How many times have you thought about “New Year’s resolutions” as we near the end of the busy yet indulgent holiday season?
For years my inner voice would tell me the usual resolutions like, “I will exercise more” and “I will eat less sweets.” In recent years, I have vowed to be a better wife and parent, committing to being present and fully engaged, and not being distracted so easily, rushing through life with endless tasks and to-do’s at work and at home. Resolutions are typically not helpful, but it is possible to create new routines and habits IF and ONLY IF we have a clear understanding of the “why” and purpose behind such declarations.
Being a champion of physician “burnout” and “well-being,” topics and experiences relevant to all humans regardless of industry, type of work and environments, I have declared my own commitment to live what I share and to improve the routines that do not enhance my own wellness in the physical, mental and emotional domains of my existence.
We are so lucky that every year we spend the first week in Los Cabos, Mexico, and for the 13th year we are here this week celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary today. This week I am away from serving countless patients in clinic and surgeries, but instead have both the time and ability to spend my days differently in a gorgeous setting with expansive views of the ocean.
Here are my renewed commitments to self for 2019. I fully embrace that to experience my BEST LIFE, I have to do whatever it takes to BE my best self, for my husband, Dave and my daughter, Claire, and all others including patients, friends, colleagues, neighbors and just about anyone:
- For the past 2 years I play tennis every weekend and have convinced myself that’s enough. My inner voice says, “That’s the 'best' I can do for exercise! After all, I am a busy surgeon and mother with so much on my plate!” Not good enough! This year I am committed to adding weight/resistance training at least 2 days per week in addition to tennis on weekends.
- I am committed to listening with intent and practicing listening day and night, at work and at home. To make others feel important, and to allow Dave and Claire to experience the love I have for them, I will listen without distraction.
- Eat with intention. Yes, I know we eat “pretty healthy”—no soda, fast foods, minimal sugary beverages, little dairy, and most of my shopping cart is fresh produce and fruits. Once again, my inner voice says, “That’s good enough. You’re not fat and you are doing so much better than most.” This year, as I continue cooking 5 - 6 nights per week, we will increase our vegetable and fruit intake on a daily basis, eat more fish, and I will be even more disciplined by practicing the principles I share through the Healthy Kids Movement.
- One of my past resolutions has been: be nicer to my husband and daughter. It's too vague! This year I will listen, I will accept and I will embrace that when Dave and I disagree, I will not be defensive, build my “case” and argue, nor try to bulldoze him with my views as he has courageously shared with me. Instead, I will listen for where we do agree, I will ask questions, and I will seek to understand him because he is an amazing man and the best father Claire can have. His views matter and he is an equal partner in our marriage.
- Inner voice: relax more. Dave loves to tell people and remind me that telling me to “relax” is like telling the sun not to come up. The truth is, I continue to strive for a state of work life integration that allows me to spend time doing non-work related activities I love, like walking, tennis, and experiencing as many sunrises and sunsets as possible.
- Continued self-awareness. I am committed to modeling wellbeing for my colleagues, but I can’t do so if I don’t recognize when I am approaching a high degree of burnout and not taking better care of myself, whether through exercise, nutrition, fatigue management or hydration—any and all things related to taking care of the only “body” and being that is me.
- I am committed to having more conversations with my daughter, Claire. One-on-one, asking questions, listening to what she has to say, listening for mood and emotions, and listening to that incredible mind of hers. She is growing into an amazing young lady and I will learn from her perspective how to be a parent that supports, nurtures and is simply there for her in the way she needs me to be, not the way I think she needs me.
A CONVERSATION WITH MY DAUGHTER, CLAIRE
So, how will you “RECHARGE” today and every day? What will your inner voice say to you? Here is a conversation I had with Claire, my 12 year old daughter, today:
Me: What does the word “recharge” mean to you?
Claire: Getting energy by doing activities you like to do, like watching movies, riding bikes and playing games.
Me: Why is it important for adults and children to recharge?
Claire: So that they don’t burnout.
Me: How did you learn about burnout? What does that word mean?
Claire: I learned about burnout from you because you talk about it a lot. When you get tired of doing something, you no longer want to do it. It makes a person angry, not very kind and tired.
Me: If someone is very burned out, how does that affect people in their lives and how they experience their own life?
Claire: People may not like them because they are tired and angry, and they may become like “Mr. Scrooge” because their own life feels negative.
Me: Back to recharge. What can children like you do every day to recharge?
Claire: Do something they like, like play Minecraft or Roadblocks.
Me: What can they do that doesn’t involve electronic devices? And with their parents and family?
Claire: Go on a bike ride or play a board game.
Me: What can families do to recharge that doesn’t involve any gear or anything at all? Just by being present?
Me: How does talking make you feel recharged?
Claire: Talking about what I have built in Minecraft. Talking about what I used to be like when I was younger, childhood stories. Looking at photos of our family vacations and trips.
Me: What about laughing? Does that give you energy?
Me: How do children get more energy?
Claire: They strengthen their energy and durability by exercising.
Me: Do you get more energy indoors or outdoors?
Claire: Indoors because you can go for longer since there is air-conditioning. Outdoors there is no air-conditioning so you may get sweaty, but getting sweaty is good for you.
Me: What about nature? How do you feel when we are outside in nature?
Claire: I feel happy! I like nature, grass, trees and flowers.
Me: For 2019, can you, Daddy and I promise to make time to make sure that each of us are recharged and as a family every day/every evening?
Have an amazing day and year taking care of you first, and then everyone else! Happy New Year!