I watched an amazing programme on TV recently showing brain neurosurgeons at work. Rather gory in places (my other half had to leave the room!) but what incredible skills they have. Not least in managing the stress of their job. After all, one slip could have life-changing consequences for the patient. It doesn’t get more stressful than that! (a useful perspective to take I think, when you find yourself getting het up, as I did this morning, about something that definitely doesn’t carry life threatening consequences).
I watched heart-in-mouth as the neurosurgeon performed the most delicate brain surgery in a 12 hour operation. His every movement had to be carefully controlled. A momentary loss of concentration could have had disastrous results. I kept wondering how on earth he maintains that level of physical, emotional and cognitive concentration? Does he ever stop for a loo break or a cup of coffee? It seemed not.
The surgeon described how, when he’s operating, it’s as if time stands still. He is completely in what is often called a state of flow – entirely focused on the job to be done.
Once the operation was complete, after hours of high-risk surgery, and the patient was in recovery, only then could he relax. Then he said, he suddenly noticed how all the muscles in his body ached. Hardly surprising, yet throughout the operation he’d been able to suppress all thoughts of physical discomfort.
It’s impossible of course, for a neurosurgeon to move around much in the theatre but for the rest of us, it’s worth thinking about how we manage our physical wellbeing during the working day.
Unless you pay attention to it, when you are focussed, working under pressure, the body becomes tense, fixed in a particular posture. Hours can go by as you sit hunched over your computer. Or you are in meetings for hours, sitting in uncomfortable chairs. Or driving too long. Just holding your shoulders raised up a few millimeters (which is a very common response when you are under pressure) can put a strain on neck and back muscles.
You only notice the headache/backache/general fatigue when you get home. You’re tired but wired. After holding tension all day, it’s hard to unwind in the evening in time for a sound night’s sleep.
To reduce the build up of physical and mental stress during your day, try setting an alarm on your phone every hour. When it sounds, change your posture: stand up, get a drink, do some simple eye exercises, stretch, take deeper breaths, walk or climb the stairs. Give it a go – see how a small change can make a big difference!
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