Leo Tolstoy says, "The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity." Surely, this rings true for many who enter the field of medicine. Many derive a sense of meaning and purpose from the work they do, those they help, and goals they aspire to. But, what happens when this connection to meaning fades, or is stifled by stress, burnout, systemic burdens, and fatigue? This can lead to physician turnover, low job satisfaction, relationship issues, and/or mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. This section is dedicated to exploring the answers to the question: How do I cultivate and maintain a sense of meaning and purpose?
In order to safeguard, or nurture wellbeing, studies suggest that a connection to meaning and purpose is crucial to work towards not only surviving, but thriving. Extensive research has demonstrated that people with a strong sense of meaning and purpose in life experience greater happiness and fewer psychological problems. These approaches emphasize the study and practice of how to not only alleviate suffering and distress but how to enhance a sense of purpose, satisfaction, and ability to flourish.
Challenging the Meaning of life is the truest expression of the state of being human. - Viktor Frankl
What Gives Me Meaning In My Life?
When asking yourself, "What gives me meaning in my life?" you're really asking three questions:
- What Am I Good At?
- What Is Important To Me?
- What Is My Potential?
Mindful living is a practice that involves paying attention, on purpose, to each present moment. It is about observing your thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and experiences from a place of non-judgmental awareness. It is a way to learn to non-reactively observe your thoughts and emotions, de-center from them, and assume an open problem-solving approach to cope with them. This practice helps us put space between ourselves and our reactions. Mindful living practice also helps increase gratitude, satisfaction, and contentment. It enhances the skills of focusing on the present moment, which in turns enables us to feel more in control of the state of our mind and attitude. When we are focused on the present, we are freed from the shackles of the past and worries of the future.
Mindful living is an essential exercise to achieve positive mind-body balance and improve wellbeing. This section is dedicated to providing education, resources and practical tips on how to live mindfully.
“The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion.” – Thich Nhat Hahn
Strong relationships are important to happiness, resilience and well-being. This section is dedicated to providing education, resources and strategies on building and maintaining connections with others.
“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” – William James
- Family and Friend Engagement
Doctor, Go to the Doctor
In order to care for others, we must first care for ourselves!
Within the culture of medicine, values such as competition, individualism, independence, strength, achievement, and persistence are praised and reinforced. While many of these values can lead to accomplishment, they can also be barriers to seeking and receiving assistance when in need. Physicians may view taking time for self-care or asking for help as selfish, weak or irresponsible. Or, they may fear that coworkers, faculty, attendings or employers will view them negatively.
Some of the barriers for residents seeking care include: concerns about confidentiality, time restraints, stigma, a desire to avoid negative evaluations, fear of negative judgment from peers or bosses, and questions about reporting to medical licensing boards. Often, this leads to the individual putting their own self-care needs to the side. This is particularly true for mental health concerns. Many people still believe that to struggle reflects a lapse of willpower or some inherent deficiency, so this prevents them from reaching out. Those in "helping" professions, like physicians, must find a way to put their own health and wellbeing back on their list of priorities. So Doctor, go to the Doctor!