But it's not as much the situation itself as it is the way we deal with it that determines the degree to which we experience stress. Perhaps even over time our ability to mitigate the stress and prevent or even reverse the effects of stress on our body.
Mindful practice, or mindfulness, is in the news everywhere these days and it's not a fancy technique or a clever practice. It's a way of cultivating a greater awareness of our present moment and experience, including our thoughts, our emotions, our ingrained judgments or biases on a moment-to-moment basis. We may go into a patient's room and greet the patient, take a history, start our physical exam and we're still thinking about a conversation from the morning or anticipating what we're going to say later at a meeting or maybe even worrying about the results of a lab test that we just got on a previous patient.
When we find that our thoughts or emotions are interfering with their ability to stay aware of the present moment, one way to cultivate mindfulness is to pause even for two or three seconds and bring our attention to something unrelated. This could be something like the act of breathing and we don't do that with the purpose of improving our respirations. It's really to train our ability to focus our attention like a ball player would focus their ability to keep their eye on the ball. We can do this at any time, during the day before we go into the room, with a patient, while we're sitting at a red light, when we awaken in the morning
What I find so compelling and exciting is that medical research is very clear that when we practice in this way, when we notice when we're distracted and reorient our attention to the present moment, we are less apt to experience stress. Our outlook becomes more positive, our physical health improves, including changes in brain structure, and we cultivate our capacity for resilience.
The Physician Vitality Initiative is a project of Ada County Medical Society, Boise Idaho. Local services offered here, specifically the Physicians Vitality Program (counseling services) are directed at ACMS Members only. All other information is published in the hopes it will be useful to other physicians and clinicians seeking help and inspiration.
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