Luckily, cars come with a gas gauge, usually mounted in a highly visible location that allows us to keep track of the amount of gas in the tank. We can easily see when we are getting low and make plans to fill up the tank so we do not run out of gas.
We are like that dream car — seemingly full of limitless potential. We all have an energy tank, a repository of energy that allows us to achieve our goals, meet our responsibilities, and get through our day. Unfortunately, unlike that car, we do not come with an energy gauge. We have to keep track of the level of our energy in other ways and recognize when we are running low, so that we can take action to “fill up our tank.” Top
Create a “gas” gauge
For us physicians, keeping track of our energy level is difficult at the best of times. During a pandemic, it can seem impossible. There is too much to do. We are busy, conscientious, and highly responsible. We sacrifice our needs to meet those of others. This is part of who we are. This behaviour is also reinforced by the culture of medicine, our training, our colleagues, and our patients.
Because we don’t have a meter to indicate our level of energy, we often don’t recognize a problem until we are almost “running on empty.” We must proactively stop to consider our level of energy and ask ourselves how full our tank is.
Is your energy tank full? What are you feeling that supports this conclusion? Take a moment to define how you feel. Think about how you feel when you are full of energy. For example, you might feel positive and optimistic, confident, have good self-esteem, a high sense of satisfaction, healthy fulfilling relationships.
Are you at empty? What are the signs and symptoms? They could include feeling physically unwell, fatigue, insomnia, and anxiety. You might feel negative and irritable, experience problems in relationships and the onset of bad habits, such as overeating, drinking too much, or not exercising. Top
Try to identify a key early sign of low energy, watch for it regularly, and address it as early as possible.
Input and output
Let’s consider the energy tank further. Imagine that it has holes in the bottom through which your energy drains away. Think about what activities, situations, or people are energy drains for you? Can you let go of these activities or relationships and “plug up” these drains? That will help maintain your level of energy.
At the top of the tank is a large opening through which you can pour in energy. What activities, situations, and people create energy for you? Identify these and do them more, so that you can top up your tank.
If possible, identify four groups of activities: those that take 10–30 minutes to do, those that take 1–2 hours, those that you can do in a half day, and those that you can enjoy in a full day. Keep a running list and add to it as new ideas come up. Top
The Tarzan rule
Continue this list on your own and personalize it. Focus on what you can do, realistically, during this time of social distancing. Identify the things that make you feel re-energized, and make a commitment to booking one more before you end the current one. Follow the Tarzan rule to maintain healthy behaviour and remain strong and resilient, especially during this pandemic.
1. Gautam M. The Tarzan rule: tips for a healthy life in medicine. Ottawa: Partner Publishing; 2011.
Imagine your dream car — sleek lines, high performance, total luxury. You finally get to drive it, racing around in it as long as you can, impressing yourself and everyone else as you pass by. Until it runs out of gas. Then, regardless of its potential, your amazing car grinds to a halt and is not going anywhere!
The Tarzan rule1 is a simple, yet brilliant, concept based on how Tarzan swings through the jungle, never letting go of one vine until he has another one in hand. Similarly, do not let go of something that is good for you without arranging for the next one. For example,