Mindfulness Leadership For Physicians

Mindfulness Leadership physicians

Demystifying Physician Mindfulness: a 12-Part Series

More and more, popular culture is catching on. Mindfulness leadership for physicians is a game-changer. I work with physicians to support greater health and vitality, and I have found that mindfulness is one of the most essential tools in the toolkit.

I’ve put together this series exploring how mindfulness is beneficial for busy physicians battling stress and burnout. Through the series, you get a taste of real-life stories from physicians, and learn actionable steps to integrate a mindful approach into your practice. These are practical, accessible resources to help you be a happier and more balanced version of yourself, in the workplace and at home. 

In this installment, we explore how mindfulness leadership can be applied to the challenges that show up among physician leaders, helping them be more organized, clarify priorities, and reserve energy for what matters most.

Today’s Topic: Mindfulness Leadership For Physicians

Our physician, Dr. O, is overwhelmed with responsibilities. 

“I’m completely overwhelmed. My days are full of meeting after meeting. When I finally have time to sit down to work on projects, my mind just seems to flit here and there and I am too scattered to be productive. Then, when I finally have time to get something done, someone calls and needs something — and they always say their need is urgent.  It’s like they all want a piece of me! I feel like the days just keep getting away from me, and I’m just not getting things done. I’m so stressed that I’m worried I’ll develop an ulcer.”

Dear Dr. O, mindful leadership course

Thanks for your query. You’re not alone. It’s understandable to be feeling overwhelmed because of your many responsibilities. I often hear from physician leaders that they feel pulled in too many directions, get caught up in fighting fires, and struggle with competing priorities. Everyone needs something from them, and they never have enough time to focus on their own priorities.

Professionals who’ve incorporated a mindfulness leadership practice share a different story. They’ll tell you it’s possible to find more time in the day, create more room for priorities, sustain more direct attention in conversations and meetings, and establish clearer boundaries.

Most basically, mindfulness is about presence. Because of our endless to-do lists, because colleagues and patients are constantly pulling us in all directions, we rarely find ourselves actually being present with whatever it is we’re doing.

Mindfulness Works for Physicians
Bringing mindfulness into your work has significant impact on these patterns.

Stress management.
It’s critically important for leaders to find calm. Have you considered meditating? Many physicians tell me that their mind is too busy to meditate, but a busy mind is actually the best kind to work with—it gives you a lot to practice with! Through meditation, we learn to quiet the busyness of the mind. But it’s called a practice for a good reason. I’ll give you some pointers in a bit. 

Improved focus.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have the clear mind needed to apply yourself to the task that’s in front of you? With meditation, we’re building the muscle of focusing so we can apply our attention exactly where we want to focus, tune out distractions, and be present for whatever task is in front of us.

Greater clarity.
Recognize and appreciate what’s truly urgent and what is not. Be more discerning with how you apply your energy.

Whether it’s during meetings, one-on-one with employees, or struggling with the never-ending demands of your inbox, greater presence improves the quality and efficiency of your work.

A steady pace.
I’ve shared before about the purposeful pause, a structured intervention to increase clarity and perspective. Consider the S.T.O.P. protocol:

  1. S. Stop. Actually pause. Mindful Leaders
  2. T. Take three slow, deep breaths.
  3. O. Observe. Shift your perspective to see the situation as if from an outside observer. Notice how your situation appears from this vantage point.
  4. P. Proceed now with more clarity and attention to the best next steps.

Improving Physician Leadership

Mindfulness, and mindful leadership training is now taught in business schools across the country. The Institute for Mindful Leadership has been a pioneer in growing awareness of mindfulness leadership practice for leaders in a wide variety of fields. A survey of 123 General Mills directors and managers gathered data before and after a mindful leadership course. The results demonstrated significant improvements in leaders’ self-assessment of their ability to:

  • prioritize work, Mindful Leaders
  • eliminate meetings that have limited productivity value,
  • be fully attentive in meetings, and
  • notice when their attention had been pulled away and redirect it to the task at hand.

