For the first time, I entered the world of social media at the ASH conference. Guided by HealthTree Coach Valerie Traynham, I set up a Twitter account and she connected me with a whole world of blood cancer specialists virtually! It was amazing to see what they like and are excited about. In one of the recent tweets that I stumbled across, a physician was telling of her experience at a session. The person presenting the session asked attendees to “please stand if you are feeling ‘burned out’.” Almost all in the room stood up. Our healthcare providers are experiencing “burn out.”
Perhaps this is why, at ASH21, a wellness studio was provided for the thirteen thousand participants. I attended several sessions to learn about the wellness studio. It turns out that the folks who organize this conference for docs and researchers recognize that an epidemic is taking place. It’s not the COVID-19 virus or the Omicron variant. It’s a bit more insidious and contagious than “the virus.” It seems to target physicians and healthcare workers as well as caregivers.
Michael Mantell PhD, calls it “the latest epidemic amongst physicians who give their all to everyone…but themselves.” Hmm. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but when I’m headed to see the oncologist or specialist, their wellbeing is not on my radar. It’s all about ME! That sounds bad and yet at the same time, I spend lots of time with other patients talking with them about how to advocate for themselves—because if they don’t, there’s a danger of falling through the cracks of the healthcare system. So, in that sense, it should be all about me. But at the same time, for us to get the best care, our doctors, nurses, schedulers, and lab folks all need to be caring for and advocating for themselves. It should be about them. Like us, they need to take care of themselves in the same way we patients do.
At the wellness studio, there were many sessions offered to help us learn and experience self-care tools. Some of these were aimed at the physical challenges physicians and their staff experience daily, for example sitting for prolonged periods at a time. Nurses and healthcare providers, followed by office workers, are the number 3 and 4 professions, respectively, that cause back pain. Healthy Sitting, Lower Back Bootcamp, and Remove the Slouch were some of the sessions to help with on-the-job physical challenges.
Along with caring for our physical wellbeing, ASH leaders recognized the need for taking care of ourselves mentally and emotionally as well. They provided many programs on mental and emotional health for their members. Here is a small sampling of sessions offered: Ten Minutes to Resilience; Breath as Self Care; Yoga; Grief; Guard Your Anger; and Tolerating Frustration and Discomfort. Wow! These might be helpful for AML patients, as well as our doctors.
I thought I would experience a bit of the training, myself. This is how it went. Kulvi Kuar presented Increase Resilience and Reduce Anxiety with EFT. Increasing resilience and reducing anxiety during these times seem especially important with so much uncertainty in the air. EFT, as I understand it, is a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and tapping. It’s a simple, yet deceptively powerful technique that does what Kulvi promised it would do.
1. Setup statement: Give yourself a positive yet realistic statement. Her example was “Even though I’m feeling anxious about speaking in public, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
2. As you repeat this out loud or silently with your eyes open or closed, tap several times at 1 of the 8 tapping points. Tapping points are acupressure points at different spots on the body. See the slide below.
3. Gently tap these spots with your fingertips while repeating your own set-up phrase. I’m going to try it right now and say to myself, “Even though I feel anxious about writing articles, I deeply and completely accept myself.” Ahhh! Relaxing!
Last but not least, power napping pods were provided for ASH participants. Being a nap aficionado, I had to give these cool-looking pods a couple of test runs. It was wonderful to take a load off of my feet, cover up with a light blanket, and be lulled to sleep with gentle sounds of nature echoing through the headphones. What a lovely reminder that some of the smallest pleasures--natural sounds, a warm blanket, and the gentle support of a comfortable recliner--are some of the biggest ways we can care for ourselves.
Here's to all of us taking care of ourselves.
about the author
I’m intrigued with personalized medicine, matching treatments to the person's genetics, age, health, gender, race, and different tests and assays being developed and how they are best utilized for diagnosis, treatment, trends and predicting relapse.