Updated: Feb 13
Truly not sure if it was the diagnosis or the prescription that really sailed all our positive emotional ships. Probably both together. In my verbose and excited state, this is going to take 2 blogs. Our fervent hope is that this diagnosis is a vanguard of an institutionally integrated fleet of validated mind/body medicine interventions.
PART 1 "The Diagnosis"
A student of ours shared that a friend went to see their PCP at a major and well-known medical institution and the result was a diagnosis of "Burnout Related to Life" and this patient was prescribed daily walks in nature and screen time limitations.
Let us just let that all sit a moment...
... little bit longer...
We all may have different thoughts and reactions to this brief story. I can tell you that Aimee and I had a near transcendental moment and I almost fell off my chair from sheer ecstasy due to an emotionally joyous "boneless" type reaction. (If you are not familiar with a boneless reaction, think back on picking up a toddler who is sleeping or about to throw themselves on the floor in obstinate defiance - the body just flops.) I am only slightly exaggerating. Following find an explanation of the reaction. The news of the diagnosis and prescription made my day and I still am buoyed by the blissful nostalgia of the moment.
It is estimated that between 60 and 70% of doctor's visits are due to stress related complaints. I think on the oft herculean task it must be for PCPs and other medical professionals to tease out what the underlying issue is of a complaint. One of the reasons, many of which I do not even know as I am not a medical professional, is because of the body/mind connection. We now know from innumerable studies that our thoughts and stressful reactions will eventually wear down body systems. In the meantime, we may well experience dis-ease if not disease: overwhelm, pain, gastrointestinal issues, headaches, depression, anxiety, sleep issues, emotional lability, strained relationships, disconnection from self and others, etc. Chronic stress manifests in the body, in our reactions, how we feel, how we act, how we function. Everyone is different.
I cannot fathom the stress that docs are under normally and especially now during COVID. On the bright side, however, there are occurrences during COVID that have placed symptoms and syndromes in stark relief. Doctors and healthcare workers can see very clearly, and we can ourselves with a little awareness, how isolation has hurt us mentally and physically, and how those with practices to bolster well-being confidence and add to resilience, are often having a better time of it all.
Scenario: Patient goes to see the doctor due to generally not feeling well, exhaustion, unease, possible
pain, sleeplessness. Doctor runs tests and finds nothing overt. An ATTENTION, AWARENESS AND LIFESTYLE intervention can be made.
Doctor: Your tests are normal. BP is a bit high. Let me ask some questions:
How much time a day do you spend with an electronic device, inside, on screen? And how often outside?
Patient: About 8 hours, oh wait a minute, should I include TV, cell phone and my iPad? OK maybe about 10 hours. No timer outside really. I bike sometimes in summer. I used to go to the gym.
Doctor: Do you have a mindful or meditation practice?
Patient: Uhhh no.
Doctor: Do you often find yourself unable to appreciate any one moment - thought swirling and feeling anxious? Afraid? Unsettled?
Patient: Well it is hard to focus, is that what you mean?
Doctor: What is your bedtime routine?
Patient: Brush teeth, get into bed and watch Netflix, sometimes read a magazine. Sometimes I just forget it all and collapse into bed, but I wake up a lot during the night.
Doctor: Do you keep a gratitude journal or is prayer a part of your life?
Doctor: When you are going through your day, how do you feel? Are you a mutli-tasker? Doing a lot at once?
Patient: Sometimes I feel like I am not doing any one thing well. I am a great mulit-tasker. Do not really enjoy any of it though.
Doctor: How do you feel about yourself?
Patient: I do not know. I do not feel well. Sometimes I feel removed from myself, I guess. Would love to feel like I felt when I was younger. Would love to enjoy life more.
Doctor: In this time of COVID, how are you staying connected with support systems?
Patient: Ummm. I talk with my kids once a week on the phone, Most weeks. usually helping solve their problems. That is about it, I guess. I have co-workers but we just talk on the phone now or in Zoom. Other activities have been cancelled.
Doctor: Tell me about what you might eat and where on any given day?
