Twin sisters and Baylor trainees Dr. Tracey C. Isidro, a resident in physical medicine and rehabilitation, and Stacey Isidro, a third-year medical student, know first-hand about the busy schedules that many physicians, trainees and members of the academic medicine workforce face. That’s why they’ve become passionate about preventing burnout and focusing on wellness.
They have spoken and written on wellness in healthcare professionals, including the articles “10 Tips on How to Be Happy in Medical School,” “Tips on How to Be Healthy in Medical School” and “New doc on the block: 7 Lessons from my First Year of Being a Doctor” and in this video for the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
In addition, Tracey serves on the inaugural Wellness Committee for the Baylor College of Medicine PM&R Residency Program while Stacey is the 2019-2020 vice-chair of the Medical Student Council for the Association of Academic Physiatrists, a national PM&R organization.
Below, Tracey and Stacey share their tips on how to get in shape physically, mentally and emotionally despite being busy. Some of these are specific to working in a hospital, but most can be applied in other aspects of life.
Minimum time to complete: 10 seconds
It takes effort to be positive, but it is definitely worth it. Sometimes we cannot control the situation, but we can control how we react. For example, tell yourself “Time to be amazing!” when you look in the mirror. Before seeing patients, say a simple positive phrase like “I will do my best!” Be creative with yours.
Also, try switching out negative words. Replace “bad day” with “character-building day” or “not bad” with “pretty good.” Even if you had a challenging day, say one positive lesson. For example, you could say, “What a busy day, but I handled that extra responsibility well.” Quick phrases like that may help rewire your thoughts.
Minimum time to complete: 15 seconds
We know life can present challenges, and in those difficult times, gratitude has been shown to be one of the many ways to be happy. How can you express your gratitude? We set an alarm randomly in the day that says, “What are you grateful for?” so that when we turn it off, we quickly say something in our head to remind us there is always something to be grateful for. Another way is to journal. When you get home or before bed, write down at least one thing you’re grateful for and share with someone. It helps you focus on that positive event.
Minimum time to complete: 30 seconds
Still rounding and have not had lunch or even time to go the bathroom? Let’s face it. We’ve all been there.
It is time to take a stand and advocate for yourself. Take breaks: water, bathroom, snack and lunch/dinner breaks. It is okay and acceptable to take care of your basic needs. Drink water when your mouth is dry from oral presentations. Hypoglycemia is real, so stay prepared and keep a snack handy. If you need to use the bathroom, politely excuse yourself. Make time to eat lunch, preferably away from a computer. Take an afternoon break and walk outside, feel the sun on your skin and listen to the birds chirping.
Minimum time to complete: 30 seconds
Medicine and life are stressful, which is why it is important to learn how to stay calm. Sometimes all we need is to close our eyes and take at least three deep breaths. Feel free to go to a quiet place and meditate for 5 minutes. Also, be at peace with your inner self. This means self-love and self-respect. Just like you stay away from negative people, it is time to fight against self-criticism and self-doubt. Say positive self-affirmations. Be kind to yourself, and be your best cheerleader.
Minimum time to complete: 45 seconds
We are sharing these tips in hopes of inspiring and encouraging you. We did not start out having this optimistic mindset. Just like many of you, we went through some difficult times, but despite that, life is a journey that we want to look back on and think, wow, we did our best and made the most of it. We all have stories about struggles, comebacks and resilience. We learned and grew in the process, and that is what makes us stronger.
Share what inspires you with others by sending meaningful quotes or articles via text or social media. Show that you care and call people who have had an impact on you to tell them specifically why they have made a difference in your life. Take the opportunity to give genuine compliments. An act of kindness could be exactly what someone needs today.
Minimum time to complete: 3 minutes
Incorporate physical activity in your day by taking the stairs or walking briskly. When we are on-call and need to stay awake or want to celebrate finishing notes, we turn on some music and dance. Most songs are around 3 to 4 minutes, so why not jam out to your favorite song and squeeze in a quick workout? It takes discipline, and you have it because you made it through your medical training. If you are able to go on social media or watch TV for 5 minutes, you can afford to do yourself a favor and commit to your health by moving for at least 5 minutes a day. If you will not commit, who will? Your future self will thank you.
Tracey and Stacey recommend trying at least one of these tips for a day, then a week and with practice, it can become a habit. Perhaps one of these tips can help you form your New Year’s resolution.