Episode 106: How to Stop Worrying When There’s a Lot to Worry About with Caroline Walker

In a world full of uncertainties, how do we stop ourselves from being overcome with fear, worry and anxiety?

In this episode, The Joyful Doctor, Caroline Walker, joins us to share about the negative and positive effects of worrying. She also gives us useful tips and techniques that work in managing anxiety so that our mental health and wellbeing can thrive.

If you want to know how to stop worrying, stay tuned to this episode!

Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  • Find out the positive and negative effects of worrying.

  • Learn simple tips and techniques on how to work on your anxiety and stop worrying.
  • Discover how managing your worries will lead to a healthier, happier life.

Episode Highlights

[05:22] About the Joyful Doctor

  • Caroline is a psychiatrist and therapist specialising in the mental health and wellbeing of doctors and other healthcare professionals.
  • The Joyful Doctor is a nonprofit organisation that aims to improve the health of doctors.

[08:00] Worrying is Normal

  • We all worry and ruminate, especially when a lot is going on.
  • It’s perfectly normal for people to be anxious and worried, but anxiety can be troublesome when it starts getting in the way of your life and enjoyment.

[8:28] “So I think it’s a completely normal part of being a human being to get worrying thoughts and to feel anxious. What becomes problematic is when these thoughts start to take over, when they start to get in the way of your day to day life.”

  • One must distinguish between normal worrying and problematic worrying.
  • Worrying about worrying, or metaworrying, is also normal and it can be helped with simple techniques or professional help.

[09:43] When Does Worrying Become Helpful

  • Worrying is helpful when we have problems that need solving.
  • Worry activates us, gets us out of a state of apathy, and alerts us to an issue that needs our control.
  • Worry keeps us safe since our brains predict the bad things that might happen, allowing us to prepare.

[9:52] “Worry tends to kind of activate us. It can get us out of a state of apathy and lack of motivation.…sometimes worry alerts us to a genuine issue that we actually need to pay attention to and spend some time thinking about.”

  • If you’re not mindful, worry can quickly get out of hand, so you must focus only on what you can control.

[13:41] Worrying vs. Caring

  • It’s okay to acknowledge that you have problems.
  • Sometimes, when we are worried, there’s another underlying emotion.

[14:10] “And it’s okay to feel a bit scared, a bit sad — any of those emotions that might be coming up for you. They’re all okay. So acknowledge them, allow a bit of space for them.”

  • The current pandemic has understandably left us feeling unsettled and sad, which are difficult emotions to sit with — so we worry instead because it’s easier.
  • Ask yourself, “Is there something else going on here that I’m not allowing myself to feel?”
  • You can care about certain things and learn to accept your limitations or let go.

[17:58] How to Stop Worrying

  • Ask yourself if it’s a real problem. If yes, find a solution. If not, turn to other techniques to stop worrying.
  • Set aside a “worry time” in the day or week where you’ll worry about things.
  • Switching your attention onto something else (attentional refocusing) can also help.
  • Visualize your worry, write it on a piece of paper, crumple it, and throw it away.

[23:12] Feelings Always Pass

  • When we’re worried or anxious, there’s often another emotion going on.

[23:13] “The more I work with anxious doctors and healthcare professionals, and the more I get to know my own anxiety, the more I believe that there is often something else going on for us when we’re particularly anxious — there’s often another emotion or another thing going on in our lives that we’re not quite paying attention to.”

  • It’s normal to be worried about the pandemic, but perhaps we’re not paying attention to the emotions it can bring up.
  • We aren’t used to sharing or dealing with grief, anger, and other heavy emotions.
  • Acknowledging and managing your feelings helps them pass more quickly.

[25:07] “So the thing about feelings is they all pass. Nobody has ever had a feeling that’s lasted forever. Right? They always pass. Always, always always.”

[26:38] Managing Worry and Time

  • Some things just need to be sat with, not dealt with.
  • Prioritise what’s important.
  • How can you live the life you want right now?

[31:32] Be More Gazelle

  • Catch yourself when you’re worrying about things that haven’t happened yet.
  • Train your body to switch between sympathetic and parasympathetic mode with small breathing and mindfulness exercises.
  • Press pause and be more mindful of the story going on in your head.
  • Acknowledge that both good and bad things could happen.

[31:54] “We can actually choose, ‘Am I going to continue to keep worrying about this thing that hasn’t happened yet?’ Or ‘Am I going to kind of focus on what I do know is true?’”

[38:13] Recognize the Good Things You’re Doing

  • We often end up making mistakes we didn’t see coming.
  • Worrying often fills our day with negativity and takes away our attention from our good intentions.
  • You are doing a phenomenal work; be kinder to yourself.

[40:41] Caroline’s Top Three Tips on How To Stop Worrying

  • Remember that worrying is normal.
  • Notice the stories in your head.
  • Press pause.
  • If these techniques aren’t helping, seek professional help or talk to somebody.

[41:04] “If you can start to notice when you’re getting into that worried state, when you’re getting stuck in it, then you have a choice, right? And then I’d say press pause.”

About Caroline

Caroline Walker is the founder and CEO of The Joyful Doctor. She is a psychiatrist, therapist, speaker, and coach. For over 10 years, Caroline has worked with overworked and underappreciated doctors struggling with their careers and mental health to help them move towards a healthier, happier life.

As a psychiatrist and expert on doctors’ wellbeing, she’s also been burnt-out and overwhelmed by the pressures of working in medicine. Growing tired of seeing her colleagues succumb to the constant pressures of work, she founded The Joyful Doctor to support more doctors and provide them with the help that they need. She also provides keynote speeches and talks to break the stigma with mental health and offer empathy and support for doctors.

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Episode Transcript

Dr Caroline Walker: I might get in my car today. I might crash my car. That’s why I put my seatbelt on. Actually, having a little moment to worry about, “Oh, put my seatbelt on, okay. I put my seatbelt on. Carry on.” The worry doesn’t continue. It doesn’t ruin my day. It doesn’t stop me from doing anything. It doesn’t make me feel particularly anxious.

That’s okay. That’s a kind of useful worrying thought. If I did my seatbelt off, set off, and then I spent the entire journey worrying about, “Oh, I might crash my car.” I’m going to be feeling pretty awful, pretty stressed out, and it’s going to make me perversely, slightly an unsafer driver — potentially more likely to have an accident.

Dr Rachel Morris: In this episode of You Are Not A Frog, we’re talking about worry and anxiety, particularly rational worry and anxiety. You know the phrases, ‘Don’t worry, it’ll probably never happen.’ Or, ‘It’s not like anyone’s going to die.’ But what do we do when bad things may well happen, or people’s lives and livelihoods are genuinely at risk? How do we stop ourselves becoming overwhelmed with anxiety then?

To explore this, we’re joined by psychiatrist and therapist, Dr Caroline Walker — The Joyful Doctor, to talk about how to stop ourselves feeling overwhelmed with worry even in the midst of worrying times. Even though we might not be able to control what’s going on in the world, or even just our families or workplaces right now, one thing we do have more control over is how we deal with ourselves when we start feeling anxious or dwelling on unhelpful thoughts even if they may be very rational.

We can also stay focused on the present where everything is okay at the moment. We talk about how worry can be helpful when it spurs us into action. But when it’s overplayed, it can cause us to stress and actually make the bad things more likely to happen as we can’t think straight or perform as well when we’re in our sympathetic fight, flight or freeze zone. Which are some simple techniques you can use to reduce your anxiety which you can use anywhere even in difficult times?

Listen to this episode if you want to find out why we need to be more gazelle. Which emotions your anxiety may be masking, and why this matters? And how to get yourself out of the vicious cycle of rumination and worry?

Welcome to You Are Not A Frog, the podcast for doctors and other busy professionals who want to beat burnout and work happier. I’m Dr Rachel Morris. I’m a GP, now working as a coach, speaker, and specialist in teaching resilience. Even before the coronavirus crisis, we were facing unprecedented levels of burnout. We have been described as frogs in a pan of slowly boiling water. We hardly noticed the extra-long days becoming the norm and have got used to feeling stressed and exhausted.

Let’s face it, frogs generally only have two options: stay in the pan and be boiled alive or jump out of the pan and leave. But you are not a frog. And that’s where this podcast comes in. It is possible to craft your working life so that you can thrive even in difficult circumstances. And if you’re happier at work, you will simply do a better job. In this podcast, I’ll be inviting you inside the minds of friends, colleagues, and experts — all who have an interesting take on this. So that together, we can take back control and love what we do again.

If you’re a doctor who’s feeling strung out and overwhelmed right now, and you want to find balance in your life, beat burnout, and work happier, but find it almost impossible to find the time to make this happen. Then let us help make it easier for you. Dr Caroline Walker and I started the Permission to Thrive online CPD membership for doctors a year ago giving overwhelmed doctors the tools they need to thrive in their work and lives. It’s a wonderful community to be part of and we’re continuing this year with brand new content and loads more suggestions, coaching tips and resources to help you thrive, not just survive at work.

