I’m always impressed by the amount of research done and level of understanding possessed by my patients. To be sure, most arrive to the office having done a considerable amount of reading and inquiry about his/her respective malady. It is not odd for clients to travel hours to an appointment, taking time from work and family, and spending money in an attempt to find an answer to why they do not feel “well”. In a nutshell, I tend to have clients who are “committed” to being well.
Unfortunately, it is not odd to find a dichotomy in behavior which may be detrimental to progress. This detriment manifests in the following statements:
“I don’t have the time”
“I am just too busy”
“Every hour of my day is used up”
“All I do is work”
“Work is too hectic right now”
“between work, my spouse, the kids and taking care of my mother, I have no extra time”
Typically, these are the statements made after a discussion about setting aside time for Stress Reduction Techniques, exercise, planning/shopping for/preparing meals for the week, reading a specific book intended to educate on a specific aspect of health and wellness.
While each of the above statements are real impediments in our lives, they are also precisely entities that block our progress in attaining true wellness. Said simply, the easiest thing that I can do for a patient is write a prescription for a pill, cream or nutrient. The most impacting thing I can do is help clients modify behavior through education and practical, realistic options that fit their life.
When presented with the above noted pushback, I often refer to a personal story that opened my eyes when considering my health and wellness at the expense of other “important” competing factors.
Several years ago, I acted in an medical administrative role and also was practicing medicine in the ER. I was called into a meeting and quickly informed that one of our colleagues had suddenly and unexpectedly died in an accident. There was terrible shock at the death of this young, vibrant husband, father, friend and colleague.
After the announcement was made, there was a 2-3 minute discussion about this tragic loss. Immediately after, the next hour was spent discussing how we were going to cover the schedule as the absence of this “workhorse” would leave us in a manpower shortfall. Planning was done, the schedule was covered, and we went on. The world didn’t stop, the hospital didn’t close, patient care never missed a beat. This is a lesson we should keep in mind when prioritizing work vs personal health and wellness.
It is at this point we should discuss the concept of Protected Time.
This reference is typically directed at Medical Residents, Researchers, Pilots, Physicians who share administrative and clinical responsibilities. The intention is to provide a safe haven for ones personal health, the health of the general public they impact, and the integrity of research and education. It was also created because left to our own devices, we will spend time fulfilling the insatiable demands of clinical medicine at the expense of time in research, education or personal health. It is meant to remove any option that will jeopardize these critical, yet sometimes under appreciated and less lucrative pursuits. Without Protected Time, Pilots and Medical Residents do not sleep, Research does not get finished, students who depend upon clinicians do not get undivided attention.
In a similar manner, we must identify which CRITICAL ACTIONS are not being performed in our lives that may be negatively impacting our intended health goals. For most of us, a failure to allot 15-60 minutes each day (in either uncut or divided portions) to devote to stress reduction techniques (yoga, tai chi, qi gong, prayer, meditation), exercise (whether it is core strength, a few floor exercises or range of motion stretching), adequate nutrition (eating small frequent meals or planning a healthy meal strategy for the week), personal relationships (including sex), should alert us to the fact that we NEED Protected Time. We need time that is untouchable by others or by our own excuses.
Here are a few suggestions in how to institute protected time into your life:
1. Have a face to face discussion with yourself to discuss what short term and long term goals you have for your live and wellness.
2. Write down these goals.
3. Write down what action/excuses you have for not being able to achieve these goals.
4. Consider what scenarios would occur in the long run regarding these excuses if you died or became seriously impaired tomorrow (what you will find is life goes on).
5. Discuss aloud your goals, impediments and corrective actions with your loved ones, work colleagues, or friends.
6. Write down what you would do with an extra 15-60 minutes per day, if you were afforded such time (by the way, a daytime nap is perfectly OK if it is not enabling you to achieve a more significant health or wellness goal.
7. Identify where you need help to attain these goals and ASK FOR HELP.
8. Commit yourself to attaining these goals and take the duty of this Protected Time out of your own hands. That is, make this a mandate that even you cannot cancel. Make this a “it is what it is” situation. I love this one because we actually get to turn the table on our own excuses. We find that most people who we consider “eccentric” are only those who do what they want without regard to the perceived demands placed on them by others OR oneself.
Remember, you are the most incredible power of your own life. Be sure to Protect your health and wellness with Protected Time.
Dr. Gary F. Joseph