Today, what stands between you and happiness?
There are many times in our lives when we don’t feel as happy as we could be. We’ve had some bad news – a friend moving away or falling sick, or we’re coping with disappointment – not getting the job we were hoping for.
And there are the darkest times when we can’t feel happy at all: the catastrophes and tragedies of life – the loss of loved ones and dear friends.
Often, the obstacle is a difficult situation – at home, at school or at work.
Think about your own life. Are you as happy as you would like to be? What is holding you back?
I have found with my own patients and in my own life that stress is one of the most common causes of unhappiness. We can be healthy and have enough to eat but be miserable if we are overwhelmed – if the demands of our daily lives are more than we can manage.
You might be surprised how often physicians become stressed, burnt out and depressed. If we’re not careful, we can easily fall into the traps of overcommitting and overworking ourselves. Because we find so much intrinsic gratification from using our intellectual, emotional and social skills to help our patients, we can bury ourselves in our work. It’s hard for us to say no to someone we could help. What we usually end up doing is saying no to ourselves, our own wellbeing and sometimes to our own families and friends.
A lot of physicians skip their lunches, family dinners and even sleep for a night or two to keep up with the neverending cascade of care, but if we aren’t wary, we will eventually have difficulty staying afloat even at what we do best – our work.
It is well-known that in the process of burnout, physicians will let their physical health, social lives and family relationships deteriorate at the expense of their work. Ultimately, what was most gratifying to a physician can become meaningless. That’s when physicians can become irritable and prone to error.
Obviously, you don’t have to be a doctor or even an adult to have too much stress in your life. Last week, a mom brought in her 10-year-old son who had been having difficulties keeping up in class. When I had a chance to talk to him alone, this pleasant, bright boy did not have a learning disorder. He had been depressed due to years of social stress, including numerous negative experiences with friends and bullies.
Your happiness exercise for today:
Think about your life today and how much stress you are currently experiencing. Is stress keeping you from being happier today? What are the sources of your stress, and what can you do about them?
If you’re a parent and you’re not sure if your children are as happy as they can be, consider the stresses they may be coping with. Help them to identify the source of their stress and empower them to do what they can to make positive changes.
At work or at school, is there a friend who might be overwhelmed and could use your support?
Coming up: How to deal with stress and other obstacles to happiness.