Furthermore, there was an impressive decrement regarding “running on automatic, without much awareness of what I’m doing.“ (Source: Finding The Space to Lead. A practical guide to Mindful Leadership by Janice Martuano.) 

The impact of mindfulness for those in leadership is significant. One of the biggest impediments to creating these results for yourself may be a voice that says “I’m just too busy. I have too much responsibility.” But aren’t you to busy not to? Don’t your responsibilities deserve your best work? Wouldn’t you like to experience significantly less overwhelm?

And, is it true that you don’t have time? Consider for a moment how much time you spend checking social media or getting lost on the Internet. You don’t have to wait for a holiday or vacation to get started. Here are three ways you can begin to build mindfulness today.

Take Action. Build Mindfulness.

  1. Utilize the purposeful pause S.T.O.P. protocol. Schedule these pauses into your day, between meetings and projects, and keep a reminder around so you have these steps as a resource when overwhelm hits.
  2. Start meditating today. Download my Daily Dose of Calm free 14-day meditation series, designed for healthcare providers and leaders to get started with meditation. course
  3. Consider a mindful leadership course.
  4. Create a community of mindful support by encouraging your staff to practice purposeful pauses and mindful meditation as well. It may just change your workplace.

    Build your physician  mindfulness leadership muscles, and transform your professional and personal life by creating time and energy for your real priorities. Feel free to check out other posts in this mindfulness series to learn more ways to apply mindfulness in your life.

Mindfulness and the New Year

mindfulness in the new year

A Mindfulness In Medicine Series

In case this is your first time here, this 12-part series is a mini-crash course in mindfulness. Maybe you’ve tried it before. Maybe the term itself gets on your nerves. If that’s the case, I hope you’ll take a deep breath and let those worries go. Each part of this series looks at a specific way that mindfulness can be useful for busy physicians like yourself with mindfulness and new year resolutions with intention ideas. I typically address a real-life story about a common issue that contributes to stress, anxiety, frustration, anger, overwork, and overwhelm, and then provide practices that cost you nothing but a little time and attention. These can help you find more ease and joy in your work, so you can get back to the reason you’re doing what you do.

In this post, I deviate from that pattern. As we enter this new year, I offer an alternative to traditional New Year’s resolutions: using mindfulness to set intentions.

It’s that time of year again when we decide we’re going to tackle major self-improvement. 2019 is the year I’m going to avoid desserts and lose that extra 10 pounds. This is the year I’m going to stop being such a slouch and start exercising five days a week. This is the year I’ll be saving money the way I’ve wanted to.

If you’re like me, though, your track record has not been great. (And maybe that’s why these things remain on the list.) I typically start off great, then February rolls around and I fall off. Then there’s a sense of guilt and not measuring up. By March, I’m using my New Year’s resolutions to beat myself up. And feeling worse about myself and focusing on my flaws does not typically lead to success in reaching my goals.

Try Something Different This Year

Perhaps you can try something different this year: setting intentions rather than resolutions. Intentions are a kinder and gentler approach than resolutions, which tend to be black-and-white. More like guideposts than goals, intentions set a direction, rather than a destination. They help us on our journey to reach the goals we’ve set.

They set the tone for the year ahead, and become a touchstone to help you move toward what it is that you want to achieve. Goals are future-oriented, whereas intentions can be achieved in the moment. They are effective because they help align you with your purpose. Instead of being something to beat yourself up about, an intention can serve as a guiding light. They can provide a positive motivation for change, rather than a negative one.

How Do I Set an Intention?

How to set Intention, here are intention ideas steps:

  1. The first step is to think about what’s been calling for your attention. What would you like to build into your life? What’s something you’d like to let go of? What’s most significant to you, moving forward? What is it that really makes you feel fulfilled? These questions can help you move beyond explicit goals like losing a specific amount of weight. They can keep you grounded in what is truly most important to you.

