Why Living a Wholehearted Life Matters to Me
A few years back, I was living high on life. I had a job I loved, and, after overcoming three miscarriages, my family was growing and I celebrated the birth of my second child
I was enjoying my baby bonding time at home on maternity leave when I got some disturbing news. My mom, who 10 years earlier had a double mastectomy due to breast cancer and had been living cancer free, learned that her cancer was back and now had spread to her bones, making it an incurable Stage 4 Breast Cancer.
Around the same time, I received a frantic call from the wife of one of my physicians telling me that he was being admitted to the ICU and to please remove him from the clinical schedule. He was our dedicated nocturnist and worked a significant number of night shifts, so removing him from the schedule was a heavy burden on the department. To support the department, I cut my maternity leave short and went back to work.
When it rains it pours. I was back to work for less than one week when our hospital system’s leadership decided our Emergency Department group no longer fit their mission. So, as I'm learning to be a mom of two young kids under 3, managing breastfeeding and pumping, working a heavy clinical load of night shifts, and supporting my mom through her cancer treatments, I also had to manage my department’s contract instability.
Caring for my newborn while juggling work issues and dealing with my mom’s health crisis made it incredibly difficult to sleep. It didn't take long for me to physically manifest the symptoms of stress. I milk supply decreased, I developed neck, shoulder and jaw pain and I ignored all these symptoms. I told myself I'd be fine, that I’d get through this, that it was no big deal. Until my jaw pain got so bad I developed trouble chewing.
Convinced my pain was due to a cavity, I saw a dentist who, after x-rays and a thorough exam, told me my teeth looked great. He then asked me if I grind my teeth. I had never had this problem but turns out when some people experience severe stress they can grind their teeth at night or clench their jaw. I was astonished. It was difficult to believe that I was so disconnected to what I had been experiencing.
That's when I realized that something seriously had to shift in my life.
My personal crisis created an opportunity for me to stop and reevaluate my priorities and choices. I had always said that my family and my mental health were my priorities, but if you spot checked my calendar any given day, you'd see that wasn't the case. My career was the only thing I created time for.
I invested in personal development workshops, transformational leadership courses, books and podcasts. However, my most profound transformation came through powerful professional and life coaching. Through coaching it became evident that the choices I had been making didn't reflect my values. So, I chose to stop being a victim of my circumstances and I shifted. I began to set healthy work boundaries that allowed me to remain an effective leader without burning out. I was intentional about setting aside time for my mental, physical and spiritual health. And, I was disciplined about leaving work at work so when I was home with my husband and kids I was fully present.
I am now living a wholehearted life. I have a great career I love as a professional coach and physician leader; I have a strong and supportive marriage; I have a great relationship with my kids, and I'm present for my mom and able to help her navigate her medical needs.
The tools I teach come from over 10,000 hours of personal study and a wide variety of sources. I personally practice every one of them. This work has transformed my life and I'm on a mission to pass these tools on. Resiliency and happiness have a ripple effect. When you're happier, your spouse and children are happier, your friends are happier, and, ultimately, you make the world a better place.