As we enter this post-Thanksgiving and pre-holiday season, life does get quite a bit more hectic. In the academic world, it’s the surge to end the semester, prepare for the holidays, finish off the year and continue to plan for the next year. Added to all this are the pressures in the world filled with global crises – war, political upheaval, racism, violence, climate change (and unfortunately, the list could go on… and on). It’s easy to feel helpless with a loss of control and increased frustration in realizing the difficulty in improving changing the world situation.
We can feel a loss of control in these situations, however, we can control our reaction to all these pressures. As preventive medicine specialists we know the elements of self-care that become critical at such a point. Let’s make sure we do indeed practice what we preach. Are we putting in the effort and paying attention to trying to attain that complete state of health – physical, mental and social well-being? Especially during the holiday season, the role of exercise, a healthy diet, moderation in alcohol use and clearing one’s mind become crucial aspects to our self-care.
But a self-care model goes a bit beyond these activities. A key component in self-care is not to be just an observer but also to fulfill the motivation to act – to do something to improve the world around us. The world will not change for the better without our actions. Donate, advocate, volunteer...do!
I just returned from a week in wartime Kyiv, Ukraine, where I presented a keynote at the International Healthcare Summit on the topic of “War as a Complex Public Health Emergency.”. Part of the message is that prevention of war is key. Just spending a week in an atmosphere of great interactions amongst a community of non-government organizations, Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Health officials, front-line responders and healthcare heroes, volunteers and donors was uplifting. People were “doing.”. But the war-time atmosphere, the air-raid sirens, the tension in the streets and seeing the physical and mental human toll of war was sobering. I realized firsthand in that very unique and stressful environment the importance of self-care through my activities (exercise, diet, meditation) and my actions (being a part of a path forward). I couldn’t control the war, but I realized I could control my reaction to the environment of war.
Prev med Docs, let’s do it! Take control — take care of yourselves!
Boris D. Lushniak, MD, MPH, FACPM