  2. The second step is getting in touch with your values and passions. What do you find most fulfilling? What is it that you’re pursuing in moments when you’re at your best? Reflect for a moment on your deepest priorities.

  3. Third, accountability is critical. You may have an accountability partner, or make a commitment to yourself in a journal. At a minimum, declare your intentions to another person. Place them on your calendar so you’re reminded of them on a regular basis.

What Intentions Should I Set?

Be More Mindful

There are endless choices here, but one might be increased mindfulness — to be more aware and pay attention to the moments that make up the fabric of your life. As Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk, reminds:

“Life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your life deeply.”

By being more aware, you can stay more present for yourself. You also come to understand your inner workings in a deeper way, and become more familiar with your own patterns. And the more you recognize your patterns, the more you’ll be able to intervene to effect change. You’ll see what it is that is really stopping you from losing that weight or saving that money. Being mindful sets the stage for action the below are the intention ideas.

Cultivate Compassion

Another intention could be around compassion. We can get so caught up in our own problems and challenges that we forget what other people are going through. We lose sight of what it is that they’re struggling with. Our focus becomes narrow, and overly self compassion. It’s said that if we want to be unhappy, we should focus on ourselves, and if we want to be happy, we should focus on others. So there’s a double positive in being compassionate to others. In addition, compassion activates the parasympathetic nervous system, not only leading to decreases in blood pressure but also decreasing levels of inflammatory hormones decrease that contribute to stress.

Grow the Muscle of Self Compassion

Perhaps this is the year to be more compassionate with yourself. In addition to compassion for others, we can set an intention to include ourselves in the circle of self compassion and mindfulness. Many of us who are caregivers can be all too skilled at caring for others, yet habitually leave self compassion. Caring for others, in the absence of caring for self compassion, sets us up for burnout. Self compassion and mindfulness has a great impact on our lives.

Just as we can turn toward the suffering of others, we can begin to see our own moments of anguish and suffering. Instead of blaming or chastising ourselves, we can try to address our own pain. Like self compassion, there’s increasing evidence of the benefits of self compassion, from reduced psychological distress, increased sense of self-worth, increased happiness, and greater motivation. And motivation is certainly a key ingredient in our ability to reach our goals.

We can practice saying the following to ourselves: “What I’m going through is difficult and this is a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of the human experience: we all go through it. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need.”

Accept Imperfection

In North American culture, we have many myths about happiness. We often fixate on ways we or our circumstances are flawed — that if only they changed, then we’d be happy. We tend to think that happiness lies outside of ourselves, rather than being something we can cultivate from within. This vantage point can fuel a hypertrophied focus on flaws, and leave us seeking perfection. Yet, when we seek perfection, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Setting an intention to accept our own imperfections, we move toward greater acceptance and peace of mind with mindfulness and new year resolutions.

This doesn’t mean accepting things that are unjust or hurtful. Rather, it means leaning into the reality that imperfection is simply part of the human condition. Perhaps our imperfections might actually be what makes us unique.

Question Your Thoughts

Another intention we might set is to question our own thoughts. We all have ways of viewing the world that may not be accurate, yet we assume that just because we think something, it’s a fact. In reality, though, our minds are busy producing thousands of thoughts per day, and these are simply mental events, not reality.

You can set an intention to notice your stories and begin questioning their veracity. By doing so, you step into more direct contact with your experience with mindfulness and new year resolutions.

What Should I Do With My Intentions?

We will give you intention ideas, First Keep your intentions close, mentally and physically. Best Intention Ideas are to be remembered so please write them down. Journal about them. Consider a ritual to honor your commitment. Start your day by reading over your intentions so they can set your course for the day to get perfect with mindfulness and new year resolutions.

I hope these tips help you leave behind the anguish of mindfulness and new year resolutions. Please leave a comment and let me know.

Pin It on Pinterest