Helping Our Physicians Live a Balanced Life
By Monica Swanson
My husband has never known mediocre. Doing things “half-heartedly” isn’t in his vocabulary. He’s all or nothing.
At eight years old he discovered a love for soccer, and dedicated every free moment to training to become the very best. This passion and commitment led him to playing soccer both in college and for a time professionally. When he was young he was also a passionate artist. If he wasn’t playing soccer, he was drawing. His nature-inspired artwork was showcased in art galleries when he was still just a middle school student.
Later in his teens my husband discovered windsurfing, and pursued it as if his life depended on it. The stories go on and on. By the time I met him, he had been through a number of obsessions; from biology studies to guitar, never dabbling, always excelling.
We married, and a year later, he began medical school, studying with the same passion and determination. I knew he would make a great doctor, and tried to be understanding when he would bring medical texts to dinner dates, and ask me to read out loud to him as we drove in the car. He was all in.
But it wasn’t long before I watched my husband let go of many of the things that used to interest him. To be the very best doctor he could be would require him to sacrifice much, and focus intensely. I hoped that after his studies he could get back to the things that used to bring him so much joy, like sports and playing the guitar.
Soon, we had children and naturally, they filled any extra moments either of us had. Life…got busy. And those “extra” things? They went by the wayside. I think that finding balance is a huge challenge for just about everyone these days. But I would venture to guess that my husband’s eagle-eye focus is quite common for doctors, making them extra challenged in this area of living a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
After all, it is a doctor’s ability to block out distractions and focus that help them succeed in their training and their career. But these same qualities can also make it really hard to keep perspective and maintain a balanced life.
I know that my husband is happiest when he is active and fit. I also know that he enjoys getting together with friends, traveling, and being outdoors. But left to himself, he might neglect to do these things. And this is where I have found that I can help. With gentle reminders, and some family initiative, my husband can and does keep a healthy balance in his life.
Here are a few things I have learned to do to help keep my husband balanced in this busy season of work and family life:
- Plan dates. Rather than wait for him to do it, I plan a date and run it by him to make sure it works. He is always happy to get out with me, whether for a dinner, or an evening walk. I have learned that taking the pressure off of him to plan a date makes all the difference.
- Plan family activities. A family hike or afternoon at the beach is great, the kids and I just need to plan it and give him time to coordinate in advance. A doctor’s schedule is rarely guaranteed, but he will always try to make it work if he can.
- Help him find hobbies that are both productive, and relaxing. Now that we live in the country, my husband has found that he loves to work on his tractor. This has become one of his new passions. He seems to feel good knowing he is being productive, but also relaxes really well doing work on our property. Whether it is working with wood, or mowing the lawn, most men enjoy work that is a diversion from their job.
- Encourage him to be active. I’ll be honest, when the kids were all young, and my husband was working 100+ hour weeks in residency, I didn’t encourage him to do much of anything for himself. I was so exhausted and overwhelmed that all I could think of was a break for myself. But now that my boys are a little older and my husband most naturally caters to their needs, I have begun to switch my focus. Now I often encourage him to get out and go surfing, hang out with a friend, or spend time on his tractor. With my support he feels better about taking the time to do the things that keep him healthy and balanced.
If the doctor in your life tends to be focused to the point of losing balance, I encourage you to help bring balance into his or her life. A doctor in every season of life needs balance, and will perform better after some refreshing activity.
Monica Swanson lives with her very active family on two acres in the country on Oahu, Hawaii. You can read more about Monica and her discussions on parenting, healthy marriage and recipes at her blog: www.monicaswanson.com.
(Editor’s Note: This blog post originally ran in September, 2014.)