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Managing Stress With Meditation

In the early 1970s, when Dr. Herbert Benson was defining and testing the techniques he presented to the world in his revolutionary book, The Relaxation Response, I was a hippie teenager learning transcendental meditation (TM). Flash forward about 40 years and I’m sitting in an amphitheater packed with a few hundred medical students, faculty, and staffers from Harvard Medical School listening to the iconic director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute explain the myriad benefits of the relaxation response.

The relaxation response is a self-induced quieting of brain activity. It leads to a body-wide slowdown and a feeling of well-being that have measurably positive effects on disorders caused by stress or made worse by it, including high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, and many digestive disorders. As Dr. Benson describes in Stress Management, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

When A Doctor Is “Spent”

“I need you to do me a favor,” my nurse asked me at the end of our day on Friday.

“Sure,” I answered. “What do you want?”

“Please have a better week next week,” she said with a pained expression. “I don’t think I can handle another one like this week.”

It was a bad week. There was cancer, there was anxiety, there were family fights, there were very sick children. It’s not that it’s unusual to see tough things (I am a doctor), but the grouping of them had all of us trudging home drained of energy. Spent.

I think this is one of the toughest thing about being a doctor (and nurse, by my nurse’s question): The spending of emotional reserves. I’m not physically active at work, yet I come home tired. I don’t have to be busy to feel drained. It’s not the patients’ fault that I feel tired. They are coming to me to get the service I offer to them, and I think I do that job well. The real problem is in me. The real problem is that I care. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Distractible Mind*

A Coping Game For Healthcare Providers

Ever wonder how ICU nurses get through their daily grind? Why, with ICU Bingo, of course.

How does ICU Bingo work? It works just like regular bingo. Every nurse receives their own Bingo card with different ICU diagnoses. And every time they take care of one of these conditions, they get to ”x” it out. Fill out a line or any other predetermined design pattern, and you are the ICU Bingo winner, and you win a prize.

This is quite similar to my 2010 March Madness Hospitalist Bracket, only in this case the game is Bingo. As you can see, this nurse has already cared for a GI bleed, a homeless man, a drug overdose, chest pain, DKA, alcohol withrawal, subdural hematoma, a prisoner, and someone with super-morbid obesity. That’s ICU medicine for you.


*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*

6 Tips To A Simpler Lifestyle

I like to pass on good tips, and these ways to simplify your life make a lot of sense. The constant stress we feel because life is so complicated isn’t good for our health. Here are six tips to have a simpler lifestyle:

1. De-Clutter Your Home

Look around. If you have piles of paper, too many “things” and nic-nacs laying around, it’s hard to think clearly and function. An open, clear space allows our minds to feel open and more peaceful. Tackle one room at a time. Be ruthless and donate or toss everything that isn’t useful, beautiful, or has special memories.

2. Limit Family Activities

Try to force family members to choose only those activities that are most important. Many of us are over-scheduled and have no time to “just see where the day will take us.” Thirty years ago no stores were open on Sundays and there wasn’t much to do except go on picnics or just hang out with friends and family. It’s okay to “veg out” and may even be good for your family’s health. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

On Leave From The “Life-Inflicted” Battle

Here on this balcony, in Hilton Head, South Carolina, the wind is cool, the air typically thick with humidity, my wife reading a novel by my side. Inside the rental, our children are winding down after days of sun, sand and sea. Their bodies scrubbed pink by salt water and ocean breezes, their faces glowing with sun. My daughter’s lovely blonde hair is more blonde than usual.

I am on leave, in a sense. I am not, however, in the armed forces. Furthermore, I am not at a conference or working at all (except for a little writing, which is as much breath as work.) I am, in fact, celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary on a trip suggested and planned by my love. 

I have accomplished little that the world would view as substantial this week. I have viewed it as a kind of sabbath. I have enjoyed my family, played on the beach, eaten far too much and delighted in every single, solitary minute…and Oreos.

“Sabbath,” “on leave,” “R&R” – however one describes it, we must remember to do it — we need it – because life is a kind of battle. Many well-educated, peaceful post-moderns think that’s far to bellicose a description, but the truth remains: Life is a struggle that rises to the description of battle with stark regularity. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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