August 17, 2017

There’s A New Guy In My Life

So there’s this new guy in my life named Andy.

He’s kind of bald. No, not kind of. There’s a very distinct lack of hair on his head, but it looks rather good on him. He sports a lovely British accent and just the sound of his voice calms my mind. When I listen to him, I’m more aware of my breathing and better able to be in the moment. When I can’t sleep at night, his softly spoken words help me drift off. During the day, if I’m in a tizzy, he reminds me to not get reactive and to observe my thoughts.

As helpful as Andy is, I doubt he has any real interest in me.

We’ve never actually met, and probably never will.

Some of you may have guessed…

Andy Is Andy Puddicombe, a meditation and mindfulness expert, and the voice and co-founder behind the acclaimed meditation app “Headspace.” And I might add, Andy is happily married to a gorgeous woman.

When a physician client of mine, a man’s man kind of guy, told me he was using this app called Headspace, and meditating every morning, I was intrigued, but skeptical. Having always done silent meditation, I wasn’t sure about someone talking during a meditation. Was this “meditainment” – some gimmicky New Age thing?

Yet during subsequent coaching calls, my client would tell me how he was more patient with his family, had less anxiety at work, and hadn’t missed a single morning of Headspace – for months!

Hmmm……..Maybe there is something to this, I thought.

Now you may be skeptical too, but before you run off, saying meditation is not for you, you don’t have time, or it’s for fruity people who wear yoga pants, please hang with me just a bit.

Instead of meditation, I prefer the term “mind training.”

Mind training helps with being present, letting go of rumination over the past, and anxiety over the future. It increases your ability to self-observe without judgment, and when you do that, you’re better able to choose how you respond to people, situations, thoughts, and feelings. “Mindfulness” is a term often used to describe this type of practice and it has been shown in studies to help reduce physician burnout.

Do any of you experience that Sunday night dread or pre-call anxiety?

You’re at home, and you’re not on call yet, or seeing patients. Instead of enjoying time with family, your mind is filled with anxious thoughts. It’s pre traumatic stress, and it robs you of any enjoyment of the present. As much as you wish you could stop those pesky thoughts, they have taken over! They are the boss of you. 

Sunday night dread is just one example of the mind having its way with you. If you suffer from any of these common issues, mind training may help:

Dwelling on the past

Worrying about the future, perseverating

Feeling distracted and unfocused

Not being present

Being reactive to people and circumstances

Difficulty sleeping

Anxiety during surgical cases

Self-doubt, lack of confidence

Every week I hear from physicians who have excellent training, are highly skilled, and have a great track record caring for patients. Yet they often have thoughts of self-doubt and not being good enough or smart enough. They may second guess their decision-making and surgical skills. For no good reason.

It’s the thoughts, not anything based in reality that’s getting in the way. Mind training helps us to identify that these are just thoughts, so we don’t get overly caught up in them.  We then have a clearer (head)space to find out what’s actually true.

There really are no idle thoughts. They can empower as well as sabotage us. They can unleash our highest potential, or literally drive us crazy. But we don’t have to be at the mercy of an unruly mind.

We use personal trainers to help achieve better fitness. Why not use one for mind training?

With a mind training app, you can have your own personal trainer for less than the cost of a potato – 26 cents– a day! And we’re talking 24/7 access! Yes, your trainer is on call for you all the time!

What I love about Headspace:

You have a highly trained teacher at your fingertips.

There are meditation “packs” which have meditations on specific topics such as:

Self-esteem, Patience, Forgiveness, Happiness, Creativity, Focus, Health, Work and Balance, Athletics, Sleep, Pregnancy, Depression, and much more. 

The guided and unguided meditations range from 1 to 20 minutes ( you can hit pause to lengthen the meditation).

To support the training, Andy gives “assignments” for you to bring into your day to reinforce the concepts he introduces in the meditation.

With an unobtrusive headset, you could do a 1, 3, or 10-minute meditation at work. This little break could potentially reset your mood from cranky to calm, or from scattered to focused.

To be clear, I am not implying that the purpose of mind training is to make it so you can tolerate a dissatisfying or dysfunctional situation. Rather, one primary aim is to help you be more aware of your thought patterns and reactions so you are better able to discern what works for you and what doesn’t, and take constructive action.

And as I mentioned in my last blog, Creating Your Personal Pan Retreat, a meditation app is a great resource to use as an anchor for your own retreat.

Click here for the Headspace app.  You can try 10 sessions for free.

Promo Code: GETSOMEHEADSPACE – gives you 25% off the annual subscription.

Click here for some other popular meditation apps.

OK – gotta go. Andy’s waiting.

Comments

  1. Now THAT’S the way to grab an audience! Thanks Dr. Heather for another invigorating blog to help us doctors deal with the stress of medicine whether we do it full-time, part-time or just some-time. And even in “retirement”. YOU introduced me to Andy and Headspace about 4 months ago. I was skeptical I must admit about all this “mindfulness” STUFF. But after listening to a talk on mindfulness while in Coimbra, Portugal back in February, I realized that I was living with several personalities in my head and I didn’t have schizophrenia (to my knowledge). So many voices, so many distractions, and the ever-present inner critic. Prior to “meeting” Andy (and you have to share him), I struggled with “the worries” about my medical practice as an Anesthesiologist, my ability to be a caregiver to those in my family who needed me, and my personal relationship with my hubby. I worried, but I couldn’t focus on any one problem. My mind was too busy trying to take care of everything at the same time. It was quite busy in my cranium. But now, there is calm, there is focus and there is peaceful nights of blissful sleep (especially after Andy soothingly “suggests” that I count back from 1000 if his suggestion of turning off parts of my body didn’t work). I never make it past 986 and when I awake in the morning, I feel rested and my brain feels “revuvenated” rather than full of sleepless thoughts. For me, HeadSpace works! Andy works! And I bring him into my consciousness through meditation everyday. I am doing Headspace on Focus right now and it has grounded me in “the present”. I actually finish tasks now because I don’t “squirrel”. I don’t think that “multi-tasking” is good. Since committing to a mindfulness life, I am much happier with a recent decision to move, to say “NO”, and to allow myself time for me. No more guilt trip regarding my medical career. With your help (and Andy’s), my transition from full-time Anesthesiologist to public speaker and humorist is moving along at the speed it needs to go; no deadlines. And I too, use meditation during the day to just give myself a “time out” from THINKING. So nice. So peaceful. So carefree. Om…

    • Awesome sauce Dr. Lynette! Thank you so much for your kind words, and double thanks for sharing the details of how Headspace and practicing mindfulness and meditation have helped you in a variety of significant ways. It’s so true how we can have all these balls we are juggling in our mind – it’s like a three ring circus up there. Kudos to you for your commitment to the practice – it may be simple (just be present!) but it’s not easy. The fact that you are seeing real results is proof you are putting in the time. I’m happy to share Andy with you – anytime!

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