Guest Blog: "You Can't Have It All" by: Dr. Kathryn Glas
All of us want to ‘have it all’- career, spouse, kids, rock hard abs, time to travel the world, and numerous besties ready to spend time with us deconstructing our week of work/home/play.
Lets face it, there are only 24 hours in a day. Most of us can only manage two of these successfully in that time frame, at least if we plan on getting 8 hours of sleep each night. And you should be getting that much sleep! Any of you that think you can get by on six hours should try getting eight hours a night for a few weeks and then decide whether you were really okay with six… but I digress…
You spent at least 7 years in medical school and post graduate training. You may be in debt. Now you are ready to be a ‘real’ doctor, and all you can think about is going part time so you can take care of the rest of your life. There aren’t enough doctors in this country to begin with. Many of us are going part time because we are burned out or stressed about missing our kids grow up.
How did we get to this point, and what can we do to achieve satisfaction with our careers and personal lives? (Notice I did not say achieve work life balance?!?) Think of the tasks you complete every day that do not require 4 years of medical school and residency. Grocery shopping, driving the kids to school/soccer/ballet, laundry, etc.
I was recently offered an amazing work opportunity that will require significantly more of my time. What did I do? I hired a housekeeper, not a cleaning person. I figured out how to create grocery lists that are very specific, so I get exactly what I want. Instead of milk, I write Fairlife 2% milk. I accept the fact that the apples may not be the absolute best of the bunch, but they are better than candy. They may not fold my t-shirts the way I do, but they are clean and folded and put away when I get home. I found myself the extra hours to do the things that are important to me by paying someone to do the tasks that don’t require my training and skill.
Now you may say, but I want to drive my kids to school/soccer/ballet so I can spend time with them. I would argue back that time in the car is not time spent with your kids. You are driving and can’t give them your full attention (They are probably watching a DVD anyway.) Get a carpool, or pay for a driver, and use the free time to get in your own work out, then spend an hour helping your kids with their homework or play a board game. They will remember the one on one time way more than they will remember the time in the car.
What about your husband? Have you actually talked with him about sharing the load? He may not take care of them the same way you do, or he may feed them Mac N’ Cheese instead of hummus and veggies, but he has their best interests at heart too! Also, data shows that little girls grow up to be strong women when they have a strong male figure in their lives. Little boys that see their dads helping with the household will do a better job of helping with the household themselves.
Let’s get back to self-care for a minute. You need to take the time to exercise, at least three times a week. The short period of time away from your kids will help them, and you, much more than ignoring your own physical and mental health for extra time together. You will be more balanced, less stressed, more focused, and happier, if you take the time to blow off steam pounding the pavement instead of fussing at your kids or your spouse.
I was once 40 pounds overweight and miserably unhappy. I would come home from work tired, physically and mentally, and collapse on the couch with a bottle of wine and some cheese and crackers. I would sleep poorly then wake up the next morning tired and struggle to get myself out of bed. I still come home from work physically and mentally exhausted some days, but I run or swim or spin for an hour. By the end, I am high as a kite from the endorphins. I eat well, I sleep well, and I wake up the next morning invigorated and ready to go again. I also don’t find myself stressing as much about tough cases or difficult interactions with colleagues because my private workout time is also time to deconstruct my day and figure out what I will do differently the next time.
I discovered the world of triathlon as part of my move into fitness. I would like to share some wisdom from triathlete magazine about stress and pressure. The author is talking about getting ready for a big race, but this applies just as readily to getting ready for a big case or an important meeting. You can train yourself to manage stress, and you can unwind from the stress with exercise. Choose a sport, find a training buddy, and get going!
1. Force yourself to practice under pressure. Your brain physically changes to help make it easier to cope with these situations in the future.
2. Confront feelings of fear and embarrassment by logically deconstructing what’s actually at stake.
3. Manage anxiety by learning a relaxation technique using an app such as Headspace or Paced Breathing.
4. If you’re right handed, reduce self-conscious thought by squeezing a ball in your left hand (and vice versa). This activates neural pathways in the brain’s right hemisphere to prioritize automatic, subconscious thinking.
5. Avoid distraction by developing a cast iron routine for the days leading up to a big race. Control your ears and eyes by zoning out your gaze and listening to music as you set up transition.
6. Focusing on what you need to do during the race. Plan your race strategy and then commit to the only two things you can control: your effort and attitude.
I told you you can’t have it all…but you can… if you agree that you shouldn’t do it all yourself!