A gastroenterologist’s perspective
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From Luke’s Journal 2022 | Rest | Vol.27 No.1
Much has been written about burnout among health professionals, especially during the last two years. While many workplaces focus on resilience training of staff, the counter-argument has been that employers should instead seek to improve working conditions rather than shift the onus onto the employee, indirectly implying that burnout is a consequence of personal weakness or a lack of resilience.
Indeed, burnout is not simply fatigue from working too hard, but actual injury to the morale (moral injury) from not being able to deliver what one believes is the right thing to do for the patient due to circumstances beyond one’s control.
Although the topic of burnout itself is beyond the scope of this article, I would nevertheless like to share here some of my thoughts on rest and relaxation.
“What is rest? In a strictly physical sense, it is the absence of motion. While it is easier to bring the physical body to a complete rest, it is not so easy to bring the mind to rest.”
What is rest? In a strictly physical sense, it is the absence of motion. While it is easier to bring the physical body to a complete rest, it is not so easy to bring the mind to rest. In this regard, mindfulness training, meditation and such practises have become very popular. However, mindfulness and yoga are not the answers to burnout. It is not simply resting the body and mind that is the answer because burnout is not the same as tiredness from overworking.
Is there a spiritual perspective on rest? This brings us to the concept of rest in Genesis. Was God tired after creation and needed a good day of rest? Does God get tired and need relaxation? Why was there a rest day?
I wonder if that was a hidden message delivered to us through Moses. Stop, pause and reflect. Look at what you have done so far and pat yourself on the back for getting through life one week at a time. There can also be rest stops at the end of every day, or even several times throughout the day to stop, pause, reflect and pat yourself on the back.
“My idea of relaxation is doing something creative such as singing, piano, guitar, cooking and drawing digital art on my iPad. “
Relaxation on the other hand is much more than rest. Some people relax by going for a long run or doing a vigorous gym workout. Others relax by sleeping on the couch or binge-watching their favourite TV shows. My idea of relaxation is doing something creative such as singing, piano, guitar, cooking and drawing digital art on my iPad.
I am a gastroenterologist and take great pride in my procedural skills, hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
A few years ago, I started taking piano lessons. I realised that learning piano as an adult is hard. I get bored very quickly with exercises and practising scales. I want to play a song and make music. So instead of usual music books, I take lessons in playing hymns and choruses.
There are many hymns and choruses that are part of my childhood memories and college life in Christian Medical College, Vellore. Playing these songs on the piano takes me back to those good times; it is my time of prayer and meditation (as I don’t have the discipline to read the Bible or pray daily).
All of this was very relaxing, but what was more amazing was when I realised that my endoscopy skills were improving as my fine motor skills were getting better from learning the piano. That is just one example of a recreational activity that has helped me rest, relax, uplift my spirit while also benefiting my work life as well.
How do you relax? Have you been able to relax in a way that has also benefited your work or life in a way that you didn’t expect?
Dr Steven Bollipo Dr Steven Bollipo completed his MBBS degree at Christian Medical College, Vellore and completed his physician training in Newcastle, Darwin and Launceston. He is the Director of Gastroenterology at John Hunter Hospital and the Deputy Chair of the College Policy & Advocacy Committee of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. He has a wide range of interests including music, cooking, digital art and learning Hebrew and Modern Greek.