The other day I was doing my taxes and I was in an endless loop of error. I was entering my backdoor IRA conversion information and for some reason my tax refund was getting smaller. I knew this was wrong. The numbers should stay the same, not decrease. I used a trusted website to help direct me through the steps, but it would not work. After 4 times I finally took a step back and took a breathe. That night, I decided to put my taxes to the side. The next morning, I came back and tried and badda bing, it worked. This got me thinking about how important it is to take a step back and breathe in life.
In many ways taking a step back and breathing is a practice of mindfulness. It is a pause in the normal pace to allow us to reset. I practice this with my 20 month old son as taught to us by Daniel the Tiger. As he says “When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four”…you can see the video here. For toddlers they teach mindfulness for angry feelings but as adults, use it for when we are frustrated, stumped, tired, and just can’t deal with it anymore. By taking a step back and breathing we can reset how we feel about the situation.
How can this apply to our practice of medicine?
1) Between patients we should try and take a moment to let the feelings/emotions from the prior encounter (particularly if they were negative or frustrating) go away before starting our new encounter. Try to look at each encounter as new to avoid getting into a rut. That way we can provide the best care for each person. It can also prevent burnout.
2) When we are on the third consult in a row at 4pm, breathe and remember our colleagues called because they need our assistance. No one wants to call a consult, particularly not at 4pm. So if they call, just take a breath and remember that they need our help. This will allow us to be more respectful on the phone.
3) When we need a break and just can’t seem to find the time. Just take a second. Close our eyes. Take a deep breath. Focus on the breath. Then get back to it. We will feel better for the time we took for ourselves.
4) When going home, it’s important to breathe and leave the day’s struggles at the hospital/clinic. There is no benefit in bringing negative feelings home to the family.
A very simple step, to take step back and breathe can actually make a difference in your day and life. Consider giving it a try and come back here and let me know if it has improved your day and maybe your relationships and encounters.