Simple ways to improve your mental health
To stay mentally healthy throughout your career as an anaesthetist, and avoid fatigue, depression and burnout, it’s important to use all the tools that are available to you.
In your role as an anaesthetist, it's easy to be on autopilot. To only think one way. To follow routines. To multitask, to get distracted, and overloaded, and unable to filter out irrelevant information. But this approach can quickly lead to errors, boredom and stress.
Mindfulness increases positive emotions while reducing negative emotions and leads to high levels of self-esteem, self-acceptance, and general wellbeing.
But what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about ‘being aware of the present moment’ and taking the time to be in touch with your thoughts, your feelings, your body and the world around you. It’s a mental state that focuses on the now, and helps you calmly accept and acknowledge every thought and feeling you may be experiencing.
Mindfulness is a skill you can easily learn. Concentrate on your breathing and really notice all your senses – what you can see, hear, smell, feel. Acknowledge your thoughts and emotions, but also appreciate that they are fleeting. Be open minded to new information. Focus on process over outcome and the entire preoperative course. And be non-judgemental by removing emotions like patient bias. A mindful anaesthetist maintains a sense of curiosity and sees difficult patients as interesting rather than challenging.
Mindfulness won't make your problems disappear. But it will help you break patterns of unhelpful behaviour such as being self-critical or not prioritising your own wellbeing. It will help you to stop wanting things to be different and instead help you accept things the way they are.
Being mindful allows you better observe patients’ responses while remaining focused and aware of tasks and surroundings. It decreases errors and improves patient safety.
It gives you space to ‘be’ and will help you respond to stressful situations more calmly and with less anxiety.