My Working Summer Staycation

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What can you do when plans go awry?

Accept what you cannot change; appreciate what you have, and make the best of it.

I had the opportunity to put this into practice when I had to cancel my family vacation. Summer is usually the best time to take time off from my busy practice. Patients have fewer respiratory infections and with school out, many are on vacation themselves. To celebrate my daughter’s high school graduation, we had planned seven months ago to take her to New York and the Calgary Stampede.

But through circumstances beyond his control, my locum physician had to cancel without time to arrange a replacement. Realizing how disruptive it would be for patient care, I cancelled my trip and let my family travel without me.

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For part of my first day in an empty home, I appreciated the quiet order. Coming home after work, there were no shoes to trip over. The dishwasher was loaded the way I like it to allow for efficient unloading. There were no dishes in the sink except for my breakfast cereal bowl. I could choose what I wanted for dinner – and prepare and eat it alone.

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I made a list of things to do over the next two weeks (My wife was no longer around to write her list). Of course, the work of medical practice could consume as much as I would allow. The daily review of test results and consultation letters and making referrals consumes at least two hours after the last patient leaves the office.

After the long weekend, I worked an extra Saturday morning to reduce my patients’ wait time for appointments. I finished two medical legal reports (about 10 hours of work) on evenings and weekends. I was happy that I wasn’t out of town for the maternity and newborn care for two of my long-time patient families.

I missed my family especially on my wife and daughter’s birthdays. This was the first time I wasn’t with them on their special days. I was thankful for texting, email and facetime.

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I turned my quiet home time into a mindfulness retreat. I listened to Tara Brach’s podcasts on dharmaseed.org each morning and night and throughout the weekends. They inspired me to remain mindful at all times. I chose my thoughts and my activities.

I enjoyed being a tourist in my own town. We are lucky to live in a vacation destination for the rest of the world, and summer is a magical time with special community events every weekend.

I enjoyed Burnaby’s Canada Day concert and the awesome fireworks at Swangard Stadium. I called up my oldest friend and we met up at Deer Lake for the VSO’s Symphony in the Park. I enjoyed the live music at the Khatsalano Street Party.

I enjoyed weekend and evening cycling through busy, beautiful Central Park, and extra swims in the outdoor pool.

I cycled around my alma mater, UBC and explored the rich displays of the Museum of Anthropology. I treated my eyes and my soul to the Nitobe Memorial Garden, a uniquely beautiful Japanese garden hidden in the northwest corner of campus.

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I cycled the seawall of English Bay and Stanley Park. I must have taken over 200 photos during my two-week working staycation.

Life is never perfect and may not always go our way, but it’s still beautiful. Missing the people in our lives reminds us to appreciate them and our precious time together. Being tourists in our own town shows us the beauty around us each day.

Posted in Awareness, Happiness, Meditation, Positive Potential, real beauty, real love, Relationships, stress management | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Slogans You Live By: Are You Due for Rebranding?

 

Made to Move

In business, branding is everything.

A lot of thought goes into a company’s choice of name, trademark and slogan, and that slogan – the catchy way that it expresses its values, vision and purpose – influences how the organization is seen by its employees and customers.

Well-chosen slogans are sticky. We automatically associate them with the brand. Nike: Just do it. Kentucky Fried Chicken: Finger lickin’ good. Coke: It’s the real thing.

Those sticky ideas get into our heads – sometimes through creative commercials and advertising campaigns; often through shear repetition. They can have greater impact when spoken by charismatic or influential personalities.

Over time, we just accept them as part of our daily landscape, soundscape and mindscape. We eventually stop questioning their validity.

Therein lies the danger of slogans. We quickly adopt them as habits of thought. They shape our beliefs and influence how we see the world.

As children, memorable phrases can help us learn important rules and good behaviour. “I” before “e” except after “c”. Look both ways before you cross the street; use your eyes and use your ears, before you use your feet. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Through the power of habit, what we repeatedly think becomes our inclination. The connections between specific neurons are reinforced over time and like a well-travelled path become engrained.

This is fine when those habitual thoughts are true and useful. Unfortunately, we all carry personal slogans adopted from the past. They may have been said first by influential people, like parents or teachers, or you may have come up with them through past experiences. They are reinforced by self-talk: what we say to ourselves that shapes our opinions, feelings and actions.

Negative self-slogans that are never totally true and don’t help anyone include: “I’ll never be happy.” “I can’t control myself.” “I’m a loser.” “I can’t win.” “I’m not good enough.” “There’s something wrong with me.” “Those people are different.”

Negative self-slogans can limit your thoughts, narrow your perspective, shape your emotions and keep you from trying.

