Episode 51: How to stay calm and focused in the face of uncertainty

This week Rachel is joined once more by Dr Caroline Walker, otherwise known as The Joyful Doctor to look at what on earth has happened over the past 6 months and what we can anticipate in the coming months.

In a metaphor filled episode, you’ll hear how naughty monkeys, heavy rucksacks and even professional football players can help us understand what’s in our toolkit to help us navigate the uncertainty and stress we might currently be facing.

It’s fair to say that we’re currently in an adjustment phase, learning how to work and live to the current rules, anticipating changes to these rules and processing this seismic shift from how our lives used to operate.

We’re seeing burnout from overwork,, anxiety over the uncertain future and amongst the general public, a sense of grief and loss at the change of life and liberty which is manifesting in anger – something GPs are in receipt of daily.

It’s common for people to vent their anger towards those they feel safe with. 

Caroline describes two metaphors that can explain how this works, feelings can build up chaotically like a naughty monkey you’re holding onto, or a heavy burden like an overloaded rucksack. 

When someone (a patient, client or colleague) vents to you, they are giving you the monkey or putting the rucksack down. You can placate the monkey or unpack the rucksack but you must hand the monkey or rucksack back.

When we’re overburdened we have a tendency to stop doing things that really help us maintain our self-care – exercise being a common victim. The need to maintain good self care is even more vital than ever in  these times. 

Consider the example of a professional footballer. If they were asked to play for 3 hours instead of 90 minutes what would they do? Devise a break plan, factor in more nutrition, add more to their team and so on. So, when we have extra pressure applied, what are we doing to make sure we can cope?

There are things that will be out of your control right now, so Rachel and Caroline give a reminder about the ‘Zone of Power’ and how this powerful tool can bring you a sense of calm and empowerment.

Their suggestions for getting back in control are:

  • Try a calming technique such as box breathing (breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, hold for 4 – repeat for several cycles).
  • Stay within at your Zone of Power https://www.shapestoolkit.com/zone-of-power
  • Seek external sources of help with anxiety whether online, with your GP or through self referral.

One ultimate top tip from Rachel and  Caroline; Learn to leave things unfinished.

This sounds unlikely but they present a good argument for its benefits.

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Podcast links

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Looking for resilience training for your team, your organisation or your CCG or GP Training Hub? Find out more about her online and face to face courses for doctors and other professionals on surviving and thriving at work.

For more episodes of You are not a frog, check out our website https://youarenotafrog.com/

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You can also join the Shapes Collective Facebook group where we chat about the hot topics and regularly post interesting articles

24 hour support for NHS staff: Call 0300 131 7000 between 7am and 11pm or text FRONTLINE to 85258 24/7.

BMA Wellbeing Service 

The NHS Practitioner Health Programme 

Download the free ‘Stop, Start, Continue Checklist’ tool here

Download a free handout about how to stay in your Zone of Power 

The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living by Russ Harris

Contact Rachel 

LinkedIn @Dr-Rachel-lMorris https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-rachel-morris/

Twitter @DrRachelMorris



Contact Caroline

caroline@joyfuldoctor.com Twitter @joyful_doctor

The Joyful Doctor Website www.joyfuldoctor.com 

Other Podcasts

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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