We run monthly webinars with accompanying CPD coaching workbooks so that you can kill two birds with one stone, invest in yourself, and claim CPD time. If you can’t make the live webinars, you can access the recordings in our online resources centre, as well as other bonus content. If you want to find out more, then do sign up to a free webinar called How To Give Yourself Permission To Thrive on Wednesday, the 19th of January at 8 pm.

If you sign up and can’t make it, we’ll send you a recording. We’d love you to join us. Just sign up through the link in the show notes.

Hello and welcome to another episode of the You Are Not A Frog podcast. I’m delighted to have with me again, Dr Caroline Walker. Hi, Caroline. How you doing?

Caroline: Hi, Rachel. I’m well, thank you. It’s lovely to see you. Thanks for having me back.

Rachel: You’re very welcome. Caroline is a friend of the podcast. We have had her on several times before. We’ve done lots of podcasts together all Around COVID, all around our reactions to COVID. Caroline works as The Joyful Doctor. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Caroline: I am a doctor by background. I’m a psychiatrist and a therapist, and I specialise in the mental health and well-being of doctors and other healthcare professionals. I am setting up The Joyful Doctor, which is not for profit organization a few years back now. Everything we do just helps to improve the well-being of doctors and high-stress caring professionals.

It’s just a joy to come on, and to be working with you again, Rachel, to help reach some doctors and healthcare professionals out there who might be struggling a bit at the moment because it is quite a challenging time.

Rachel: It is a difficult time, isn’t it? And we’re just sort of in the thick of Omicron and everything that that that brings us. The reason why we’re doing this episode is Caroline and I run a community — a CPD community for doctors called Permission to Thrive where we do a webinar once a month. In a recent webinar, we were looking at worry and anxiety. Actually, there were lots of things I thought would be really good to talk about on the podcast.

I think with everything that’s going on in the world, there’s a lot of worry and anxiety around. Some of the worry and anxiety techniques are just to sort of minimise what might happen, and that will help your worry. That sort of got us thinking, ‘Well, what is the worst that might happen? How do you stop yourself worrying when actually things are bad?’

Yet, we know with COVID at the moment, the numbers are baked in because of the amount of cases that we’ve got. Also, over the last few years, things have got worse than we probably could have imagined. In some time, there are actually things that have got worse than we imagined. Lots of times, I know that people use a technique of you know, ‘Well, let’s think about it. It’s not like anyone’s going to die, is it?’

Actually, when you apply that to healthcare, well you can’t say that anymore, and you can’t minimise the impact of stuff. When you got lots of worries and anxieties, it feels actually it’s almost right to do that. However, we can’t live in a state of being crippled by anxiety. I am getting lots of emails from people, through listeners who are saying about how worried and anxious they’re feeling right now, and is there anything we can do to help them? What would we suggest?

I’ve got questions myself around it. Caroline, I’d love you to share some of your wisdom. I think we’re going to talk about some of those things that we did talk about in the Permission to Thrive webinar which I think had been helpful for people. First of all, can I ask you? Are we abnormal when we’re feeling anxious and worried, and ruminating? Or is it just something that everybody does?

Caroline: See. We all worry. We all ruminate particularly when there’s lots of stuff going on like there is at the moment. I mean, it’s extraordinary, isn’t it? We’ve had two years of the pandemic. It’s the middle of winter. Winter is always a tough time in healthcare. Always lots and lots of staff shortages, secondary absences, and it’s just that bit worse at the moment as well. There’s a lot going on for people. A lot of uncertainties still about what’s going to come in the years ahead.

I think, no. It’s a completely normal part of being a human being to get worrying thoughts and to feel anxious. What becomes problematic is when those sorts start to take over, they start to get in the way of your day-to-day life, they start to stop you being able to enjoy things and get on with things and still be productive.

It’s about drawing that distinction between normalising, ‘It’s absolutely fine to worry and get anxious.’ But when is that becoming problematic? When is that becoming more of an issue for you, something that you might need to do something about?

Rachel: What I have noticed is that a lot of people get very anxious about being anxious.

Caroline: Yes.

Rachel: That, then exacerbates their anxiety.

Caroline: We call that meta-worry — worry about worrying. It’s really, really common. It does just wind things up, and up, and up. Again, like normal worries and anxieties, it can be helped with some simple steps, techniques, and strategies. If those aren’t working for you, again, seeking out some help and support to get some treatment around anxiety can be really, really helpful too.

Rachel: Interesting. I’ve never heard of meta-worry before. That makes a lot of sense. Before we go on to talk about tips, and techniques, and strategies to help with our worry, is there any time where worry is actually helpful?

Caroline: Definitely. Absolutely. I mean, I think often when we’ve got a problem that needs solving, we might need to think about it, and think about ways around it. Worry tends to kind of activate us. It gets us out of a state of apathy and lack of motivation into a state of, ‘I’m going to do something about this.’ We might be worried about an exam coming up — we might sit down and do a revision time, we might sit down and actually do some revision.

If you’re worried about how you’re going to get ready for going on holiday — you might actually get your suitcases at the loft and start packing. Actually, worrying itself is not the enemy. It’s not a bad thing. A little bit of like, ‘That thing needs to be doing. Okay, I should probably do that.’ It’s very helpful, actually. Sometimes, we genuinely have some real problems that it’s completely normal and natural to be worried about.

If you’ve got a loved one who is ill, or something serious going on in your life. Maybe a relationship is in difficulty. Sometimes, worry alerts us to a genuine issue that we actually need to pay attention to and spend some time thinking about. I think, though, that’s the difference between that, and when worry gets us all hyped up and anxious about things that aren’t real or haven’t happened yet.

Like we did with the beginning of the pandemic, Rachel, you and I both shared when it first came along. We were watching the 24-hour News Cycle. Within minutes, we’ve gone from thinking, ‘Oh, my God! I might get COVID’, to imagining our own funerals, how our families were going to cope without us. Worry can kind of get out of hand quite quickly if we’re not mindful around it.

Rachel: I think the key to stopping worrying when the worst might happen is that second phrase you said. No, the first one is, ‘When it might not happen, fine. Let’s not worry about stuff that might not happen.’ But actually, it’s that hasn’t happened yet. Yet, it might happen, but it hasn’t happened yet. That’s the mindset we find it really difficult to get into. When you think about it, there’s loads of things that are going to happen in life that haven’t happened yet.

Caroline: I might get in my car today. I might crash my car. That’s why I put my seatbelt on. Actually, having a little moment to worry about, “Oh, put my seatbelt on, okay. I put my seatbelt on. Carry on.” The worry doesn’t continue. It doesn’t ruin my day. It doesn’t stop me from doing anything. It doesn’t make me feel particularly anxious.

That’s okay. That’s a kind of useful worrying thought. If I did my seatbelt, set off, and then I spent the entire journey worrying about, “Oh, I might crash my car.” I’m going to be feeling pretty awful, pretty stressed out, and it’s going to make me perversely, slightly an unsafer driver — potentially more likely to have an accident.

I think it’s about — it’s okay to predict what might be about to happen. Ultimately, worry and anxiety keep us safe. I mean, it’s just our brain’s way of trying to predict that something bad may or may not happen, how will we deal with that? But I think it’s about going, ‘Okay. I’ve made a little plan for if that happens. Now, I’m going to let go of whether it happens or not because there’s nothing we can do to control that.’ Respect your zone of power.

There’s relatively little in life that we do have control over. We can bring it back and focus on what we do have control over, then we’re going to feel much more relaxed.

Rachel: That’s a really good tip. Actually, number one tip is use the zone of power. People that have not heard about this inner power before, it’s simple. If you get a sheet of paper, draw a circle in the middle, that’s your zone of power. Everything in the surface things you can control, and then everything outside the circle is things that you can’t control.

When you start worrying, probably one of the first things you can do is literally draw that zone of power, ‘What am I in control of here? What could I do? What can I do?’ Do that. Then, everything outside that circle, like you said, things that we have absolutely no control over. It means the weather — being one thing.

There’s almost no point in worrying about the weather. Well, I guess there is you could worry about the weather. You’re not going to change the weather, but you could change what you wear. Actually, you’ve got an umbrella, right?

Caroline: Actually, there’s a difference between worrying about something and caring about it. I think it’s okay to be to wish it was sunny when it’s raining. It’s okay to care whether the weather is nice or not. Because the difference is you caring about it and worrying about it. I think, sometimes, we can acknowledge to ourselves, ‘This terrible thing is going on, right?’

We’ve got this awful pandemic. We’ve got staff shortages — there’s too much work, we’re under-resourced, people are tired, anxious, uncertain about the future — all of that is real, and it’s okay to feel a bit scared, a bit sad, any of those emotions that might be coming up for you. They’re all okay. Acknowledge them. Allow a bit of space for them.

Sometimes, I find we worry and get anxious when actually there’s another emotion going on that we’re not paying attention to. I think at the moment, we’re still grieving a lot, we’re still quite sad about the loss of the life we were living — the loss of our security and our ability to make plans, and trust that they were going to happen.

