Most of us women physicians are great at powering through all types of challenges and trying to do it all. That is, until our lives tip out of balance and we find ourselves stressed out, burned out and face to face with our limitations. Contrary to popular belief, work-life balance is not about giving equal attention to all parts of life, but rather, giving the proper attention to each area based on our core values. Stress results when there is a gap between how we are living day to day and how we would be living if our core values were truly guiding our decisions and actions. Coaching creates the opportunity to envision what a life lived in alignment with our core values could look like, to examine what blocks us from living this way and to shift our thinking and beliefs so we start making decisions and choosing actions that will move us toward this ideal life. A coach provides the support and encouragement needed to make some of the tough decisions required to cut out what matters less in order to focus more on what matters most to us. As we learn to accept our limitations and begin to align our daily lives more closely with what we truly value, rather than trying to prove we can do it all, we will find renewed energy, joy and meaning in both our being and our doing.
Have you ever wondered why some conversations go sour despite your best intentions? Have you been frustrated or wounded by negative feedback about your communication style? Hidden assumptions and pre-existing beliefs can block our perceptions of what others are saying and trigger us to overreact in negative ways. Coaching creates the space to examine and slow down our communication process to discover pivot points where we can un-hook from triggering assumptions, choose to stay curious and then adopt more effective patterns of communicating. Breaking the cycle of communication down this way brings a sense of freedom and hope that a better way forward in relationships is possible! Improving communication skills is a common coaching topic amongst the women physicians I coach. We are passionate, gifted women with sometimes intense personalities. With increased awareness and tools, we can learn emotional and relational agility to leverage all God has put into us for good and for the nurturing of healthy relationships.
With physician burnout rising to alarming levels, there’s a high chance you may find yourself somewhere along the spectrum. Sadly, its not uncommon for physicians to believe that the burnout they are experiencing is due to their own failure or weakness. While the culture of medicine and focus of physician wellness programs has perpetuated the belief that burnout is the physician’s fault, thankfully, the tide is shifting in the literature and national discussions about burnout toward taking blame off the physicians and instead acknowledging that greatest drivers of the growing prevalence of burnout are external factors that have piled unreasonable demands on physicians while taking away their sense of choice and control over how they practice. This is encouraging news as solutions are being proposed to decrease these external drivers. In the meantime, though, individual physicians are still left with the challenge of how to find counter-cultural ways to live and practice that preserve our well-being and enable us to live out our calling. Partnering with a coach can help us get out from under the trapped feeling that we are powerless or that burnout is our fault and move instead toward looking for ways to use our own power of choice to keep these external pressures from putting us into the R.E.D. zone of burnout. The R.E.D. zone describes three of the hallmarks of physician burnout: a Reduced sense of personal accomplishment, Emotional exhaustion and Depersonalization. Recognizing these signs and being able to identify a variety of lesser signs and symptoms on the spectrum of burnout gives us a warning system, like the lights on our car’s dashboard, that provide an opportunity to stop and do preventive maintenance and repairs. Once we have an accurate diagnostic on what has been making us feel so very exhausted and discouraged, we can begin to dig down to discovering what we truly value and desire and find ways to make changes to move toward an empowered life of well-being. Many physicians have discovered how to shift internal thinking patterns that have been driving energy-sucking behaviors toward healthier, energizing mindsets. Others have discovered that they didn’t have to quit to find relief. Instead, they found that shifting their expectations, redistributing workflow, and finding work-arounds and short-cuts creates margin and makes work less draining. Still others have found that big bold decisions were needed to get out from under an oppressive work environment and to chart a new course.
My approach to coaching around burnout involves helping you identify the signs and symptoms on the burnout spectrum, get free from blame and shame, imagine what truly thriving could look like and make the courageous decisions to take back your life. As you move toward your ideal life, you will rediscover your sense of joy and purpose in life and work.