My father used to tell me the joke that if I wanted to forget about all of my problems except for one I should wear shoes two sizes too small. Problems. We know them all too well. Jay-Z had them, our patients have them, our clients describe them (often in very specific detail), and we deal with them. The characters on the shows we love have them, too. At work on days when things seem to be overly busy and stressful, I think of Walter White and Jimmy McGill from AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul”, take a deep breath, and return to a place of gratitude. Even though I have a lot of stuff going on while juggling difficult cases, at least I don’t have to reckon with a guilty conscience, gangs, the police, and the cartel. It helps put things into perspective.
We develop countless strategies with which to deal with problems and do so on a daily basis. I have not actually tried the shoe tactic (and would probably advise against it), but I am a big advocate for my method called “take a drink of water.” When I have numerous in-patients, am behind on my appointments as pet owners are lining up outside of our clinic, and my ever-growing callback list beckons from the computer screen, the lovely receptionists at my hospital will be the first ones to acknowledge my visible stress. The code we developed was for them to tell me that I should have some water. Before letting everything consume me, I can step back for a second, put things into perspective, and start tackling issues one at a time.