Stress is a major part of my life. It always has been. You know that phrase, “Don’t sweat the small stuff?” Well, I do sweat the small the stuff. And the big stuff. And the medium stuff. It just all stresses me out. And I feel like for a 28 year old, I have a lot of things in my life to stress me out. There’s my job, and my husband, and being a mom, and trying to focus on my career, and trying to take care of patients, and being an intern. I mean, I think anyone would agree that I have things in my life that warrant a lot of stress.
But then I go to work. I get in the elevator, I look down, and there is a small child riding in a wagon. She is covered in blankets up to her face. Her big eyes look up at me, and I can see that the rest of her face is covered in burns. Really, really bad burns. And it breaks my heart.
I go to see my first patient. A patient recently diagnosed with cancer. And I have to talk to his wife about his poor prognosis. And deep down I know that he isn’t going to live much longer. And it kills me.
But it puts things in perspective. Every day I get perspective. My life isn’t that bad. It’s stressful, yes. But it could be so much worse. I have so, so many things in my life to be thankful for and to celebrate. And those things should outweigh the bad.
People have told me before that I’m kind of pessimistic. To which I always reply, “No, I’m realistic.” Which is still true. But sometimes the reality is not that good. And the reality I live in is that everything is not always fine. People get sick. People die. And it’s not fair. But that’s reality. So it’s hard to focus on the good sometimes.
I heard a speaker a few years ago who was speaking to medical students and residents about stress and staying positive. And he recommended a simple daily exercise, which I still do to this day. Every day on my way to work I tell myself three things:
1. I’m a good person.
2. I deserve good things.
3.Today is going to be a good day.
Those things don’t always end up being true. Some days I make bad choices, and I’m not the best person I could be. Some days aren’t good days. There are really, really hard days. But at least it reminds me that every day is a new day, and that anything can happen.
I would encourage you to try this in your own life. No matter who you are or what you do, it’s important to focus on the good. And even when reality sucks, you can still be optimistic.