Now, I’ve had lots of conversations this week with doctors and healthcare workers who maybe got a holiday coming up, and they’re still not quite sure if it’s going to go ahead or not. We’ve never had to live like that really before in our society. Some societies have. But we’ve been very fortunate, haven’t we?

To live a life where things have been pretty predictable, relatively secure — and that still isn’t the case. I think that leaves us feeling a bit unsettled, at least to me quite sad. Those are difficult emotions to sit with. Actually, it can sometimes be easier to then get worried because worry is like an active emotion, right? Kind of get to juice up, it gets us active that we can do something about it.

We think we can do something about it. Often, as we’ve just alluded to, we can’t because it’s not in our control.

Rachel: That’s so helpful. Yes, it’s a lot easier for us to admit to being worried about something than to be sad. I think anger is very like that as well. I think, sometimes, if I feel undervalued, or unappreciated or unloved, and I feel sad about that. I’ll feel angry. It will come out as anger, not sadness because sadness shows a lot of vulnerability, doesn’t it?

Caroline: Well, maybe if we’re a bit embarrassed, or a little bit ashamed about something — like I get this around my parenting quite a lot. If I’ve missed something or not noticed something, and then it’s pointed out to me, I’m like, ‘Oh, cringe.’ So, I start to worry and get anxious.

As I said, it’s an easier emotion. I know it’s an unpleasant emotion to be anxious and worried, but it’s that it’s slightly easier I think than some of the others. Sometimes, it’s worth thinking, ‘Is there something else going on here that I’m not allowing myself to feel or to pay attention to?’

Rachel: That’s really helpful that there’s a difference between caring and worrying because I do struggle with this idea of — and we teach this, don’t we? That everything outside your centre path — you’ve just got to accept. It’s really hard to accept it, and I think I’ve always thought that accepting it is just dismissing it, not caring. Actually, it’s not that is you can deeply care about it but —

Caroline: Absolutely. You can care about climate change, but also have an acceptance around the limits — around how much impact you might personally have around it. This is something I learned in my addiction recovery, actually — my own personal recovery around addictions. But we can care about the outcome of something but still let go of it.

If I ask somebody to do something for me, I can care about whether they say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. But ultimately, it’s not my responsibility whether they say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or not. It’s not in my control whether they say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or not. If they say ‘yes’, brilliant. I’m going to be happy. If they say ‘no’, I’m going to be disappointed or sad or angry — or those other emotions will come up.

We can still care about stuff, but let go of the outcome.

Rachel: That’s so important because as you were saying with the driving — if you were driving along, you would care… You care about the fact you’re going to have an accident or not. Nobody wants to have an accident. But if you’re worried about it, conversely, the worry does the exact opposite of what it should say that.

The bit of worry to start off with helpful — seatbelt goes on. But the more you worry, the more anxious you get, you go into your fight, flight or freeze zone, you’ve got adrenaline racing around you in your sympathetic zone. You can’t think straight, you’re much more likely to crash.

Caroline: This is where — something like a worry tree that can be very helpful. This is where you might ask yourself a simple question like, ‘Is this a real problem? Yes or No?’ If it’s a real problem, great. You go down the problem-solving route. If I get in my car, I say, ‘Oh, I might crash my car. Is that a real problem?’ Yes, I might crash my car. What can I do about that? I’ll put my seatbelt on. Okay, I’ve taken action. I’ve kind of addressed the worry.

If the answer is, ‘Is this a real problem?’ ‘No, it’s not a real problem.’ Then, you’re looking at other techniques like worry time — that can be quite helpful. That’s where you would set aside a time of the day or time in the week when you’re going to specifically worry about things. It might sound a bit strange and a bit silly, but it really does work for a lot of people.

What that does is, it acknowledges, ‘This is something I want to worry about. It is worrying to me. It means something to me. I do want to give it some time and attention, but I don’t want to let it take over my day. So, I’m going to plan it say, six o’clock tonight for 20 minutes. That’s my worry time. That’s what I’m going to think about.’

Then, when you get to six o’clock, you can worry as much as you like for those 20 minutes. Often, what happens when you get there is actually you’re not that worried about it anymore. Sometimes, you are, but you’ve got your 20 minutes for your time. It hasn’t ruined your whole day. It just manages your worries.

This is one of those techniques, which says, ‘Worrying is normal. Let’s accept it’s going to happen. Let’s kind of take a little bit of control and manage it — manage how we’re going to worry.’

Rachel: I think that worry time technique is really helpful. I’ve used that myself. I found that it’s more helpful for those long-term chronic worries. If you’re going through a complaints process, or somebody with a GMC, so that’s going to be going on for a couple of years. Or you’ve got worries around one of your children — there’s something that they’re going through because those worries are just constantly with you and putting those times into like, ‘Well, I will worry about it.’

Then, and I do find that, then you get to that, you think, ‘Well, actually, I don’t need to worry about it now. I’ll come back the next day.’ That is really helpful.

Caroline: Well, you might get a totally different perspective on it at a different time of day, or something will have changed between when you were not going to worry about it, and then that helped you to move on with it. It’s a helpful strategy. It doesn’t work for everybody but definitely, worth giving a try if you’re someone that struggles with repeated worries.

Rachel: I think you can adapt that for the middle of the night as well. Lots of people keep a notepad by their bedside. If they wake up in the middle of the night — like the middle of the night is pretty much the worst time to do worry times. They don’t even go there. It’s like — we have a Sunday night rule in our family.

We’re not allowed to have any discussions about relationships or anything on a Sunday night because I’m awful on a Sunday night. I’m like, ‘Well, this terrible.’ It’s just Sunday night. So, nothing deep. Just watch something silly on telly on a Sunday night, that’s fine. It’s like that at three in the morning.

Do not schedule your worry at 3 am. If you can write it on a pad next to your bed, say, ‘I am going to worry about this, but tomorrow afternoon.’ And nine times out of ten, you’ll get smart and you think, ‘What was I thinking of?’ I heard a podcast from someone, actually. She was a gastroenterologist, and she’d looked at the gut-brain connection, and she talks about stress.

She said — often, she wakes at three in the morning, and she’s trained herself to think not, ‘What’s bothering me? What am I worried about?’ But, ‘What if I eat him that’s causing me to feel a bit anxious and worried?’ Because often, a cup of peppermint tea makes her feel a lot better — it settles her gut down, and suddenly she’s not worried anymore. We often feel anxious, and then our brains look around for the thing that’s making us feel anxious.

Caroline: That’s a great example of something we call ‘attentional refocusing’. Basically, just trying to switch your attention on to something else that’s more helpful. You can do that in lots of ways. You could have your favourite teddy bear next to you that you decide to give a good hug to, and look at, and talk to. You could think through, ‘What was the best thing that happened to me today? Or if it was a really bad day, ‘What’s the best thing that happened to me last year?’

Basically just switching — deliberately asking your brain to focus on something else because essentially, all worry is a type of thinking, isn’t it? If we can switch to a different type of thinking, we’re going to feel less worried. Asking your brain different questions, ‘What went well today?’ ‘What am I looking forward to?’ Those sorts of things can also be quite helpful.

Then, there’s always the lovely effort — I won’t use the full swear word version for the podcast — but if you’ve got something that’s just going right around your head, try visualising it. Just taking it out of your head, or literally write it on a piece of paper, crumple it up, and put it in the ‘f– it’ bucket. At least, you put it in the bin. Some thoughts and worries are just not worth our time, and ‘f— it’. That can be quite powerful.

Rachel: There is something very powerful about that. I think one of our very, very first guests on the podcast was John C. Parkin who has written a book called F**k It. Such a nice man, it was such a good episode. People might want to go back and listen to that. In fact, I’m rereading his book at the moment because I’m thinking, ‘How does “F**k It” work after pandemic?’ Obviously, that book was written quite a few years ago. But it’s exactly like — you said earlier, and he says in the book — it doesn’t mean we don’t care about these issues.

Caroline: Yes, and the more I work with anxious doctors and healthcare professionals, and the more I get to know my own anxiety, the more I believe that there is often something else going on for us. When we’re particularly anxious, there’s often another emotion or another thing going on in our lives that we’re not quite paying attention to.

I think at the moment, we will try not to feel anxious about something that is going to make us feel anxious. There’s this massive pandemic — there’s a lot of uncertainty, there’s a lot of risks, there’s a lot of overwhelm.

Actually, I think it’s really normal to be a bit worried about that. Maybe, we’re not paying so much attention to the other emotions that it’s bringing up for us — the sadness, the loss, the anger. Because they’re not emotions that we’re typically used to sharing publicly, are they? We don’t often see many examples of people role modelling how to do anger in a healthy way, or how to be sad in a healthy way that isn’t uncomfortable for the people around you.

I think it’s about allowing yourself to just check-in. Is there other stuff that’s going on here too? What am I feeling sad about right now? What my maybe angry about right now? Just paying attention to those things as well probably have a really good knock-on impact on your level of worry and anxiety.

