Anxiety (noun): a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome (wikipedia.org)
I have shared how I lost my anxiety with our lifestyle changes, starting with eating paleo-inspired naturally gluten free. As time has gone on, I realize that the statement isn’t the whole truth. What actually occurred, is I lost the brain fog in order to see what actually caused me anxiety so I could address it. It is no longer endless and meaningless or debilitating as it was before. Anxiety for me now is a signal that something amazing is about to happen. I don’t ignore it. I don’t pretend it doesn’t exist. I jump into it and explore what it is. It isn’t easy, of course and requires a lot of my attention and time. It also forces me to grow personally and often strengthens my foundation with family members and those close to me. I look at anxiety much like stress (as I have described in Soar Into Health), too much is unhealthy, but my life is much brighter with it in my life.
As always, I read to expand my knowledge base to better my understanding of the human condition, including my own. The reading isn’t always light hearted as you can imagine, but thought provoking which seems to bring me joy. I have in the past found parallels to good doctoring with good parenting. This book brought the two together for me again.
I recently finished the book Drug Dealer MD by Dr Anna Lembke, MD. Dr Lembke’s book is about the epidemic of patient opioid over prescription by medical doctors after listening to an NPR segment. She explores the history, the causes of the epidemic and offers some understanding about why the problem is so difficult to resolve. As part of understanding the problem, she describes the Compassionate Doctor. A compassionate doctor is a people pleaser who chose medicine being motivated to a higher calling. The intention of these compassionate doctors to choose medicine was a chance to make a true difference and alleviate suffering.
Yet, in the presence of a drug-seeking patient, the compassionate doctor feels an unknown anxiety. This anxiety results in primal defense mechanisms that affect the relationship. The typical defense mechanisms can take four forms:
Dr. Lembke describes these defense mechanisms as normal, but argues that they do not produce effective results when working with difficult patients. What she describes as the ideal response to this anxiety is “compassion and professionalism even in the face of these challenges.”
Compassionate doctoring is like compassionate parenting. Having the desire to truly help a patient or a child is not that same as avoiding anxiety or conflict. In fact, true compassionate parenting and doctoring REQUIRES that you identify what the anxiety is caused by and “lean in” with “compassion and professionalism.” Unfortunately, our primal responses are ineffective at dealing with anxiety, which is why we have higher centers in our brains to over-ride those primal responses.
“Lean in.” – Sheryl Sandberg
Yes, you must lean in to the conflict with compassion and professionalism.
We as parents, doctors, healthcare professionals, teachers or the like are doing a disservice to our children and patients if we allow the primal response to take over.
Be a parent. Be a doctor….not a friend.
Compassionate parenting is possible, but only if we allow the struggle to guide us on the right path. Avoiding struggle only exacerbates problems, and may even create more problems. Don’t lean in blindly, but don't wait for the perfect time to lean in either. Know yourself and know your child so when you lean in you gain more information to make a sensible plan. Like doctoring a drug seeking patient, not giving into his/her misled desires is the first step, but helping the patient recover requires an appropriate plan.
As it relates to children, their desires for sweets and fun are not entirely healthy. Regularly giving into such desires that creates peace in the moment will definitely create sickness later either mental or physical. Not all parents I have worked with have been able to lean in to the struggle for various reasons. Yet, every single parent/family that has committed to the struggle and anxiety of changing his/her child’s eating habits has been grateful for the experience and come out the other side healthier mentally and physically because of it.
I don’t pretend to know all the answers. To be honest the unknown still scares me. But I do know that our family doesn’t avoid the struggle when anxiety is present. I see our children learning and growing with each struggle they face, as do I. I don’t protect them from struggle despite my anxiety. It is hard work, but I wouldn’t change it.
The struggle is real….and really important.
Without anxiety, we cannot struggle to learn and grow.
Remove. Replace. Restore.
Remove ignorance to primal defense mechanisms.
Replace with compassion, professionalism and awareness.
Restore learning, growth and health.
Eat Well. Move Well. Sleep Well. Soar On.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons, license, added logo and enlarged, Sippanont Samchai .one day, you'll understanD
Dr Carolyn Dolan DPT, Cert MDT, MSHN
Where physical therapy, nutrition and lifestyle meet, because how you live your life determines whether or not you soar. Inspiring action with information so you can reduce pain, optimize healing and improve function naturally during recovery from injury, surgery or painful condition. This is a website for the open-minded; obstinate need not apply.