“It's really important to pay attention to what's off balance,” says Diana Londoño, MD.
In this installment of “Begin Your Journey,” urologist Diana Londoño, MD, talks with host Scott A. MacDiarmid, MD, FRCPSC, about the daily effort required to stave off burnout. Londoño is a urologic oncology surgeon and assistant clinical professor in the department of surgery at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California. MacDiarmid is a urologist with Alliance Urology Specialists in Greensboro, North Carolina.
MacDiarmid: I know, probably, like a lot of physicians, it's an ongoing struggle, but in a sense you've beat it. You were in the valley of burnout, and now you're on your mountaintop. Can you, knowing that, talk a little bit about work-life balance?
Londoño: I wouldn't say I beat it. I think it's daily work. And it is work. We all want that magic pill, that magic cure. We have so many things coming our way all the time and especially on social media, we get this and we read this and read that, or the news, or there's a new change at work, or now there's less staff. There are so many things that change so quickly, so many times in an hour, really, that we're chronically getting all this input, and our brain will start saying, "Is this a threat? I'm going to get nervous, I'm going to get anxious." How are you going to then discern and really travel through all these complexities, and stay grounded and not start activating that anxiety, that stress, that worry. So it really is a practice of every day, making time. You have to make the time to have a time to decompress, to really slow down the stress and worry, because otherwise it's just running in the background like elevator music, and so you have to stop it. And it's different for everybody. I'm not going to say that for you it is the same as for me. Everybody has a different way of doing things that are going to [help] de-stress and relax. Maybe it's writing; maybe by writing, you're able to let go of those emotions, and it decreases the intensity, and that is really healing for you. Maybe it is some type of exercise, one that works for you. Maybe it's cycling, maybe it's tennis, maybe it's surfing, maybe it's yoga. Whatever it is for you, you have to do it every day, for some time. Prayer, meditation, journaling, all these little things that really bring you to a place that is rewarding for you that you activate love and compassion and happiness and joy. And you really have to cultivate it, because otherwise it just kind of runs you down with everything else. So I think it's really important to pay attention to what's off balance. For example, if you're angry, something happened. But you can't hold on to that anger, because it's going to become your illness. Is it a therapist? Is it a friend? Is it coach support? Is it writing to let go of that anger? Is it forgiveness? Forgive that person. Do not stay in a situation that's unsafe or dangerous to you. But forgive people for small things, and realize everybody's trying their best with their abilities and tools that they have. Let go of the anger, because it's not really for them, it's for you. Let go, have forgiveness, have compassion, have self compassion, let go of that judgment. And again, try to really incorporate things every day, so you can figure out what's out of balance. If you're apathetic, which happens in burnout, a great way to combat apathy is connection. It really is a symptom that you have lost connection, maybe with family, maybe with friends. These symptoms that we feel are bigger signals to something else that needs to be addressed. If you're depressed, you're pressing down emotions and keeping them inside and you're not releasing that and that's bringing you depression too. Of course, there are chemical issues, but there are signals that something's going on that you need to pay attention and every day maintain somehow to stop that stress cycle.
This transcript was edited for clarity.