Patient: Well breakfast I kind of eat throughout the morning while working. Lunch I skip and eat in the car when out for work. Dinner we order in or eat while we catch up or watch a show.
Doctor: Ok, I feel like I have a picture a bit of your day to day. I am going to suggest some attention and
time shifts for you that will be slight at first. You will need to make some decisions with your time and make some choices towards some practices that can help you start to feel a lot better. This is not a quick fix, but it has the potentially to really make you feel better for a many a year to come. Your symptoms are very real, and I believe they are related to stress, and lack of self-care practices. You are truly drained with modern lifestyle and what I think is chronic stress. But what I am going to suggest are some daily routines that are backed by serious scientific study. These can be game changers. You in?
Patient: Yes. I have tried many things, but I need a schedule, a plan and repetition, and support.
electronics only from 9-5
walk daily in a natural setting
every night writes down 3 things you are grateful for
Here is a card for a mind/body medicine practitioner who can show you how to meditate. Or you can try an app on your phone, but learning in person is the ticket. This can also help you to feel more connected with yourself again. Bring calm and peace. The is a critical piece for you. be patient. Many Studies are showing how mediation practice can bolster wellness.
I want you to spend a bit of time figuring out your support system. How can you connect with friends or a group for your well-being? This is a key. Longevity studies show connection and not being lonely is a key indicator of longevity.
Patient: Geez that is interesting. So being like the “Giving Tree” all the time needs to be balanced with support for moi. -chuckle-
Doctor: SCRIPT Cont.,
Yeah or else you become the stump! -chuckle- I would like to see you again in 2 months. At that time, we will see how you are doing with these mind/body interventions and go from there. We can add a couple more practices but let us focus on these and you making a bit of time to start self-care practices. You in?
Patient: Yep. Gonna try.
Doctor: Or you can just e-mail breatheIN2IT.
(UTTERLY GRATUITOUS on my part)
Again, I am not a doctor and do not know protocols. The point, however, is that the original story in this blog is absolutely a step in the mind/body connection direction! As we pour through articles and studies weekly, Aimee and I are witnessing the movement of The Practices into mainstream medicine. The programs to support are not all there yet. Truly, most PCPs do not have time to follow mind/body practices for their patients or even spend the amount of time necessary for the above discussion. They must be incredibly broad with knowledge of body systems and possible issues. What is coming from the mind? What from the body? Or are we in that place where the mind is affecting body? All are legitimate ailments. The regimens can be quite different. I have great admiration and wonder for PCPs. They are true men and women for all seasons, with a necessary congressional library of knowledge they need to keep track of.
In reference to Harvard Medical School's three-legged stool of self-care (Dr. Herbert Benson), where pharmaceutical and medical/surgical are strong long legs and self-care is short, making the stool tip, the self care leg is starting to get a leg up with mind/body medicine diagnoses and prescriptions. Science is backing the practices. From lab to office. The next step is into education models, schools, homes, and connecting mind/body practitioners directly with constituents that need the self-care tools. Yes, breatheIn2IT is one but there are many incredibly knowledgeable practitioners who just need to be given the spotlight. There is now a organization whose sole responsibility is to get valid, trained, good mind/body medicine practitioners to the mainstream audiences where they are so needed.
One day, if you are ever asked anything like the doctor/patient conversation above, let us know. Perhaps with enough occurrence and repetition, thus becoming commonplace, such conversation will only sail 500 of our emotional ships, then 20, then just 2. Aimee and I are always on board;).
"Burnout related to life" - how many of us can relate? Especially now BUT thinking back before COVID and 2020, perhaps chronic stress, depletion or overwhelm was there then too. The validity of The Practices is known. Stressful life events will always occur. To carry the ship analogy in a different direction, we hope to help set sail 100,000 resilient ships of students that ride the waves of life because they have learned The Practices and have the tools to be strong inside, to be at peace inside, and to sail into the sunset on their own internal calm waters.
Next week: Part 2 of this Blog: "The Prescription: Mind/Body/Nature Connection"
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