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Episode 39: Stress Less at Work: Neutralize Your Inner Judge and Saboteurs

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“Part of that trauma is the fact that I am no longer playing my violin. I am no longer writing. I am no longer doing all these things that made me me before I was told that I had to be this. I had to put the glasses and the stethoscope on and I had no other identity,” explains Dr. Catherine Woodhouse, MD, BCC. Catherine is a triple board certified physician in internal medicine, pediatrics and obesity medicine. She’s also an author and co-inventor of a device that improves mobility for manual wheelchair users. 

Catherine began to experience burnout after realizing that she had lost parts of her identity when she put on the white coat. As she began to reintegrate those parts of herself back into her life, she realized that she was actually a better physician for it than she was when trying to be somebody else.

We all have internal judges and saboteurs inside our minds that try to tell us we are not good enough. These voices develop in response to fear of failure and criticism and cause us to create personas that are a reaction to those judgements. In order to neutralize the judges, we need to get into what Catherine refers to as “sage mode”. This requires letting go of fear and showing acceptance and compassion for the judges and saboteurs. One method for this that Catherine recommends to her clients is the SOAP note technique. A SOAP note is something that is already very familiar to anyone working in healthcare, but her technique switches it up so that you are observing your own behavior verbally. Take a look in the mirror and observe yourself objectively and subjectively. What are you feeling when you look in the mirror? What do you see? Make an assessment and a plan based on these observations. Even a simple plan like taking a day off can be a fantastic first step toward regaining agency over your life. 

People are typically their own worst judges, but that can be countered if you know what to watch out for. We all have inner judges that are negative in our minds, sabotaging our lives out of fear of failing or being criticized by others. In order to reduce stress, it is vital to neutralize those inner judges and saboteurs and reach a place of understanding and acceptance for your true self. Learn to get beyond that fear and become comfortable with being your true self, so that you can reclaim your identity and be a better physician for it.

About Catherine Woodhouse, MD, BCC:

Dr. Catherine Woodhouse is a triple board-certified physician in Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, and Obesity Medicine. As a Commissioned Corps officer in the U.S. Public Health Service, she crisscrossed the country for 8 years providing medical care to multiple medically underserved communities and served in Hurricane Katrina. After completing her active-duty obligation, she has provided coverage to numerous hospital-employed private practices in Atlanta while pursuing additional ventures. As such, she has been a proud professional locum physician for 23 years.

Dr. Woodhouse authored a medical humor book, “Party Gown: A Doctor’s Laughable Advice,” and co-authored “Called to Lead: Success Strategies for Women.” She also co-invented a device for manual wheelchair users to improve their mobility in non-pristine terrain.

A joyful and thriving burnout survivor, she loves helping physician and clinician colleagues experience less stress and greater well-being, performance, and relationships as a Positive Intelligence® Coach.

As a Board-Certified Coach (BCC), Dr. Woodhouse also loves helping women physicians and clinicians get clarity about their stressful jobs and create small and large changes in their work if desired. She is an emerging speaker and has produced informative and inspirational videos for stressed healthcare workers.

Dr. Woodhouse lives in Atlanta with her wonderfully supportive family and is a colossal fan of books, exercise, laughter, chocolate, and singing loudly in the shower.

In This Episode We're Talking About:

  • Remember who you are (fabulous, gifted, pluripotent), and that your j-o-b is part of who you are, not all of who you are. You have much more inside of you. So think about ways to mine that, to explore that, whether you need to make tweaks to your current job or create new work altogether.
  • You don’t have to remain oppressed by “extra” stress. You can learn to recognize the voice of your Judge and Saboteurs, be liberated from the fear and stress they cause, and do your work with more compassion for yourself and others.
  • Please do not make hugely important decisions about your work and life in a vacuum—it’s so easy to stay in your own head. Seek support and insight from others who care about you, but also who do not have a personal stake in you maintaining your status quo. Someone who can remain objective.
  • Consider a coach! Dr. Woodhouse has had 3, and they’ve really helped her expand her perspectives, and are the only reason she can find anything in her office. You don’t have to got it alone.

Quotes:

  • “I found out that I was a better doctor when I integrated all of those other parts of who I am.” (10:07-10:12 | Catherine)

 

  • “In response to fear of poverty, fear of criticism, fear of failure, we develop these personas to answer the attacks of the judge that we’re not good enough.” (15:17-15:32 | Catherine)

 

  • “I have people look in the mirror, and I have people do a SOAP note on themselves. A verbal SOAP note. So you know, subjective. What are you feeling right now? Objective. If you look at yourself in the mirror, what do you see? You see the slumped shoulders? You see the bags under your eyes? What’s your assessment and then what’s your plan? The plan can just be one nugget like, you know what? I need to take tomorrow off.” (22:08-22:40 | Catherine)

 

  • “We have to create different standards of sufficiency and worth. What do I need to do to do my job well, the way that I want to do it and the way that I know I need to do it for me?” (38:32-38:46 | Catherine)

Links for this Episode:

Connect with Catherine Woodhouse, MD, BCC:

Connect with Dr. Lara Salyer:

Thank You For Listening!

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About The Catalyst Host, Dr. Lara Salyer:

I worked as a family physician for 15 years until burnout changed the trajectory of my career. I realized I wanted to start a holistic functional medicine practice in my rural hometown and made it happen. In addition to practicing functional medicine, I now mentor practitioners who are looking to change their paths in healthcare by using what I refer to as the “Catalyst Roadmap”. I share each step of this framework with listeners so that they may apply it to their careers, relationships, personal goals, and projects. 

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