What are your limiting beliefs about yourself and others? In what ways are you heeding the slogans of past advertising campaigns of companies long out of business? Some of the things we bring forward from the past no longer apply or may never have been true. If you need help identifying negative self-talk, do what businesses do. Put together a small focus group of your best friends. Ask them what negative phrases you regularly use.

Try out some new slogans. Here are some of mine. “Be an agent of positive change.” “We were made to move. When we don’t, our health suffers; when we do, we thrive.” “Of the things within your control, the best predictors of your future health are the habits you practice today.” “Help yourself to happiness by helping others.” “Give more than you get.”

Posted in Healthy Living, Positive Change, Positive Potential, Uncategorized, Your Calling | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Game Changer in Life: Seeing the Best in You

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I confess that whenever I came across a green bag labeled for donation after my children had cleaned their rooms, I would rummage through it.

There I might find books and collectible items I thought they would treasure forever. After all, I had spent many hours finding just the right birthday or Christmas gifts at each stage of their lives.

Over time, I realized that such material things (though inspired by love) are not made to last forever nor should any of us cling to them. Kids grow up and outgrow them all.

The best gifts we can give our children are those they will keep forever.

A priceless gift my parents gave me continues to enrich my life, and I’ve done my best to pass it on to my children. Their gift was to always see (and expect) the best in me.

Though my parents were very thoughtful and deliberate in the decisions they made, I suspect that the ability to see the best in brother, sister and myself was a natural byproduct of their love for us.

 

We were each unique and as flawed as any other kids. They would give us feedback and correction when we could do better, but they always gave encouragement and praise when we did our best. Much more than looking for what’s wrong in us, they were always looking for what was good.

That simple but profound view – to the see the best in others – is a game changer in everyday life.

More often, we live on the surface of society and when looking at others, stop only on the outer surface. We judge – and then behave – based on appearances, gender, dress or disability, race and roles. We make sweeping judgments, and we forget that we see only glimpses of whole people.

We forget that every person that we pass on the street, sit beside on the bus, and interact with in the course of our daily lives is a complete and complex individual.

Every one of us has hopes and dreams, pain and disappointment. Everyone is someone’s friend or cousin, sibling or parent. When we remember this, we are more open to compassion and it becomes more natural to treat others with kindness and understanding.

Consider this when you disregard or ignore another human being or when you immediately dislike someone you don’t even know. We all have good and bad days, but we can always make someone else’s day better.

With those we live and work with, we can get caught up in our quirky habits and differences. We can take one another for granted and keep a running tally of what we don’t like about each other. One of the secrets of a happy marriage is to deliberately make more positive than negative comments about your partner. It reminds us to look for and express the best in the other, who in turn feels more appreciated.

The teachers who see the best in their students can inspire them to work harder and achieve their best. The manager who sees the qualities of each team member will lead a productive and positive team.

The doctors who can help their patients see themselves as agents of positive change in their own lives will guide them towards their potential for wellbeing.

Today, take a good deep look into the mirror and in every face you meet. See the best in everyone.

Posted in Compassion, Friendship, Growth, Happiness, Love, Parenting, Positive Potential, real beauty, real love, Relationships | Leave a comment

Celebrate Move for Health day: Walk With Your Doc!

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To celebrate Move for Health Day in Burnaby on Tuesday, May 10th, I’ll be presenting a talk, “We Were Made to Move” at 1 pm at the Edmonds Community Centre (at 4585 Albert St, Burnaby) and again at 5:45 pm at the Confederation Community Centre at 4585 Albert St, Burnaby (to be followed at 6:15 pm with an easy Walk With Your Doc around the Confederation Park track).

You’ll learn about the benefits of exercise, how it can improve your enjoyment of life and your ability to do everyday activities, and how you can make daily physical activity a new healthy habit.

All members of the public of any age are welcome to join our team of Burnaby doctors as we walk the talk! Each participant at the walks will also get a free pedometer (while quantities last).

The 1 pm talk at the Edmonds Community Centre requires registration https://webreg.city.burnaby.bc.ca/webreg/Activities/ActivitiesDetails.asp?aid=6767

No registration is required for the Walk With Your Doc event at the Confederation Park track.

 

 

 

Posted in Burnaby Division of Family Practice, Empowering Healthcare, Healthy Living, patient-doctor relationship, Physical Activity, Positive Change, Preventive Health, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Achieve your potential in health

 

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Drs. Davidicus Wong and Baldev Sanghera at the 2014 WWYD

When we think about health, many consider it from the negative.

The focus is on symptoms, injuries, illness or disease.

Many approach their healthcare the same way.

They see a doctor or other healthcare provider mainly for the treatment of these conditions. Health is defined in the negative: the absence of disease, and healthcare becomes passive: the treatment given by a healthcare professional.

