Physicians are experiencing epidemic levels of stress, burnout and pain. As a physician, I’ve experienced this disease myself and have seen it in my colleagues since medical school.
Most physicians chose the profession because they care about people. However, overwork, cumbersome regulations, medical liability, on-call issues, coding requirements and computer technology demands have left many health-care providers feeling physically and emotionally exhausted, frustrated and depressed.
According to a recent study in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, more than half of physicians in the U.S. suffer burnout compared with 28 percent of other U. S. workers. Work-life balance also ranked significantly lower for physicians: 36 percent reported satisfaction compared with 61 percent of other workers.
Burnout is harmful for both physicians and patients. Physicians are experiencing increased rates of alcohol, drug abuse – and even suicide. For patients, physician burnout has been linked to lower quality of care and patient satisfaction, higher rates of physician turnover and increased chances of medical errors.
Fortunately, the teachings and practical methods of Yoga Science – the world’s oldest form of holistic mind/body medicine – have helped me and many other physicians live happier and healthier lives.
Why should health-care providers practice Yoga Science? As the Greek philosopher Epictetus observed, “People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them.” In other words, our unconscious concepts skew our worldly perceptions. They define what is relevant and irrelevant, good and bad. And because many of our concepts are faulty, we experience pain and burnout when they are employed.
People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them.
Epictetus, Greek philosopher
The practice of Yoga Science opens our eyes and creates a space for greater clarity by teaching us how to replace old, faulty concepts with our own discriminative wisdom. Through my personal practice of AMI Meditation and Yoga Science I am now aware that much of what I was taught by others was simply their own misconceptions. Because I had not yet discovered and exercised my own discriminative faculty, I took on their view of myself.
These misguided mentors led me to erroneously associate being right or perfect with self-preservation. They motivated me to work hard, but also ensured my underlying and deeply exhausting anxiety. As a consequence, I became a good anesthesiologist who, as life presented its apparent imperfections, burned out.
Through Yoga Science, I learned that many of the beliefs I held about myself only agitated and depleted my energy, while inhibiting self-confidence, self-reliance and creativity. The false assumptions served as barriers to my own fulfillment.
By letting go of these negative conceptions and perceptions, I experienced myself and others more objectively and compassionately. I relaxed, and felt freer to engage. Fear, judgment, anger, and insecurity could still appear, but they couldn’t maintain their hold on me.
Every doctor I know wants to practice medicine in a caring and loving way. Tragically, too many health-care providers are burdened by limiting beliefs that lead to burnout.
For me and many other physicians, the empowering self-care medicine of Yoga Science has been a prescription for healing. When used daily, these time-tested practices can improve job satisfaction and work/life balance, while reducing burnout symptoms of anger, depression, anxiety and exhaustion. For physicians, it’s a journey that can rekindle the love of medicine we all felt as first-year med students.
Dr. Beth Netter is a holistic physician and acupuncturist in Albany, New York.