Doctor Mama: School’s Back Self-Care

When school started a month ago, this Doctor Mama found herself a little more overwhelmed than usual. This is the year we have been dreading. Three kids in three schools and a drop off circuit that takes an hour (before the forty-five minute commute to work) left me feeling underwater. And then there is the flood of fun extras, like theater, band, and soccer that kids crave and parents have to drive to. Add it all up, and sometimes things feel downright impossible. So I decided I had to make some improvements, or I wasn’t going to hold it together for the school year.

As I looked at where I needed to clean up my life, it wasn’t the big things. My work-life is already an excessive effort. My hours are unreasonable, and I often get home with enough time to choke down a quick bite of food and hurry off to bed. But years of experience have already washed out most of my bad habits at the office(s). I’m organized (enough) and I keep a calendar. I delegate to work staff. I’m long past doing things at home that Dad can do without my help (which is almost everything some days). All I had left when I looked at my life was a bunch of little bad habits that add up to unnecessary stress. So here’s how I have already started to change:

Minimizing phoning out. 
    After arriving home late, tired, I spend way too much time zoning out mindlessly on my smart phone. Yikes! And right before bed. Terrible sleep hygiene. Not doing that anymore. 

Watching less TV. Most days, none at all.
    And where am I sitting while staring at the smart phone? Parked in front of a Netflix binge-watch series. Between the phone and the TV, I’m missing most of the input coming in to my brain. What kind of “relaxing” is this? So, nope, no more of that. 

Going to bed earlier. Getting up earlier.
    Without the flashy screen-zone-out-time in the evening, I realize I’m tired. I’ll start reading a book in bed and doze off and hour earlier than my previous bedtime. Good plan, I think I’ll keep it. 

Walking around the grounds or reading in the car while waiting to pick up at theater or sports practice.
    On the days when I head straight from work to shuttle kids to and from extras, sometimes there is a period of waiting around. Tired from the day, my habit has been to sit and (shocker) stare at my phone. Lately I have been catching up on nonmedical reading, or taking a brisk walk. Now that’s a better use of my time. 

Eating better. (Except on weekends).
    I’m skipping the fast food, and trying to eat whole and healthy. Except on weekends. I can be “good,” but I have my limits. 

Working on my listening skills.
    With the pace extra hectic, misunderstandings abound in hurried interactions with kids and spouse. I’ve been trying to slow down and listen. 

Taking time for mindfulness.
    When I catch an unexpected moment alone, I have been trying to be mindful. I might meditate, or just focus on being present for a bit. This is good practice, so I think I’ll keep it up. 

Letting Dad drop off twice a week.
    In years past, the morning commute was joyful. We laughed and sang all the way, and the time was too precious to give up for a Doctor Mama who works until bedtime a lot of the time. But as kids get older, and transform from joyful children into brooding teens, the morning commute is quiet and surly. No need to covet what isn’t much fun. 

Saying no to extra projects.
    Saying “no” is an art form. I’m still working on the finer points- especially big projects that benefit the community. But I’m trying to say no if it interferes with family time. 

Taking advantage of unexpected breaks.
    September is unofficial patient cancellation month. Back to school chaos leads to forgetful patients and parents. Using those free blocks to catch up instead of wander aimlessly is a better bargain.

Not overscheduling
    I used to routinely schedule my first patient too early, or underestimate how much time I needed to block off to travel to and from a meeting or conference. I’m working on scheduling realistically, with a little bit of buffer time just in case. 


Posted on September 26, 2016 .