I think of health as the optimal balance of the important areas of your life (physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, family, social, work, rest and play) – guided by what you value and where you find meaning – and the achievement of your positive potential in life.

I believe we each have a unique potential. It is our duty to realize our potential and to help others achieve theirs.

Though we all need the assistance of doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers at different points in our lives, most of your healthcare is provided by just one person. That person, of course, is you.

In this way, real healthcare is self-care. The best predictors of your future health are the habits you practice today.

The four foundations of self-care are (1) what you eat (what you put into your body), (2) what you do (physical activity), (3) how you feel (emotional wellbeing) and (4) how you relate (healthy relationships).

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With patients, Donna and Albert Gomes

Over the past two years, I’ve led the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients health education campaign. Our goal is to improve the health of our community by providing unbiased health information on a variety of topics including the four foundations, chronic conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, preventive and proactive care, medical ethics, improving your hospital experience and communicating with healthcare providers.

So far we’ve delivered 14 free public lectures in Burnaby’s schools, libraries and community centres and created health education posters, handouts and videos. To see our growing library of health information, check the Burnaby Division’s website at divisionsbc.ca/burnaby.

The family doctor’s circle of care has expanded from the care of the individual patients of a practice to the care of our community. We care about our patients, and we care about our community.

On Monday, April 25th at 7 pm, I’ll be speaking at the Tommy Douglas Library (7311 Kingsway, Burnaby) on “Healthcare is Self-Care: Achieve Your Potential for Health.” You can register for this free talk online at www.bpl.bc.ca/events or by phone (604) 522-3971.

If you’re thinking of improving your future health by becoming more active today, jump on board with the rest of us next month as we celebrate Move for Health Day and the Doctors of BC’s Walk With Your Doc events. On Saturday, May 7th at 10 am, I’ll be the emcee for the Doctors of BC’s annual Walk With Your Doc at Kitsilano Beach Park.

To celebrate Move for Health Day in Burnaby on Tuesday, May 10th, I’ll be presenting a talk, “We Were Made to Move” at 1 pm at the Edmonds Community Centre and again at 5:45 pm at the Confederation Community Centre (to be followed at 6:15 pm with an easy Walk With Your Doc around the Confederation Park track). You’ll learn about the benefits of exercise, how it can improve your enjoyment of life and your ability to do everyday activities, and how you can make daily physical activity a new healthy habit. All members of the public of any age are welcome to join our team of Burnaby doctors as we walk the talk! Each participant at the walks will also get a free pedometer (while quantities last).

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With patients, Greg Kennelly, Michelle and John Albano

For more information on the variety of fun events Burnaby has planned for Move for Health Day look on page 5 of the Leisure Guide (or check online at burnaby.ca). https://www.burnaby.ca/Assets/New+Things+To+Do/Festivals+$!26+Events/Move+for+Health+Schedule+of+Events.pdf

To find out about the Move for Health Day and Week events close to you, check out your local community centre or the BC Recreation and Parks Association website http://www.bcrpa.bc.ca/mfhd2016/events. To learn more about the Walk With Your Doc events in every community, check walkwithyourdoc.ca.

WWYD Burnaby

Drs. Davidicus Wong, Karime Mitha and Shelley Ross

Posted in Burnaby Division of Family Practice, Empowering Healthcare, Healthy Living, Physical Activity, Positive Change | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Live with the end in mind

Nitobe Memorial Garden, UBC (Davidicus Wong)

Mindfulness of death is a Buddhist practice that informs more meaningful living.

If anything can happen anytime and if your next breath was your last breath, you would pay attention to the quality of each remaining moment of your life – every sensation, thought, word and action.

If this was your last week or today was your last day, what would you do differently?

You may update your facebook . . . or you might not.

Would you spend more time on social media, go shopping one last time, go to your favourite restaurant and eat all you can? Would you reflect on your life in retrospect, recognize what really matters and spend your remaining time there?

If you had one last chance to talk to the people you love, what would you say?

Dr. Ira Byock, a palliative care physician wrote in his book, “The Four Things That Matter Most” that those four things are what we need to say to our loved ones before we part: “Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you.”

We are all human and imperfect. We hurt the people we love, and they hurt us. We take one another for granted. We don’t always speak or act in loving ways.

If we knew our time together was limited, we might be kinder, more patient and loving. The truth is our lives are indeed limited, and few of us knows how much time we have left. In fact, the only ones who know this have been diagnosed with a terminal condition.

My mother died suddenly in April 13 years ago.

I was fortunate that my profession had taught me how precious life was and that I was able to give back to my mom the love that she gave me. Yet I have often thought of how her kind and generous presence would have enriched my life and those of my children if she was still here.

When grieving, I recalled every word from those who offered comfort. One patient said that to die suddenly is a good way to go. Ten years later, that patient would die from end-stage congestive heart failure. Without warning or in palliative care: neither is easy for loved ones.

