Summit Physician Wellbeing

Posted on Jun 1, 2021 in Wellness Committee | 0 comments

Cultivating Emotional Balance

  • An Important Strategy for  Coping with Stress and Finding Joy in our Work!

Our work is full of time pressure, life and death situations as well as amazing opportunities to see the depth of the human condition.  We are not taught any strategies the help us cope.  I have stumbled upon a great one.  Dan Siegel, a  Harvard psychologist,  developed this idea he calls  “Name it to Tame it”.

Simply naming an emotion is a great way to get control over it.  Functional MRI show that when we name an emotion the activity of the brain moves for the arousal areas of the limbic system where we really feel the heat of the emotion to the prefrontal cortex where appraisal happens and with this, calming neurotransmitters are released to sooth.   Simply naming the emotion helps put out the fire and gives us some control.  Moving our thoughts away from the source of the emotion to the emotion itself can help stop ruminative thoughts that can be fuel for the flames.

The first crucial step is paying attention to our emotions which, at least for me, I was not in the habit of doing.  Emotions are an embodied phenomenon.  We feel them.  Paying attention to our body is a good way to help us recognize what we are feeling.

Interestingly, when we are feeling positive emotions, naming them helps us appreciated them more; the good get amplified!

Give this a try.  It doesn’t take any extra time and with some practice I am sure you will notice the benefits!

The link below is to a longer essay I wrote on this for the society of hospital medicine.  In it, I describe how I used this technique on a tough day on our Covid unit last winter.

https://www.the-hospitalist.org/hospitalist/article/240455/coronavirus-updates/cultivating-emotional-awareness

And look for more Celebrating our Physicians post in June!

Leif Hass, MD
Summit Wellness Chair

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