Radiologists are feeling the squeeze, which can bring feelings of anxiety and dread. In 2014, resolve to banish the bad attitude and be happier. Here’s how.
Think back to early this morning and the moment you became aware that you were awake. Safe in your comfortable, warm bed, what went through your mind as you slowly opened your eyes? Did you greet the day with a feeling of optimism, hope, or curiosity?
Or did you wake up with a sense of dread, anxiety, or flatness?
If you generally start your days in one of the former moods, congratulations. If, on the other hand, you’re one of the many busy — perhaps even overwhelmed — radiologists who wake up all too often in one of the more negative moods, it might be time to adopt a new attitude for the new year. This time of year is ideal for reevaluating how you’d like to spend the rest of your days — and the rest of your life.
Being happy is a voluntary way of living, according to pediatric radiologist and physician career coach Peter Moskowitz, MD. “Moment by moment, day by day, we make choices about how we live,” said Moskowitz. “Research shows that about half of our happiness is hard-wired. About 40 percent is related to one-time events like getting a raise or buying a new car, but that kind of happiness is short-lived.”
It’s the remaining 10 percent, said Moskowitz, that’s under an individual’s control. And that 10 percent can make all the difference.
Radiologists are under tremendous pressure at the moment as they — along with their colleagues in most other specialties — adapt to changes in healthcare. “Physicians coming out of training today are unprepared for what they’re facing,” said Moskowitz. “The utilization of imaging studies has sky rocketed to the point that there is no time to breathe, eat, or chat with colleagues. Radiologists are expected to operate like machines and be perfect.”
Under these circumstances, maintaining a positive attitude with any degree of consistency requires more than smiling and pretending that everything is okay. Just as you practice medicine, you can practice improving your attitude and mood. Here are a few habits that Moskowitz recommends for physicians who are looking improve their outlook on life.
- Make self-care a priority. Get eight hours of sleep each night, eat well, get regular aerobic and strength training exercise, and experiment with meditation.
- Each night before going to bed, write down several things that you’re grateful for. “When this is done regularly is helps you realize how many good things are happening in your life,” said Moskowitz.
- Spontaneously do nice things for other people and practice saying thank you more often.
- Spend more time outside in the sunshine and fresh air. This is especially important for radiologists who spend most of their time in dark rooms, making them susceptible for seasonal affective disorder, particularly during the winter months.
- Put fun into your schedule. Play is restorative and healing.
- Carve out time to stay connected with family and friends. “Radiologists get too busy and forget to connect. They get lonely and that can lead to bad things,” said Moskowitz.
- Volunteer in the service of those less fortunate. “It doesn’t have to be in medicine. The benefit of this is that it gets your mind off your own negativity and helps you appreciate what you have,” he said.
If you try some or all these suggestions and find that you continue to feel stuck in negativity, take a closer look at how you are working. “Identify the features of your job that you like and dislike,” said Moskowitz. “There may be aspects of imaging that you feel less comfortable with which can lead to a lot of stress. If that’s the case, negotiation trade-offs within your group.”
In addition, evaluate how much you are working — and to what end. “Many radiologists become accustomed to making a lot of money and that paralyzes them when they consider re-creating themselves.” The solution to this problem, according to Moskowitz, is to move beyond thinking that more is always better. “It’s a trap with a very obvious point of diminishing returns,” he said. “If we focus only on accumulation we miss everything else.”
Take time to figure out what your most closely held personal values are and then live by those values. “Don’t live according to other people’s expectations,” said Moskowitz. If that means working less, the corresponding reduction in pay may be well worth it. “You might earn less but you’ll gain freedom and self-respect by getting out of a bad situation,” he said. Sometimes even a small step like taking a half-day off each week to spend with family or friends is enough to shift one’s attitude.
If you need to make changes but you’re in a group with no flexibility it might be time to and find a new job. “Just be careful not to re-create the same situation somewhere else,” warned Moskowitz.
A shift in attitude might not require anything as drastic as changing jobs. If boredom is the root cause of your disposition, commit to learning something new this year, either within your field or completely outside of it. If you are frustrated with the direction healthcare is going consider getting involved either politically or with a professional organization that is working to influence the future of medicine.
As this new year begins, take time to think about how you’d like to see it unfold. Keep in mind that you are in control of how you spend your days and how you spend your life. The degree to which you manage your attitude greatly influences both.