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‘Know and Do’ vs ‘Think and Feel’ Part 2

burnout coaching mindset negative behaviors negative emotions negative thoughts wellness Sep 11, 2021
A latte in a blue cup and saucer sits on a table next to a journal by Engin Akyurt of Pixabay
I have been engaged, in some capacity, in “physician wellbeing,” since 2014. As a Junior Faculty member in our Family Medicine Residency, I was invited to complete the local Family Medicine Residency Faculty Development Fellowship program and needed a project. My Faculty Director suggested that I develop a “wellness curriculum” for the Residency, which was relatively rare at that point. I dived in wholeheartedly. I read and researched and planned. And all the while, I thought “if I know what to do to prevent burnout, then I won’t burn out.” I was convinced this had to be true. Know and do.
 
And so, we launched the curriculum, and I continued attending conferences about burnout and wellbeing, keeping up on the literature, occasionally practicing gratitude or starting an exercise program. I took online courses about Positive Psychology. I became a “Wellness Champion” for my organization, a non-descript role, which was eventually dissolved because the organization couldn’t justify our cost, and frankly none of us knew how to make an impact on burn-out. Turns out, knowing (the evidence on burnout, measures to counteract it) and doing (I had a title, I did some stuff) were not driving any change. I was deep in mental exhaustion. Knowing and doing had failed me.
 
I don’t blame myself for this thinking. I was trained to know and do. Med school and Residency requires memorizing crazy amount of material until you know it, and doing for hours and hours and hours shifts, procedures, visits, rounding, etc. My beloved co-Faculty, most of whom had been my instructors as well, did not seem to be able to help. Whatever they thought and felt themselves, they knew and did the things that I was expected to know and do. When I was spinning in burnout thoughts about what to do, how to cope with the circumstances in front of me, they would mostly shrug and give me some version of “you just know, and you just do.” I believe (oh, there’s a thought right there), that these teachers were all sincerely trying to be helpful. But they didn’t know that my head was full of thoughts leading to feelings of self-doubt, incompetence, unworthiness, and disbelief about the load of things I was being asked to do.
 
And so, like many, I continued to think the negative thoughts, feel (or more often avoid) the negative feelings, and suffer (suffering = pain x resistance to pain; think about that for a minute). I sometimes would white knuckle myself into action, and learn something new, take on some new challenge (often something like “I’ve gotta lose this weight,” or “I’ve gotta exercise every day” or “I just have to be perfect”). And it never worked.
 
It turns out, that our thoughts create our feelings, and our feelings drive our actions. If I’m feeling unworthy, is that going to lead to me sticking with an exercise program? Knowing and doing were not enough.
 
Being coached, was a chance to think and feel. I was asked to look at situations where I was suffering, to look at what my thoughts were, what feelings they were creating, and how this affected my actions and results. I was given guidance to consider other thoughts that lead to other feelings and so on. And then the lights went on. This is what I needed to make inroads in provider wellbeing and mental exhaustion, including my own.
 
And now, being a coach, I am helping others learn to think and feel. Like, really, really think about what thoughts are causing the feelings (and for many, the suffering); being aware of the thoughts, and how we can learn to manage the thoughts and get other feelings. I can teach steps to allow emotions, positive or negative, instead of resisting them (remember, suffering = pain x resistance). We all have negative feelings (don’t you want to be sad when your cat dies?), but for so many we are so resistant to feeling them (that’s another blog post, how you have been taught as a provider NOT to feel your emotions), that we can’t tolerate them. And so, we eat too much, drink too much, shop too much, Netflix too much, clean too much, work too much…you get the picture.
 
So, if you are sitting there reading this, and thinking some thoughts or having some feelings, and you want to work on them, consider getting a coach. After all, knowing and doing, without managing your thinking and feeling, is probably why you are reading this right now.

Hi There!

I'm Megan. I'm a Physician and a Life Coach and a Mom. I created this blog to help other Physicians and Physician-Moms learn more about why they feel exhausted, burned-out and overwhelmed, and how to start to make changes. I hope that you enjoy what you read, and that it helps you along your journey. And hey, if you want to talk about coaching with me, I'm here for that too! I offer a free 1:1 call to see if we are a good fit. Click the button below to register today.

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