It’s Sunday night. You’re trying to enjoy the last shreds of the weekend. But you’re beginning to feel that dread – a pit in the stomach – a sinking feeling. Your mind starts running away with you. “I wish I didn’t have to go to work tomorrow, I hate Mondays. I think I hate Tuesdays too. Wednesdays aren’t any better.
Why did my partner have to take this week off? It’s going to be a full moon! And I have that meeting at the hospital – what do they want now? It’s not going to be good, I know it. Oh geez, and I just remembered that angry patient is coming back, probably with her lawyer! I’m hosed!”
With an anxious mind, you can be sitting in the comfort of your own home, and before you know it, you’ve lost your job, your license, your career and your sanity. Practicing medicine has enough challenges, but when you add anxiety to the mix, it becomes overly taxing and joyless. I hear from a significant number of physicians for whom anxiety has become an unwelcome constant companion. There is anxiety at work, anxiety at home overwork, anxiety over the future, anxiety over the anxiety.
When it gets out of control, anxiety can even cause excellent physicians to leave medicine, as portrayed in my last blog, Susan’s Story: A Surgeon’s Triumph Over Anxiety. But as in this true story, there are ways to overcome anxiety and not have it define one’s life or career.
I am devoting this blog to offering some selected resources for coping with anxiety. On the door to my local gym is a sign, “Half the battle is getting here.” And if I may apply this to dealing with anxiety, half the battle is just taking the first step to addressing the problem and finding solutions. One simple step to rein in the anxiety instead of letting it control you is to write down all of your anxious thoughts. Just putting them down on paper helps to see their range and scope and repetitive nature. The next step is to go through them one-by-one and do a reality check. How likely is it that what you are worrying about will happen? Often our worst fears are never realized. Ask yourself if there is anything you can do right now to address this concern? If the answer is yes, take some concrete action. If there is nothing you can do right now, make a conscious effort to stop the perseveration. Some people find it helpful to have a designated worry time when they CAN worry each day. If they start to worry about something outside of this time, they remind themselves that they have to wait until the appointed time, and then they can really worry if they want to, but not right now!
Another simple technique that you can do anywhere, anytime to counteract anxiety is to take some deep belly breaths. When we are anxious, we usually take shallow breaths into the upper chest, become tense and lost in our anxious thoughts. Taking a few slow, deep breaths will bring you back to the present and help calm the nervous system.
Psychiatrists, Therapists and Counselors
There are many healthcare professionals with various degrees and training who specialize in the treatment of anxiety. They offer a wide range of approaches, including medications, cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback, herbal supplements, mindfulness training, etc.
Books: Sample Selection
1. The Anxiety Book, Jonathan Davidson, MD
2. Coping with Anxiety: 10 Simple Ways to Relieve Anxiety, Fear and Worry, Edmund J. Bourne
3. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, Edmund J. Bourne
4. The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety: A Step-By-Step Program, William Knaus and Jon Carlson
This site offers information on the different types of anxiety, avenues for finding a therapist, and resources for professionals.
This site has a forum for discussion, a chat room, and offers articles and community papers on anxiety disorders and treatment.
3. Tips for Coping with Anxiety: WebMD article
Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday. ~Author Unknown