As a junior doctor, my life revolved around to-do lists: phonecalls to make, blood results to check, medications to write. Everything would be obsessively added to a sheet of A4 which I’d carry around in my shirt pocket, striking items off as I went through the day. The trouble was, the list never got finished – as fast as I ticked items off from the top, new items would pop up at the bottom. Months and years were defined by that feeling of ‘just keeping your head above water’.
We’ve all been there – of being deluged by demands, of one task having been completed, only for two or three new ones to crop up. And it seems that for many of us, this is now the draining, tedious reality of modern hamster-wheel life.
It’s no wonder, then, that a growing wave of stress, anxiety and depression floods us. We’re saturated with an information overload, much of it utterly pointless and empty (here’s looking at you, smart-phone), but it’s still something which needs to be processed by our ever-more-stretched minds.
The result of being so bombarded is a range of warning signals which are flashed up by our bodies, indicating that we’re groaning under too many demands. Typically, these warning lights are features such as poor sleep, failing memory or feeling physically drained. We ignore these features at our peril, as if we try to ‘push through’, we’re simply stepping harder on the accelerator, into a full-scale depressive or anxious condition. And let’s not forget; these conditions are serious, medical conditions, so why on earth are we so blasé about taking the chance?
Instead, let’s recognise these early warning indicators, pull back and offload some demands if possible. It’s often helpful to verbalise with a neutral third party about what we’re going through – whether that’s a work mentor or a professional therapist. Think about seeing your doctor if you’re feeling at the end of your tether – they can be a good way to access more specialist forms of treatment, and can also discuss whether some short-term, non-addictive medication may be of use.
Here’s an infographic which sums it all up – the key messages are incredibly straightforward, but it’s so important to get right!