Rachel: Something happened with one of my children the other day. I just felt dreadful about it. I remembered what we’ve been talking about with this whole ‘let yourself feel the emotion’, and I was really sad. I was really sad about it. I sat there and I said, ‘Right, I’m going to let myself feel sad. I felt really sad.

Then, I was reading the F**k It book, and I was like, ‘Okay. Well, f– it.’ Because there is literally — I’d done everything I can do. I was feeling sad, and I can’t do anything about the outcome, and just — it doesn’t stop me feeling sad, but I don’t… I think before, I’ve been trying to get rid of that sadness feeling, doing everything to get rid of that sadness, like hidden —

Caroline: That just makes it last longer. The thing about feelings is they all pass. Nobody has ever had a feeling that’s lasted forever. They always pass — always, always, always. If we can learn to just invite them in and say, ‘Hello, I noticed you’re there.’ And notice, ‘I’m feeling sad today.’ Or, ‘I’m really angry today.’ Or, ‘I’m feeling this today.’ It’s okay. It’s not going to kill me. It’s not going to do any major lasting damage. Not comfortable, but that’s okay.

Then actually, if we name what the actual feelings are a bit more accurately, I think it gives us a chance to soothe ourselves. Like you said, if you’re sad, you’re going to next up — sad. You might have a cry, you might have a nice cup of tea with a friend, you might give — during that hug from your partner, or you might wrap up in a cosy blanket and watch a sad movie.

That’s going to be more useful to you than sitting there worrying for an hour and a half — over and over scrolling on Google or trying to find the answer to the problem. If you’re angry, if you can get that out in a healthy way, you can punch a pillow or write an angry letter that you don’t send — that kind of thing.

You can get that anger out, that’s going to be much more effective way of managing your feelings and helping them to pass more quickly than again, spending an hour and a half worrying and scrolling on Facebook.

Rachel: Do you think that part of the problem is that as doctors and other professionals, we are used to being able to fix stuff? Then, when we can’t fix stuff, it really irks us, but our brains are still in there, ‘Well, I can fix this if I just think about it and worry about it for long enough.’

Caroline: I think we are still sold the myth that things are fixable when they’re not. It’s very difficult when we come across things that aren’t fixable — things that just have to be sat with or answers that we might never get to the bottom of. I think we find it very, very difficult not to be able to fix things. It’s natural to want to be able to fix them. Of course, we don’t want to sit there and be sad, or be angry, or be this or that.

I was talking to somebody that day actually about how often it is as doctors, we’re the ones that the friend comes to us and tells us a problem. Our first response usually is to try to help isn’t it? Try to give a solution, or to say, ‘Have you tried this? Or have you tried that?’ That’s when it’s all about coaching and the difference there if you work with a coach, and how they won’t necessarily offer you solutions. So, how do you come up with your own?

That’s quite a hard thing to do as a doctor because we’re used to kind of stepping it out with the protocol or follow steps ABC — if A plus B, then you do D, or whatever. We work — that our brains work in that way. Actually, we’re not often taught how to just sit with something, to just be okay that actually, it’s rubbish right now. It’s a bit sad, or it’s a bit uncertain.

I was thinking at this time of the year especially, it’s very much like a planning time of year, isn’t it? It’s January. Everybody thinks about their New Year’s resolutions, ‘How many we get fit? How I get on top of my finances? How we’re going to change my job — finally get my life sorted?’

Actually, how hard it is to resist that and to just be like, ‘No, actually not going to entertain the idea I might make any changes. I might just be, actually. Just feel one feeling, go about my day-to-day life, feel what comes up, and not try to change it.’ Really rare that we’re given that role modelling or that permission to do that.

Rachel: I think it is getting a little bit more in the zeitgeist — that that sort of thing about self-acceptance and stuff. I talked about this in pretty much every podcast at the moment — the book Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman.

Caroline: I just finished it because you recommended it to me. I loved it. So good.

Rachel: Wasn’t it good? For me, the guy who used to be — well, he’s a productivity time management guru has now realised that the only way to do it is to accept that we’re never going to get everything done that we want to get done, and just go ‘that’s it’, really.

Caroline: And really prioritise, actually, what is the most important — this is what the pandemic did for us, isn’t it? Gave us permission to stop and go, ‘Oh, crikey. We are mortal. We can’t do everything. We can’t take everything for granted. Maybe, what is most important?’ Instead of a week-free — which we’re going to talk about that, I think, in our next webinar with the Permission to Thrive.

I can’t wait to do that because I think more and more for me, like goal setting and thinking about the life I want — it’s more about, ‘How can I live that life today?’ Not necessarily always focussed in on this time next year, or five years time, or 10 years time. But how can we make the most of our precious time that we have today?

Rachel: It’s living a good life, even when things aren’t perfect even when there are things to worry about. I think one of the things that’s interesting — we’re talking here about how you stop worrying when the worst might happen. Actually, even when the worst might happen, I think there are still lots of very unhelpful stories that we’re telling ourselves which makes the worry worse.

We talk a lot about being gazelle, don’t we? Be more gazelle… And this concept, it was taught to me by a good friend of mine, Elena, who’s a mindfulness teacher, and she said, ‘Alright, you’ve just got to be more gazelle. When a gazelle is eating grass, and the lion comes along, it runs away, doesn’t it? Then, when the lion is gone, what does the gazelle do? Back to eating the grass.

That wouldn’t be me. If that was me, I’d be like, ‘Oh, my gosh! Did you see the lion? Look at his hair! What if it comes back tonight? It’s my babies? What am I going to do? And I’ve got that presentation tomorrow. If I don’t sleep well, it’s going to go bad. If it goes badly, I’ll lose my job.’ Then, we’re constantly pre-living stuff that absolutely hasn’t happened. Even if it might be true, we’re experiencing the pain of it in the present even though it’s in the future.

There’s a lovely quote by Mark Twain. I’m sure I’ve talked about this on the podcast before, ‘I’m an old man. I’ve known many troubles, but most of them never happen.’ We’re suffering now for something that may or may not happen in the future purely because of the stories we’re telling ourselves in our head which then puts us into that adrenaline warrior zone as if it actually happened.

Caroline: But we’re not gazelles, aren’t we? We have these annoying brains that click in with those extra worrying thoughts: the worrying about ‘what-ifs’, worrying about the future, things — like you said — that hasn’t happened yet. If we can catch that, we can realise that’s what we’re doing, then we have a choice. We can actually choose, ‘Am I going to continue to keep worrying about this thing that hasn’t happened yet? Or am I going to kind of focus on what I do know is true?

Actually, the lion is gone. I’m safe. I’m okay. I can sit down and enjoy my meal. I think this speaks to why it’s so hard as doctors and nurses, and healthcare professionals to stop the breaks. Because actually, when we stop for a break, I think our minds are still going at 150 million miles an hour in threat mode so much. It’s really hard for us to switch straight back down into a relaxed parasympathetic mode where our thoughts are more calm. It’s really, really hard.

It’s like that time and you turn off the fan, and it just keeps spinning for a bit before it slows down slowly. It’s like that. You take a five-minute break, you might just be starting to slow your thoughts down when you’re back up into the threat zone again, or you might spend your whole five-minute break. or go to the, you’re sitting there almost jittering — unable to relax.

It’s really important that we start to practice being more gazelle — practice a lot, getting our brains into that relaxed state. You can do that with simple, simple small exercises like breathing exercises, mindfulness exercises — just starting very, very small. A couple of seconds at a time, a couple of deep breaths at a time, but just training your body and your brain to switch between on and off mode between sympathetic and parasympathetic mode.

If you can start to do that in your time off a bit more when it’s bit easier, it will start to feed through into your working time as well.

Rachel: That’s really important. We always talk about the ‘pause’ button as well, don’t we? When you have been triggered, like the gazelle and the lion say — you run away. Because then, it sort of stops. Often, we then, in our ‘fight, flight or freeze zone’, react really badly to stuff and make mistakes and do things we regret. Dr Steve Peters calls that your inner chimp isn’t hearing — the Chimp Paradox — because of the stories we’re telling ourselves.

I think we’ve noticed that there are lots of stories that doctors and other professionals tend to tell themselves. There are the stories, ‘Like if I don’t do this, if somebody might die, there might be a big mistake.’ In this case, you obviously need to take action. But there are other stories that cause a lot of worry and anxiety. Things like, ‘I’m not good enough. They’ll think badly of me. I should… I ought… If I don’t, who will?’ Or, ‘I have to…’

I think it’s those types of stories that cause as much distress, and maybe even more than those other types of big, big stories, would you say in your work that you do when you see with people?

Caroline: Absolutely. I mean, 80—90% of the stuff we worry about isn’t actual real worry. We go back to the worry tree, most of it isn’t ‘real life, right now’ problems. Most of it is ‘what-if’, and it’s threats to things like our sensor self, our security or fear of judgment from others — those sorts of things. They rise amongst doctors, and then nurses and healthcare professionals. We want to be thought well of, we want to be appreciated, we want to do a good job, and the thought of doing anything less than that is really, really hard for us.

