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Editor's Page: Checking in on Who Matters Most
Dan Cook
Publish Date: January 5, 2022   |  Tags:   Editors Page

The start of a new year is a natural time to take stock of what’s going on in your life and decide if you need to change things up. Resolutions are fun to read about and easy fodder for social media, but the “new year, new me” mantra is played out.

We’re all hardwired in certain ways, for better or worse, and the flip of a calendar page isn’t going to erase behaviors ingrained in us by a lifetime of experiences. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to evolve, but the goals we set should be realistic and attainable. 

I’m made fun of in my house because routines define my days. I wake up at the same time, take my dog for a walk in the same direction along the same loop, eat the same foods and put together school lunches in the same order. When I empty and refill the dishwasher before making coffee in the morning, my wife beep-boops around me like a robot while saying “reprogramming … reprogramming … reprogramming” in a flat monotone. It’s funny, but I get her point: I’m very much set in my ways. 

My regimens aren’t obsessions, but they’re comforting and truthfully done in part to find some semblance or order in a household run by two young kids. Consistency makes my life easier.

Or does it? 

The way it’s always been done isn’t always the best way to do it, and my baked-in habits might be preventing me from working more efficiently and effectively and living more presently. Perhaps I do need to change things up a bit.

That can be difficult to do amid the chaos of a busy life. If the results of this year’s salary survey are any indication, you’ve never worked harder for your paychecks or been responsible for so much just to keep your facility fully staffed and filled with cases.

Your difficult job is made even more challenging when things don’t go according to plan. Two staff members call out sick on the day the schedule is stacked and the autoclave is on the fritz. One of your kids is quarantined after being exposed to COVID at school and your elderly father fell over the weekend. There will always be something to deal with at work and at home, from minor inconveniences to major problems.

As soon as one of the many plates you’re trying to keep spinning starts to whirl, another begins to wobble. Getting them to spin simultaneously is something to shoot for, but don’t count on it happening. 

Instead of adding New Year’s resolutions you likely won’t keep to your already long list of action items, why not focus on doing just one thing better this year? Why not prioritize checking in on how you’re doing each day? Focusing on your own well-being might go against your very nature as a successful healthcare professional, but doing so can help you become a better boss, provider, partner and parent. 

Start with the “Three and Me” check-in described by clinical counselor and self-development expert Sheila Hanson. She says the exercise is a quick and efficient way to find a sense of calm during even the most stressful days and engage the area of the brain that makes logical and meaningful decisions. It also involves an honest assessment of how you’re feeling in the moment. 

Ms. Hanson says the check-ins are done in less than a minute and can become an unfussy and ordinary part of your life. Sounds like a perfect thing for busy surgical professionals to at least try. If anyone deserves to spend a minute each day on self-care, it’s you.

Quieting your mind won’t make your paychecks bigger or your days easier, but perhaps being able to better manage the inevitable stress of trying to keep your full plates spinning is far more valuable. OSM