By Natasha Persaud
The following doctors have found ways of de-stressingeven in the most harrowing situations—helping hurricane victims, counseling returning soldiers, and meeting the needs of seriously ill patients. Their stress-busting strategies can help you too.
The Crisis Manager: Christina Catlett, M.D.
Catlett, associate director of the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response in Baltimore, is the director of the Hopkins Go Team, a disaster response team of 200 medical professionals who respond to disasters at home and abroad.
- My stress: "When I was in a crisis, like Hurricane Katrina, I got a burst of adrenaline that allowed me to act quickly and decisively. But the chaos, noise, demands and anguish of the injured sometimes took a toll."
- My tension-tamers: "For me, being passionate about what I do and being inspired by the people I treat helps me cope. And walking my dogs, Ted and Maggie, is the best stress-reliever I know. A beautiful therapy dog named Blue helped me one day after Katrina when I was feeling so blue; just stroking Blue brought me relief."
The Constant Caregiver: Colonel John Bradley, M.D.
Bradley, chief of psychiatry at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., treats service members suffering from trauma and other mental distress.
- My stress: "We care for some of the most severely injured soldiers. Many are grief-stricken from losing a buddy in combat, or coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some wounded warriors and their families spend extended time at Walter Reed and it's up to us to help them through a very difficult time."
- My tension-tamers: "On my commute home, I let go of the stressors of the day by reminding myself that I've given my best. I focus on my family and my hobby, woodworking. And I cherish small victories—like a letter I got from a soldier saying his pride and dignity had been restored."
The Health Pioneer: David L. Katz, M.D.
Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center and the Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital in Derby, CT, is bridging the gap between conventional and complementary therapies.
- My stress: "There's nothing more stressful than the helplessness of wanting to heal someone who has cancer, diabetes, migraine or fibromyalgia and not knowing how—or even if—you can. Some of our patients have been everywhere and tried everything and they're frustrated."
- My tension-tamers: "Not all stress is bad. I've learned to recognize the difference between stress that spurs me to be productive and creative and distress, which saps energy. I try to exercise intensely on an elliptical trainer every single day, and my wife and kids make everything bearable."
The Overscheduler: Richard A. Stein, M.D.
Stein, a book author and professor of cardiology at NYU Langone Medical Center, sees critically ill patients, conducts medical research, teaches medical students and is also involved in hospital administration.
- My stress: "Overscheduling has been one of my biggest challenges—from a nervous patient who needs to talk, to a colleague who wants to review a difficult case. I sometimes accidentally miss an appointment and I get angry and frustrated with myself, especially if it involves one of my patients."
- My tension-tamers: "Everyone needs daily downtime, so each morning before work, I take a walk along the beach and take in the soothing sights and sounds. On the train ride to work I'll read a good 'whodunit.' I also try to learn from past stressors and figure out how to prevent them."
From our sister publication Remedy's Healthy Living, Winter 2010