It is very easy for us to mind-read and get it wrong — to assume that someone thinks badly of us, or to catastrophise the worst day ever or the worst outcome ever. I think the key again, is if you can catch it happening, then you’ve got a choice. You can press ‘pause’. I’d always start there. Start trying to have a little bit more mindful about the story that’s going on in your head, and use that phrase. I mean, that phrase has turned my life around, Rachel. I don’t know about you, but —

It’s Brené Brown, I think, that first talked about it in her book — Daring Greatly, or one of her first books around a sort of vulnerability and shame. She talks about, ‘Use the words, “The story in my head is… That’s it’s not ‘I am a useless mother’, it’s ‘the story in my head is I’m a useless mother.’ It just decentres from it a little bit, makes it something that might not be true that you can start to just gently challenge.

Essentially, you mentioned about the ‘making mistakes and people dying’ because you showed me something I found quite helpful was that quote from the lady in Australia, was it? Who said about, ‘We will make mistakes — I will make mistakes.’

Rachel: ‘I’m going to make mistakes. Some of them will be serious.’ Dr Annalene Weston

Caroline: Because that I think it’s really important that we don’t go the other way, and say, ‘No, you’re not going to make mistakes. No one’s gonna die. It’s absolutely fine. Everything’s going to be fine. It’s going to be perfect.’ We don’t know that,do we? I mean, if we’re very lucky, it might be that way.

But we know, in life, there will be good and bad things that happen. Actually, having something that acknowledges, ‘I might make mistakes, actually. Some of them are going to be serious.’ Generally, I’m doing alright. I’m doing an okay job. Most of the time, I’m helping people. Most the time, I’m getting things right. Remembering what we are doing well, what is going well.

Rachel: In my experience, the mistakes and stuff that we worry about the most never happened. Actually, it’s the stuff that you don’t worry about comes in, hits you sideways. Side note, a bit of a silly story:

But I was in an exercise class — one of these hit classes on Monday evening. They’re just coming to the end of this nine-minute hit — that high-intensity thing on a treadmill. I fell off the treadmill. It was awful. I was just putting it down to walking having been sprinting, I just misstepped. I grabbed hold of it. The treadmill shoots me to the back of it.

I was hodling on for dear life because if I let go, it was kind of like fling me across the room. The bloke next to me grabbed my arm. The other women on their sides go, “Ah!”, the treadmill wouldn’t stop. I skinned my knees. Just awful. Now, if you’d asked me, what would I worry about during those classes, it’s probably hurting my back. I would never — falling off the treadmill. This is a really simple, silly example.

Caroline: I’d say true. There is truth there. It is true of being a doctor, you worry about making mistakes. But we end up making the mistake we didn’t see coming. We end up with our parenting, messing up our kids in a way we didn’t see coming. We spend all this time trying not to, and actually the mistakes —

What percentage of mistakes did we see coming? Yes, some. Looking back with hindsight, there are some warning signs. Most of us are practising as safely as we can, aren’t we? Most of us are doing the best we possibly can to reduce risk, and to not make mistakes. It’s really important that we don’t lose sight of that, that we remember that we’re good people trying to help others doing a good job.

The thing about worrying that I hate the most is it takes us away from that. It takes our attention. It takes our time. It fills our day with negativity, and it may take our eyes off the ball. Just look at all those nursing outside, and all of you listening to this now, you’re doing a phenomenal job. You really are doing an extraordinarily good job. We’re incredibly grateful to every single one of you.

Rachel: Totally. It’s really interesting when you said ‘most mistakes you can’t predict’ because I think I can predict the mistakes. The mistakes that I make is when I am in my warrior zone, that ‘fight, flight or freeze’ zone, that sympathetic zone when your amygdala kicks in, and we call that ‘being backed into the corner’.

That’s why the ‘pause’ button is so important, and those techniques to get yourself out and check the story in your head because if you go into situations knowing that you are in that zone, you are more likely to encounter issues which is why…

Why are we talking about this because it’s really important, not just for people to feel better, but actually be to be effective as a professional, and have good relationships, and practice safely.

Caroline: I’m feeling a little bit better because right now and there’s enough going on that’s tough, isn’t there? It would be nice if we could just be a bit kinder to ourselves, just feel a bit more relaxed and recognise all the good things we’re doing.

Rachel: We talked about loads and loads of different things, Caroline. If I was to pin you down to your three top tips for how to stop worrying when there is a lot to worry about, what would they be? Out of everything you’ve said, what do you tend to find is the most effective for your clients and doctors and people?

Caroline: For me as well, right? I think number one, I remind myself that worrying is completely normal, and it’s okay. Not all worrying is bad. Because sometimes, that just takes the sting out of it. It’s like, ‘Okay, I’ll worry about that for a little bit, and problem-solve it, and move on.’

Number two, I think it’s about noticing it. Starting to notice those stories in your head. If you can start to notice when you’re getting into that worried state, when you’re getting stuck in it, then you have a choice. Then, I’d say press ‘pause’.

Number three, because there’s a million and one things you can do once you’ve done all those things. But unless you can actually notice you’re doing it, press ‘pause’ and give yourself the opportunity to change how you’re thinking, or what you’re about to do. You can’t really do anything. Worry is normal. Try and notice storytelling stuff in your head, and press ‘pause’.

Rachel: I think the things that I find helpful as well is A: stay within your zone of power. Literally, what can you control? What can’t you control? Then, take action within that zone of power. There was a book called The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris. He talks about choosing which thoughts you fuse with. For me, just identifying those thoughts I’ve got on distancing myself rather than saying, ‘I’m thinking this is… I’m noticing I’m having the thought that…’

It’s like identifying the story in your head, and then you can just let that thought go like a cloud. You don’t have to fuse with it. You could use maybe worry time to worry about that later if you want to.

Then, I really like the ‘f– it’ bucket thing. Actually, I’m just going to let that go. Does it really matter? Or even if it does matter, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ll worry about it when the time comes to worry about it there, and just be really helpful as well.

We know that people are struggling at the moment, and it’s really normal to worry. Worrying about worrying can make things even worse. If anyone is really struggling, Caroline, where can people go to get some more help if they need it?

Caroline: If you’re trying a lot of these techniques, then they’re not really helping because but whatever reason, then please do seek out some professional support. You can speak with your GP. You get your doctor in England, Scotland. You can come to practitioner health. You can self-refer for mental health and treatment, and advice and support.

I think it’s just about talking to somebody. Just take that first step. This is a trusted somebody — a friend or family member. Just somebody — a colleague or even get in touch with Rachel and I if you’re not quite sure where you need signposting to. Then, please do get in contact with us. We’ll be happy to signpost you.

Rachel: Please do. Please get some help. Don’t struggle alone. I think it’s very brave to ask for help, so please do that. If anyone has any questions or queries or wants us to discuss certain topics on the podcast, do get in touch, do drop us an email. We can jump on again and record episodes about various different aspects of this because there’s a lot more to dig into.

Caroline and I are running a webinar on the 19th of January at eight o’clock. If anyone is interested all about how to give yourself permission to thrive, and we’ll be actually talking about in more detail about — those concepts that you mentioned earlier, Caroline — about actually a bit more self-compassion, a bit more self-acceptance which will just enable us to thrive right here where we are without having to change everything about our worlds. That’s really, really important.

If you’d like to join us, please do. The link there will be in the show notes.

Caroline, if people want to get hold of you, how can they contact you?

Caroline: They can contact me through the website, joyfuldoctor.com or email us on teamjoy@joyfuldoctor.com. Happy to hear from you anytime.

Rachel: Great. All the links, the books, and things we’ve talked about are on the show notes. If you want to join us for the free webinar, do sign up. Caroline, we’ll have you back again soon, if that’s okay.

Caroline: I’d love to come back. Always. You know I’m a big Frog fan.

Rachel: Brilliant. Thank you so much, and we’ll speak soon. Bye, everyone.

Caroline: Thank you. Bye.

Outro: Thanks for listening. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, then please share it with your friends and colleagues. Please subscribe to my You Are Not A Frog email list and subscribe to the podcast. And if you have enjoyed it then please leave me a rating wherever you listen to your podcasts. So keep well everyone you’re doing a great job you got this.

Podcast links

Sign up for our FREE webinar on Learn how to thrive at work, even in a demanding job on January 19, 2022 at 8 PM UK time!

Permission to Thrive Membership

You Are Not A Frog Episode 15: Eff-It Living with John C. Parkin

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman

The Joyful Doctor

Caroline Walker’s email

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Henri Stevenson joins us to talk about the ways connecting with nature can shift our thinking and open up new solutions. We discuss the differences in our thoughts and feelings when we're in nature versus within artificial walls. She shares her stories of finding metaphors for life situations reflected in nature and what she learned from them. Henri reminds us that sometimes, the solutions to our problems may show up in quiet spaces when we take a few moments to connect with nature. Curious about how to take time to learn and connect with nature? Learn how and much more when you tune into this episode!

Episode 125: How to Say No and Deal with Pushback with Annie Hanekom

Everyone has difficulty enforcing their set boundaries, from top-end executives to junior employees. Logically, we know that we cannot do everything people want, but biologically, our minds are hardwired to please people. In this episode of You Are Not a Frog, Annie Hanekom guides you through how to say no and deal with the inevitable pushback.

