Being a health care provider can be stressful. Having healthy habits in place can mitigate stress and help you be better at your job! (Part 1 of 4)
Healthy Habit 1: Be Proactive, Not Reactive!
Being proactive is all about taking control of whatever is in your life that can take control of. Another way to think of it is as taking ultimate responsibility for not just your actions, but your life as a whole. As soon as you wake up, you have the opportunity to be proactive. You choose how you are going to approach your day. Whether you choose trepidation, enthusiasm, or something in between, the choice is solely yours. A proactive mindset is the mindset of leaders. Proactive students tend to graduate at the top of their class. Reactive students, however, tend to be the ones always lagging a bit behind and all too often, failing to finish what they started.
A trait that is held by reactive persons is that when things go wrong, they look for someone or something to place the blame on. If it’s a beautiful day and they choose to go to the beach rather than class and miss a pop quiz, it isn’t their fault, it’s the good weathers fault. They choose this route because it is the easy way out. Doing nothing and complaining about things gone wrong is easier than taking responsibility for a choice that went awry and enacting a plan to reach a favorable resolution. What reactive personalities never seem to grasp is that while complaining may feel good, it doesn’t really fix anything.
Placing a proactive person in the same scenario, we see a different final result. The proactive person makes a decision to go to the beach or go to class full well realizing the potential outcome for each option. They then make a choice knowing full well it may cost them. If the proactive student misses a pop quiz because of the choice they made, they confront that reality, admit their mistake, and then go about fixing the problem, all the while taking full responsibility for their choice.
At the end of the day, what you have to remember is that when you are in medical school, it is easy to lapse into being a reactive person. There are countless external stressors and temptations that can easily knock you off course. At the end of the day, however, you are still the one choosing whether you will be proactive or reactive and you alone will have to ultimately reap what your choices have sown.
Healthy Habit Two: Be Thinking About the End from the very Beginning!
What do you want to do with your life? From the time we are children, it is a question we hear more times than we can count. All too often, we get hung up on the details and forget the big picture entirely. For most people, answering this question in regard to their career is one of the most difficult things they will do in their life. It’s hard to plan for the end if you have no idea what the beginning is. For medical students, the end is clear – graduation. When you know the destination and the stops along the way, the journey becomes much easier.
Legendary basketball coach John Wooden once said, “Don’t mistake activity for achievement.” While it is most likely that Wooden was referring to his team, his words apply to more than sports. Throughout or lives, we are all trying to win. We take the small victories knowing that eventually they can add up to a big win.
While winning is nice, winning with a purpose is even better, because that is how we reach our destinations. For example, rushing through your study session to go play hoops may feel like a victory, but it is not a victory that helps you get where you’re really going.
Stop for a moment and ask yourself, “What do I want to be?” Then take a moment to look in the mirror and ask yourself what qualities you see in your reflection. Are they what you want to see? Do they add up to being what you need to achieve the success you want? If they don’t, you need to reevaluate your options.
When you begin med school, you are sure you understand what you are undertaking. You know there will be long hours and the mental strain can break students. If you don’t enter it with a plan for the long haul, the odds of succeeding are against you. Med school will swallow you whole and spit you out. Instead, you must play the long game, taking small, purposeful victories, along the way.