What do you do to look after your own health?
Specialty training is, in many ways, pretty brutal. It seems like we’ve accidentally designed a system that sacrifices our youth, energy, fertility and relationship-building time in order to learn how to care for our patients. Couple that with raising kids, and you’ve got a recipe for sacrificing your own wellbeing in many ways in pursuit of those long-term career goals that can sometimes turn out to be a mirage. For me that turned into prioritizing time with my son, spending too many hours after work working on academic projects, and gradually becoming more and more unhealthy.
What worked for me was finding a coach. Being the least blokey and relatively introverted guy at the gym, I was pretty cynical about Personal Trainers until I realized that just like with any learned skill, I needed someone in my corner who could identify my fitness weaknesses, help me set goals, and give me that sense of external accountability that I needed to push me towards a meaningful commitment. Once I’d found a coach who was a good fit, it was one of the most life changing things I’ve done. A year and a half later, I’ve kept off 11 kgs of fat and am gradually working on my cardio fitness and strength.
What also worked was saying no to a lot of opportunities. At first, I was saying no to the missable opportunities, but now I’ve gotten to the stage where I have to say no to the unmissable ones too! At the end of the day, I have a full-time job and a family, and there are only so many extras you can fit in before your partner, your kids, or yourself has to take a hit to fit it in.
2. What are some ways for workplaces to help male staff pay attention to their wellness?
I’m going to be a bit spicy here, and I appreciate that nobody can speak for all male staff, but for me I have no interest in things like workplace yoga, departmental social events and bowling nights or zen meditation rooms. I have had some conversations with other guys who are in the same boat. That doesn’t mean I don’t think those things are awesome; they’re just not the things that work for me personally. I’m an introvert, and social stuff doesn’t recharge me like it does for lots of people who find it energizing.
What recharges me is actually clear boundaries between work and my family time, being able to come to work and do a good job, getting home at a decent hour and reading a story for my son before bed, and knowing that what I’m doing is making an impact.
A lot of the traditional male psyche is caught up in our ability to be providers and protecting the things we care about. I appreciate it’s a bit of a stereotype, but I’ll be honest and say that being able to do those things well IS wellness for me. If workplaces wish to help male staff pay attention to their wellness, I think significant effort needs to be placed into removing barriers to all of us doing our jobs effectively and not having to fight the same relentless battles every day against an immovable force.
3. If you could give wellness advice to yourself 5 yrs ago, what might you say?
Hmm this is tricky! I know that sacrificing a bit of wellness actually got me many of my dreams, but I definitely want there to be a balance.
What I’d say to myself is: “There will always be opportunities, and you can’t take them all. So, say yes to the ones that mean something real to you, say yes to the people you care about, and say yes to some of the ones with clear and finite goals, but always remember there’s a little fella waiting for you at home who thinks you’re the whole world, and he’s the most unmissable opportunity of all.”.