Episode 124: How to Change When Change is Scary with Dr Claire Kaye

Change can definitely be scary. However, it doesn’t always have to be a difficult experience. Dr Claire Kaye joins us in this episode to talk about how you can approach change proactively. Whether you dislike change or thrive on it, her insights and enlightening tips will help you make the most of the opportunities in your life. Are you undergoing a difficult change right now? Learn more about how to change even when change is scary in this episode of You Are Not a Frog.

Episode 123: How to Live With No Regrets with Georgina Scull

Georgina Scull joins us in this episode to talk about what she learned from writing the book, Regrets of the Dying: Stories and Wisdom That Remind Us How to Live. She shares three revelations that people have while on their deathbeds: not being able to make other people happy, living up to other people’s expectations, and trying to rewrite history. We walk you through practical steps to help you reflect on your true desires so you can live a meaningful life.

Episode 122: How to be Happy at Work with Sarah Metcalfe

Joining us to talk about the importance of happiness in the workplace - and how we can find it - is Sarah Metcalfe. The founder of Happiness Coffee Consulting, she shares her top tips on simple things you can do to pursue happiness and share it with others. Even in high-stress jobs, it’s possible to choose happiness and spread it. And the results can be extraordinary. If you want to learn more about how and why we should be happy at work, tune in to this episode.

Episode 121: How To Be A Happy Working Parent with Corrina Gordon-Barnes

Corrina Gordon-Barnes joins us to discuss the common struggles of working parents and the things we need to unlearn. She shares how to take radical responsibility as a parent and delegate responsibilities from housework to emotional load. We also teach you how to stay in your zone of genius and accept help when you need it. It’s time to live a life you love and enjoy, even amidst all your responsibilities! If you’re struggling to balance work and parenting, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 120: Making Online Meetings Work with John Monks

John Monks joins us in this episode to discuss designing better online meetings and interactions. We clarify the difference between a meeting, a presentation, and a workshop. We also discuss creative ways to design online meetings that energise and infuse rather than drain and demotivate. And John shares some simple exercises on limits and boundaries that can radically improve our problem solving and creativity. If you want to know how to make the most out of online meetings, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 118: How to Manage Upwards (and Sideways) with Dr Claire Edwin and Dr Keerthini Muthuswamy

Dr Claire Edwin and Dr Keerthini Muthuswamy talk about their experiences working within a hierarchical system as junior doctors and share what they have found to be essential if you want to build trust and foster good relationships with your seniors, your juniors and your peers. If you want to know how you can build trust and influence your workplace, and manage upwards and sideways this episode is just for you!

Episode 116: What I Got So Wrong About Mindfulness And How It Might Transform Your Life with Dr Steve Pratt

Dr Steve Pratt joins us to discuss what we really mean by mindfulness, and how it could work for you. He'll debunk some of the myths of mindfulness and how you can make it worth your time and effort. We'll discuss how certain techniques can help us live happier, be less anxious, and harness our resources to make better decisions. Finally, Steve shares his mindfulness practices and takes us on a quick three-minute breathing exercise! If you want to learn about mindfulness, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 114: How to Get an Appraisal that Doesn’t Suck with Dr Susi Caesar

Dr Susi Caesar joins us to talk about how you can elevate and enjoy your professional life with annual appraisals. She shares the purpose of appraisals and how they can help you choose the best way forward in your career and personal life. Dr Susi also gives her top tips on what you can do to make this process more meaningful. If you want to know more about appraisals and how you can benefit from them, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 113: What To Do When A Junior Is Badmouthing Your Colleagues with Dr Ed Pooley

Dr Ed Pooley joins us in this episode to discuss what we should do when we see inappropriate behaviour like badmouthing. He shares how we can manage difficult conversations with the intent of helping others. We also discuss the importance of recognising triggers through the SCARF model. If you want to know how to deal with difficult conversations for a better workplace, listen to this episode.

Episode 112: Why We’re Ditching the Term ‘Imposter Syndrome’ with Dr Sarah Goulding

Dr Sarah Goulding joins us to talk about imposter syndrome and why we need to drop the word from our vocabularies. We also discuss how self doubt can be helpful to us. Finally, she shares tips for overcoming wobbles and incorporating more self-compassion into your life. If you want to get over your imposter syndrome and practice self-compassion, then this episode is for you!

Episode 111: What To Do When You Start To See Red with Graham Lee

Graham Lee joins us to discuss our emotional states and ways to apply simple mindfulness techniques to change them. Most conflicts are rooted in unmet needs. When we admit those needs, we can instantly change relationship dynamics. Graham also shares tips on what to do during stressful situations where your emotions cloud your judgement and thinking. If you want to use mindfulness practice to be more aware of your emotions even during difficult situations, tune in to this episode.

Episode 110: How To Stop People Pleasing And Absorbing Other People’s Angst

Dr Karen Forshaw and Chrissie Mowbray join us to discuss how our core beliefs shape the way we respond to situations. When taken too far, empathy and helping people can be a big cause of stress. In addition, we also talk about we can learn to reframe and reassess their core beliefs. If you want to know how to help people without absorbing their emotions, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 109: Is It Possible To Have Fun At Work? With Dr Kathryn Owler

Dr Kathryn Owler joins us in this episode to share her fascinating research on the characteristics and traits of people who enjoy their current jobs. We dissect the common themes these people have in finding success in their careers. And we also talk about changes we can implement as individuals to make work more fun and enjoyable. If you want to start adopting the mindset people who have fun at work have, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 108: What We Wish We’d Learnt at Med School with Dr Ed Pooley & Dr Hussain Gandhi

Dr Ed Pooley and Dr Hussain Gandhi join us in the latest episode of You are Not a Frog. They discuss the management skills a doctor needs that you won't learn in med school, plus tips to help fresh doctors feel empowered in their workplace. Whether or not you work in medicine, these skills are crucial when it comes to working effectively and managing your own and others’ time. Tune in and listen to the experts talk about the management skills med school doesn't teach you and how to learn and develop them today.

Episode 107: Define Your Own Success In Life With Dr Claire Kaye

Dr Claire Kaye joins us to talk about the importance of honesty and clarity in defining our own success. We may think that achieving certain goals will make us happy, but evidence shows us it’s the other way around. It’s only when we’re happy that we can be successful. We also discuss how to overcome common barriers to our happiness and success such as fear, guilt, and uncertainty. If you want to know how to live a happier and more successful life, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 105: The Simplest Way to Beat Stress and Work Happier with Dr Giles P. Croft

In this episode, Dr Giles P. Croft joins us to discuss how our thoughts and emotions trigger stress signals. He shares his controversial approach to tackling stress, and why most of our efforts to cope better don’t really help at all. We also delve into the importance of pausing to allow yourself to calm down and letting go of the things you can’t control.

Episode 104: How to Cope With Nightmare Relatives and Colleagues Without Losing the Plot

In this special Christmas episode, Corrina Gordon-Barnes shows us how to create the groundwork for a peaceful and successful holiday season, even while navigating difficult relationships with relatives or colleagues. Corrina guides us to relax our expectation of a perfect holiday with our family, so we can face reality in ourselves and others. She explains a simple framework to allow you to resolve conflict, and walks us through what we can do during difficult gatherings and how to shift our responses to create different outcomes. Tune in to improve your strained relationships with relatives and co-workers through empathy and letting go of past assumptions.

Episode 103: How Not to Settle For The Way It’s Always Been Done

Dr Abdullah Albeyatti talks about improving your life and career by making changes and taking risks. He explains why settling for the familiar could be slowly ruining your life and how you can avoid this situation. Finally, he shares his top three tips to become a changemaker in your field. If you want to start doing things differently, creating change, and take more risks, then this episode is for you!

Episode 102: Why FAIL is Not a 4-Letter Word

Drs Claire Edwin, Sally Ross, and Taj Hassan join us to discuss how we can manage and deal with our failures more effectively. We explore the idea that rather than doing something wrong, failure is an opportunity to really grow and learn both as individuals, as leaders and as organisations. In any situation, it’s important to remember that we’re all human. It’s okay to be honest with ourselves and each other about our mistakes - after all, vulnerability is not a sign of weakness. If you want to know how to change your mindset around failure, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 101: Making Helpful Habits Stick with Sheela Hobden

Sheela Hobden joins us to discuss how we can harness the power of checklists to create a routine. She shares how you can approach your goals in a more realistic way and learn to encourage yourself using specific goal setting techniques. Sheela also recommends creating identity-based goals to ensure that you keep building your new identity even after completing certain milestones. Start small, and eventually, you’ll see these good habits stick!

Episode 100: Dealing With the Guilt of Not Being Okay With Dr Nik Kendrew

Dr Nik Kendrew unravels why we experience overwhelming guilt when bad things happen to us. He also shares some tips, techniques, and resources on how to deal with guilt, especially in these difficult times and circumstances. Apart from this, Nik talks about the significance of scheduling our entire day to do important things. Finally, he discusses why setting boundaries is necessary to maintain our sense of self.