Last year, my dear aunt passed away in palliative care at St. Michael’s Hospice. She was surrounded by her loving family, and we all had the opportunity to express our love and gratitude for all that she had done for each of us.

Palliative care focuses on the comfort of the patient suffering from a life-limiting condition. The aim is the best possible quality of life even in the final stages of illness.

It takes a team to attend not only to the physical aspects of care but just as importantly the psychological and spiritual. Patients with their families and friends are supported by a team that includes nurses, doctors and volunteers.

Since 1986, the Burnaby Hospice Society has provided trained volunteers to offer emotional and practical support at home, in hospitals and in long term care facilities to those with life-threatening illnesses and their families. They also offer free grief counseling to family members.

On Sunday, May 1st, the Burnaby Hospice Society will be hosting the 2016 Hike for Hospice at Central Park to raise money for these services. The cost is $25/person (children under 12 are free). For more information, see their website at burnabyhospice.org.

Though we cannot predict how our lives will unfold, we can live with the end in mind. We can invest in our most important relationships with the gift of each day and each moment together. We can stop wasting our time, doing things that don’t matter, holding grudges or putting ourselves before others. In the end, what can we hold on to?

We can say what needs to be said. We can use each moment more mindfully. We can express all the love we have in our hearts because it’s only worth something when we give it away. We can’t take it with us.

Davidicus Wong is a family physician and his Healthwise columns appear regularly in the Burnaby Now, Vancouver Courier, Royal City Record and Richmond News.

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Nitobe Memorial Garden, UBC (Davidicus Wong)

Posted in Caregiving, Compassion, Coping with Loss, Forgiveness, Friendship, Letting Go, Love, Relationships | Tagged | Leave a comment

Your Heart: What Have You Done for It Lately?

IMG_3960We all play favourites.

We look at the attractive, we hang out with the most fun, and we take for granted the reliable and dependable in our lives that are always there day after day.

What is your favourite organ?

You may not choose two of the most important – your brain and heart, but the rest of you couldn’t survive without them.

With every beat, your heart keeps every cell of your body alive, pumping blood freshly oxygenated by your lungs. If your heart stopped pumping or an artery was blocked, you would suffer a stroke, blindness, organ failure or the loss of your legs.

So take a moment to think about your heart. What have you done for it lately?

You can increase your odds for a long and happy life by thinking about your heart as you should your most important relationships. Are you paying attention? Are you showing care each day? Are you working to make it great?

  1. Listening (for Trouble)

Sometimes, it’s obvious when something is wrong – irregular heart beats with lightheadedness; pain or pressure on exertion in your chest, throat or arms.

Sometimes the signs are subtle and mistaken for normal aging – or being married a long time: fatigue or exhaustion, feeling out of shape and short of breath, calf pain while walking, and decreased sexual function.

Before considering vitamins, Viagra or marriage counseling, see your doctor.

  1. How Do You Care for Your Heart?

The best predictor of your future health are (1) the health of your parents and (2) the habits you practice today.

If a parent or sibling had heart surgery, a heart attack or heart failure, you should ask your doctor to assess your personal risk factors, including high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Are you living a life that minimizes risks? Care for your heart by limiting salt, alcohol and a lazy, leisurely lifestyle. Don’t sacrifice long term health for short-term pleasure.

Enjoy the rewards of daily healthy living. Eat more fruits and vegetables and other foods that really make you feel good. If you can sit, stand. If you can stand, walk. If you can walk: run, swim or cycle.

Butt out, get outside and live.

  1. Make a Good Thing Great

Why settle for good enough when you can get great?

You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone, and you don’t know great ‘til you’ve got it.

Your heart is another muscle you can train. Unless you’ve already been a world-class athlete, none of us knows what we can achieve.

When you’re fit and strong, everyday life is easier. You’ll have plenty of energy to shop, clean, mow the lawn, get out and dance. Everyday tasks – climbing a flight of stairs, lifting and moving – become effortless and fast.

For those with heart disease or its risk factors, Healthy Heart programs in your community can safely move you to your fittest state.

Be the best you can be today.

To learn more about “What You Should Know About Heart Disease”, come to my next free public lecture on behalf of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients series. You’ll learn if you are at increased risk, practical tips to reduce your risks and how to maintain your best health in spite of heart disease.

I’ll be speaking on Wednesday, March 30th at 7 p.m. at the Alan Emmott Centre at 6650 Southoaks Crescent in South Burnaby. Register online with lcullen@divisionsbc.ca or call Leona at (604) 259-4450.

Davidicus Wong is a family physician and his Healthwise columns appear regularly in the Vancouver Courier, Burnaby Now, Royal City Record and Richmond News newspapers. 

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