one suggested by someone he trusts.

Keisa Bennett is on the faculty of the University of Kentucky Department of Family and Community Medicine. Before she realized that teaching is her real passion, she experienced chronic, low level stress trying to build a research-oriented career. Even though there is more involved in her new teaching responsibilities, she now feels happier and more fulfilled as her work now feels more infused with personal meaning.
Clear signs of stress she recognizes in herself include sleep loss and low energy. In addition, her wife picks up on such things as facial expression and a lack of personal presence in relationship. As newly-weds, she is trying to work out a balance between being a conscientious academic physician and being present in her marital relationship at home. She really experiences the stress-reducing benefit of regular exercise 5 days most weeks and wishes she could work it in every day..

She wants to do more in the area of prayer and meditation, which she believes help her keep life’s priorities in proper perspective. Her favorite yoga class was one that stressed centering and contemplation rather than exercise. She often turns off her phone while walking the dog in the morning and adopts a prayerful, contemplative, grateful relationship to everything around her.

She advises medical students and residents to keep life in balance, be truly present in their limited time with family and friends, get physical exercise and custom design their own unique self-care model. She encourages them to begin this process as early as possible in their medical education and medical practice. Finding an author or particular book that reminds physicians of the meaning of their work is helpful. She frequently re-reads the tiny chapters of physician Rachel Remen’s two books- Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings. They help us remember the reason we went into medicine and to cultivate a sense of gratitude for the opportunity we have as physicians to do meaningful work.

About the Author
Dr Patterson is past president of the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians and is board certified in family medicine and integrative holistic medicine. He is on the family practice faculty at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, specializing in stress-related chronic disease and burnout prevention for helping professionals. He can be reached through his website at http://www.mindbodystudio.org



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