Episode 99: How to Deal with Criticism When You’ve Reached Your Limit with Dr Sarah Coope and Dr Rachel Morris

Dr Sarah Coope joins me to talk about the workload of medical professionals and the benefits of setting boundaries while dealing with criticisms amidst the global pandemic. We discuss the three elements of the Drama Triangle and ways to navigate or avoid them reliably. As we dive deeper into the conversation, we explore the art of saying 'No' through acknowledging our limits. Awareness and recognition can go a long way in maintaining our boundaries. If you want to take the first step in recognising your limits, handling criticism better and setting proper boundaries, tune in to this episode.

Episode 96 – How to Deal with Difficult Meetings with Jane Gunn

We hear from the expert in conflict management and mediation, Jane Gunn. She discusses important tips to keep in mind to host great meetings. She shares some practical conflict management tips and how to make decisions that you and your team agree on. Jane also emphasises the importance of putting the fun back in functional meetings and the need to give a voice to participants.

Episode 93 – How to Delegate, Do It, or Drop It with Anna Dearmon Kornick

Anna Dearmon Kornick joins us to share the time management strategies crucial for busy professionals. She lays down tips on how medical practitioners can have more control over their days. Anna talks about how to manage admin time and imparts ways to combat distractions. We also discuss the importance of delegation both inside and outside work. For this, Anna introduces the passion-proficiency lens and knowing your zone of genius.

Episode 92 – How to Avoid Becoming the Second Victim with Dr Caraline Wright & Dr Lizzie Sweeting

Dr Caraline Wright and Dr Lizzie Sweeting join us to discuss the second victim phenomenon. They explain why patient safety incidents are occupational hazards and how they can affect healthcare providers. Caraline then shares her personal experience of being in the “second victim” role. Finally, they share tips on how to avoid second victimhood and how to provide support to someone going through it.

Episode 91 – How to Break Up With Your Toxic Relationship With Your Career with Dr Pauline Morris

Dr Pauline Morris joins us to share her career counselling advice for physicians and other professionals in high stress jobs. We discuss the common pitfalls that lead doctors to unsustainable work habits. Pauline also sheds light on why staying in your comfort zone can be detrimental to your performance. To avert this, she shares tips on how to better recognise and advocate for your own needs. We also learn about the importance of self-care and taking time for yourself.

Episode 90 – What to do About Bitching and Backbiting with Dr Edward Pooley

Dr Edward Pooley joins us again to discuss what to do when colleagues make inappropriate comments about others. We talk about why it’s crucial to consider the question behind the question in workplace backbiting. Ed also teaches us how to challenge in a supportive way. Most importantly, we learn some strategies to prepare ourselves to speak up when the situation requires it.

Episode 89 – Should I stay or should I go? with Corrina Gordon-Barnes

Corrina Gordon-Barnes joins us to share how to better relationships and take control and stay in your zone of power. She shares how to make a good decision by questioning thoughts and assumptions. We also discuss how you can change your perspective to become more compassionate, accepting, and empowered. If you want to know how to better relationships, stay in your zone of power, improve your decision-making skills, and be true to yourself, then tune in to this episode!

Episode 88 – How to Ditch the Saviour Complex and Feel More Alive with Rob Bell

Rob Bell joins us in this episode to discuss the perils of the saviour complex and the desire to keep hustling even when we’re miserable. We learn that taking time for rest and reflection only helps us get stronger. You can’t heal and help rebuild a broken system if you don’t look out for yourself first. Tune in to this episode to find out how to ditch the saviour complex, feel happier and live a more fulfilling life.

Episode 87 – Complaints and How to Survive Them Episode 5: What Should I Do When I Think a Complaint is Unfair? And Other Questions with Drs Sarah Coope, George Wright, Samantha White, and Andrew Tressider

We’re joined by a panel of expert guests to share their thoughts on how to handle complaints. Together, we discuss ways that you can adjust your perspective and respond to unfavourable situations. Most importantly, we tackle issues regarding malicious complaints and how to cope with them. If you’re having trouble managing yourself during complaints, then this episode is for you.

Episode 86 – Gaslighting and Other Ways We’re Abused at Work: What’s Really Going On? with Dr James Costello

Dr James Costello joins us to talk about his new book and the insidious ways that organisations and individuals can undermine us. They compel us to do extra emotional labour for us to cope with the workplace dynamics. We also chat about what happens when authority and power are misused. Finally, James shares some of the disastrous consequences bullying in the workplace can have and what we can do about it. Tune in if you want to know what to do if you suspect that you or a colleague are experiencing relational abuse in the workplace!

Episode 85 – How to have crucial conversations with Dr Edward Pooley

Good communication between colleagues is crucial for the success of any organisation. Dr Edward Pooley joins us again to teach us how to communicate well. He discusses the three strands present in any conversation and helps us understand how we can be more aware of each. We also share some frameworks that can help you navigate difficult conversations. Understanding the importance of emotion is crucial in being an effective communicator and connecting with your team.

Episode 84 – Complaints and How to Survive Them Episode 4: Creating a Workplace Where It’s OK to Fail

Professor Susan Fairley and Dr Jane Sturgess join us to discuss how to create a workplace that doesn’t shy away from failure. We talk about how civility can save lives and also touch on the issues around incident reporting in healthcare. Most importantly, we talk about creating a culture where people can have difficult conversations without defensiveness. If you want to know how to approach failing and speaking up in the workplace, tune in to this episode.

Episode 83 – The Ups and Downs of Being a Man-Frog with Dr Chris Hewitt

Joining us in this episode is Dr Chris Hewitt who also uses the metaphor of a man-frog in coaching professionals to have a better work-life balance. Chris talks about why we find it so hard to recognise burnout. He also shares his top tips and practical strategies to address work dissatisfaction. If you want to stop feeling like a man (or woman) - frog in a pan of slowly boiling water, listen to the full episode.

Episode 82 – Complaints and How to Survive Them Series Episode 3: Surviving the Process

Drs Jessica Harland, Caroline Walker and Heidi Mousney join us in this episode to discuss healthcare professionals’ experiences when dealing with complaints. We talk about the different emotions you may experience and practical tips on getting through. If you want to know how to survive the process after making a mistake at work and receiving a complaint, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 81 – When Soft and Fluffy Met Coronavirus with Steve Andrews

Steve Andrews, Associate Director of Leadership for East and North Herts NHS Trust shares how, through using just five crucial questions, you can check in on people, rather than check up on them. The 5 questions will help you to find out how people really are, help them look out for their colleagues, empower them to solve their own problems AND communicate empathy and support. Want to know how you can apply compassionate leadership in your organisation? Then, this episode is for you.

Episode 80 – Complaints and How to Survive Them Episode 2: What to Do When You Make a Mistake with Drs Clare Devlin and Dr John Powell

Drs Clare Devlin and John Powell join us to discuss the proper way of responding to professional mistakes. We talk about why doctors have a hard time whenever they make a mistake at work. Clare and John also share valuable advice on minimising negative consequences and getting a good outcome for you and your patient. If you want to learn a roadmap for what you should do you make a mistake at work, then tune in to this episode.

Episode 79 – How to Give Yourself Permission to Thrive with Dr Katya Miles

Dr Katya Miles joins us once again to talk about burnout and giving ourselves permission to thrive. Having experienced work burnout, Katya shares her story and discusses the red flags of burnout. We also talk about why we find it difficult to give ourselves permission to thrive and how we can overcome our own internal barriers. If you want to learn about how you can listen to your needs so that you can thrive in work and in life, then this episode is for you.

Episode 78 – Complaints and How to Survive Them Series 1: Preparing to Fail Well with Drs Sarah Coope, Annalene Weston and Sheila Bloomer

Drs Sarah Coope, Annalene Weston and Sheila Bloomer join us in this first episode in a new series on ‘Complaints and How to Survive Them’ to talk about coaching doctors and dentists through complaints made against them. We also talk about the perfectionist mindset and how changing our perspective towards failure can help us and those around us. If you want to know how to deal better with complaints made against doctors and other professionals in high-stress jobs, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 77 – Denial, displacement and other ways we neglect ourselves with Dr Andrew Tresidder

Dr Andrew Tresidder joins us to talk about how many medical practitioners and other professionals in healthcare and high stress jobs neglect their health and well-being. We're so focused on taking care of others that we forget to take care of ourselves but our well-being is vital if we want to keep doing the work we do. Find out why healthcare professionals need to learn more about health, as opposed to only learning about disease and if you want to know how to focus on taking care of your health and well-being, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 76 – Tech Tips for Happy Hybrid Working with Dr Hussain Gandhi

Dr Hussain Gandhi, or Dr Gandalf of eGPlearning, joins us in this episode. He is a GP, PCN director and host of the eGP Learning Podblast that shares deep dives into health tech for primary care. He shares his tech and time hacks for hybrid working to survive and thrive in the new virtual environment. If you want to find out how to improve your hybrid working experience, then tune in to this episode!

