How to stay resilient as GPs
Posting by Claire Davies and Agata Perepeczko, Organisational Psychologist
This week we welcome Agata to Network Locum (now Lantum), an organisational psychologist experienced in helping humanitarian aid workers increase their personal resilience via her work with Interhealth Worldwide.
Resilience can be defined as an individual's ability to adapt to stress, adversity, trauma or challenging times. These difficult experiences can include personal and professional challenges as well as physical and mental stressors. It could also be a financial crisis. Basically this can be defined as anything that is a difficult situation for an individual.
According to some sources, there are four dimensions of resilience: physical, mental, spiritual and emotional.
In order to have high levels of resilience, we need to ensure we invest in all of these areas:
This means being physically healthy. This can be maintained through exercise, healthy eating and ensuring we have time for rest and recovery.
Work-life balance is also part of this – a particular challenge for GPs.
This includes having self-belief, confidence and the ability to stay focused,
Spiritual resilience does not necessarily mean being religious (although having a faith may be supportive for many people).
More broadly, it does include having your own set of values and beliefs, maintaining empathy and the feeling that we have a purpose in life.
This means having the ability to control your emotions, experiencing positive emotions and having realistic optimism. It is better to have hopes but they need to be with the range of realistic expectations.
So how can we take steps to be resilient in the increasingly challenging world of primary care?
Build and maintain your support networks with family and friends. When the hard times hit, they will probably be the ones to help you to get back to your usual self. For GPs, this can include maintaining contact with colleagues through local meetings, joining a study group or even sharing issues with other GPs through social media.
Do everything you can to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Try to ensure you have time for rest and recharging your energy. Take all your allocated holiday and study leave. We want to help others and can put a lot of time and energy into that but we may forget that we need to rest as well. When we are not properly rested it is more likely that we can make mistakes.
When we hit a challenge or a problem it is beneficial to seek advice of others as well. Don’t just come to your own conclusions. Speaking to others might widen the range of options and we might become more flexible in our approach. This also gives us a better chance to adapt to new situations in the future.
Look after your health. Take physical exercise and eat well. This also includes taking time to restore your physical and mental strength, through reading, relaxation, time with friends or on your own – anything that enables you to switch off from work.
Have a set of values and beliefs that you live by. What drives you to do what you do? Why did you originally become a GP? Was it to see a broad range of medical problems, to get to know patients as individuals, practice holistically or feel part of a particular community? Understanding your motivation helps you to get back on track after a time of adversity.
Having clear goals, responsibilities and structures at work helps in maintaining your resilience. It is easier to go to work when you know what is expected of you. Although these are areas of particular difficulty in primary care right now, try and work on these where you can.
What has helped you increase your resilience? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation on Facebook.
Find Agata at AMAK Organisational Psychologists www.amakworkpsych.com.