Episode 74 – Managing your Time in a System Which Sucks with Dr Ed Pooley

Dr Ed Pooley joins us in this episode to share his take on time management techniques for busy individuals. He discusses the three types of competing demands and how to manage them. We also talk about being more comfortable holding difficult conversations about workplace issues - vital to help change the environment we work in. Tune into this episode to discover how time management techniques and communication can help you get a calmer and more time-efficient workplace.

Episode 73 – How to Find Your Tribe: The PMGUK story with Dr Nazia Haider and Dr Katherine Hickman

Dr Nazia Haider and Dr Katherine Hickman join us on this episode to discuss the importance of a work community. We talk about the inspiring stories from the online community they created, the Physicians Mums Group UK (PMGUK). Nazia and Katherine also share their tips on how to increase connections and find your own tribe at work. If you want to know how to create a network of supportive colleagues and feel more connected, then tune into this episode.

Episode 72 – Working well – from anywhere! with Dr Katya Miles

Dr Katya Miles joins us to discuss how to work well from home by creating healthy boundaries. She shares how to be more productive by using the third space hack and taking breaks. Katya also talks about how to be more active and better connect with people in the workplace. If you want to learn about working well from home and achieving a better work-life balance, then tune in to this episode.

Episode 71 – Create a Career You’ll Love with Dr Claire Kaye

Dr Claire Kaye joins us to discuss how to find a career you love. As an executive coach specialising in career development, Claire is an expert in guiding people how to find a career they love. We talk about the value of job networking and diversifying in our career journeys. We also share our tips and experiences on how to find a career you love. We do this by helping you identify the roles that best suit you and how to go about getting these roles.

Episode 70 – How Safe Do You Feel at Work with Scott Chambers

Scott Chambers joins us to talk about why we need to make people feel comfortable and safe enough to speak up in their workplace. When we create psychological safety in our team, we improve overall happiness and boost performance! If you want to learn how to create psychological safety for a better and happier team - whether you’re the boss or not, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 69 – Make Time for What Matters with Liz O’Riordan

Liz O'Riordan joins us to share productivity life hacks. These have helped her transform how she approaches work. Now, Liz can spend quality time with her family and enjoy life. In this episode, she teaches us how we too can achieve this. If you want to learn some new life hacks, beat burnout and work happier, then tune in to this episode!

Episode 68 – The Revolutionary Art of Breathing with Richard Jamieson

Richard Jamieson discusses how we can utilise breathing techniques to feel calmer, make better decisions and be more productive. He explains the different steps we can take to change our breathing patterns. When you’re in a high-stress situation, remember this: just breathe. If you want to know how to use breathing techniques to beat stress in everyday situations, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 67 – Bringing Your Best Self to Work with Dr Sarah Goulding

Dr Sarah Goulding discusses how to bring your whole self to work without leaving bits of you behind. Sarah shares her own story of experiencing burnout at her old job and rediscovering her true passion. We also discuss how applying our core strengths to our jobs can mean the difference between burnout and having a sense of fulfilment. Don’t miss out on this episode if you want to learn more about how to be yourself and how to bring joy back into your work!

Episode 65 – Passing the Naughty Monkey Back with Dr Amit Sharma

Dr Amit Sharma joins us to discuss the effects of taking on too many of other people’s ‘naughty monkeys’. We talk about why professionals in high-stress jobs so often take on the rescuer role and how to shift that mindset. Amit and I also discuss the importance of empowering patients to take control of their own health. If you want to know how to avoid being weighed down by too many naughty monkeys, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 64 – What to Do When You’re Out of Fuel with Dr Jess Harvey

Dr Jess Harvey, a GP partner and GB triathlete, talks about what happened to her after running out of fuel and feeling burnt out. She discusses how we often ignore the symptoms and signs for too long and why resting and refuelling is as important as what we're doing in the first place. If you’re feeling burnt out, tune in to this episode to find out how you can plug the holes in your energy bucket!

Episode 63 – How to Survive Even When Times are Tough with Dr Caroline Walker

This episode is part of the COVID-19 Supporting Doctors series, and joining us again is Dr Caroline Walker. She's here to discuss why rest is crucial, especially for people in high-stress jobs. Caroline also shares key strategies that can keep us going through the crisis. The previous year has been tough, so don’t miss this episode to start 2021 better prepared.

Episode 62 – Self-Coaching for Success with Dr Karen Castille, OBE

Dr Karen Castille joins me in this episode to discuss her book on self-coaching. She shares powerful questions to ask yourself which will jumpstart your self-coaching journey. She also talks about the importance of developing this vital skill and crafting powerful life questions. Before we close the show, Karen gives her top tips for self-coaching. Don’t miss this episode if you want to learn how you can find clarity and achieve success through self-coaching!

Episode 61 – The Self Help Book Group on Happiness with Dr Nik Kendrew

In this episode, You Are Not A Frog regular Dr Nik Kendrew joins me to discuss the concept of happiness. We tackle the everlasting question of ‘What is happiness’? We also talk about perfectionism and fear and how these can hinder us from doing the things we want to do. At the end of the show, Nik and I give our top tips to being happier. If you want to know more about living a happy life, then this episode is for you.

Episode 60 – Creating a Workplace that Works with Dr Sonali Kinra

Dr Sonali Kinra joins us to discuss why people leave their jobs and how to prevent it. We talk about the importance of workplace culture and its role in creating an environment that makes people want to stay. We also discuss why you need to seek opportunities that broaden and develop your career. Don’t miss this episode if you want to find out how to keep yourself in a job you love.

Episode 59 – A Social Dilemma? With Dr James Thambyrajah

In this episode, Dr James Thambyrajah joins us to talk about social media’s subtle yet profound effect on our daily lives. We discuss the perils of being unaware of how our online decisions are influenced. James also shares his insights on how we can improve how we stay informed and inform others. Tune in to this episode if you want to learn more about how to go beyond your digital echo chamber.

Episode 55 – The One About Alcohol

Dr Giles P Croft is back to chat with Rachel about his experiences following a revolutionary read he was recommended. You might remember Giles from episode 46, where he talked about how as humans, we naturally default to happiness.

Episode 52 – A year of the frog

The week’s episode is a special one as the Frog celebrates a year of podcasting! It’s been quite a year - including charting in Apple’s Top 100 Business Podcasts in the UK!

Episode 50 – Freeing yourself from the money trap

Joining Rachel in this week’s episode is Dr Tommy Perkins, as well as being a GP Partner, and father, Tommy is one half of Medics Money. Medics Money is an organisation specifically aimed at helping doctors make better decisions with their finances. It’s run by Tommy and Dr Ed Cantelo who is not only a doctor but a qualified accountant.

Episode 49 – The Self Help Book Group No 2 with Nik Kendrew

This week Rachel is joined by You Are Not A Frog regular, Nik Kendrew. Last time Nik joined us, we discussed a book that has helped him in his professional life as a GP, trainer and partner as well as his personal life. Nik’s back this week to talk about another brilliant book and to share what insights and learnings he’s gained from it.

Episode 47 – How to Have a Courageous Conversation

Rachel talks with Beccie D'Cunha about the conversations that we avoid and the conversations we really need to have with our colleagues, teams and managers. They can be described as difficult conversations, but we can redefine them as courageous conversations - because ultimately it takes courage for both parties to listen and be heard.

Episode 46 – Default to happy

Rachel talks with Dr Giles P Croft about his take on how to beat stress and burnout. Giles  is a psychology graduate and former NHS surgeon who stepped aside from clinical practice for a decade to explore a number of career paths, including health informatics, cycling journalism, public speaking and high street retail with his wife.

Episode 45 – Rest. The final frontier

Rachel is joined by Sheela Hobden, Professional Certified Coach, wellbeing expert and fellow Shapes Toolkit facilitator. We talk about why rest isn’t just important for wellbeing, but important for productivity and creativity too. 

Episode 40 – Leading with tough love with Gary Hughes

In this episode, Rachel is joined by Gary Hughes, author of the book Leadership in Practice, blogger, educator and facilitator who is a Practice Manager by day. We chat about how leadership in the COVID-19 crisis has had to adapt, and the different roles that a leader has had to take.

Episode 37 – How to manage conflict during COVID with Jane Gunn

Rachel is thrilled to welcome back Jane Gunn – lawyer, mediator and expert in conflict resolution who has been known as the Corporate Peacemaker. This episode is for you if the thought of addressing a difficult issue with one of your colleagues send you running for the hills…

Episode 20 – A creative solution to stress with Ruth Cocksedge

In this episode, Rachel is joined by Ruth Cocksedge a Practitioner Psychologist who started her career as a mental health nurse. She practices in Cambridge and has a particular interest in EMDR for PTSD and creative writing as a way to improve mental health and wellbeing.

Episode 11 – The magical art of reading sweary books

In this episode, Rachel is joined once again by Dr Liz O’Riordan, the ‘Breast Surgeon with Breast Cancer’, TEDx speaker, author, blogger, triathlete and all round superstar who has been nominated for ‘Woman of the Year’.

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