Emphasizing the formula of 'Stress + Rest = Growth,' as highlighted in Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness’ Peak Performance, has been a profound concept resonating with me since my days in medical school. In their insightful book, stress is illuminated as a catalyst for growth, stemming from both positive and negative experiences of varying magnitudes. This discomfort, though challenging, serves as a crucible for mental, physical and emotional development. The vital counterpart to stress is rest, not only for recovery but also for reflection, shaping our experiences and guiding us forward.
As physiatrists, we diligently apply this formula in our daily interactions with patients, stressing the body appropriately and allowing adequate rest for recovery and optimal function. While the scientific foundation and process are clear, what happens when we, as healthcare professionals, find ourselves under stress? In those moments, the prospect of eventual growth may seem elusive, and achieving a sense of rest appears distant.
Entering medical school, we invest significant time, effort and resources with the ultimate goal of securing a residency position in our chosen specialty. In my case, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) was my aspiration. Despite a minor setback during the application process, matching into an advanced program but having to stop for a preliminary year, everything seemed to be proceeding as planned.
However, life has a way of altering our plans, especially in the face of a global pandemic. The pandemic, touching everyone personally and professionally, brought unexpected challenges. Before embarking on my journey as a physiatrist-in-training, personal and family circumstances compelled me to relinquish my acceptance into PM&R and continue in my current internal medicine program. Instantaneously, my career trajectory took an unforeseen turn. The shift from being a junior resident in internal medicine to assuming a senior role and teaching incoming junior residents was daunting. The realization that my career path had deviated left me stressed, disappointed and adrift. Questions loomed: Should I accept the change? Could I find fulfillment in internal medicine? Did I abandon my dream of becoming a physiatrist? The resounding answer was no. In that pivotal moment, I resolved not to surrender my aspiration. Over the next two years, I trained as an internal medicine physician while reapplying for PM&R.
Reflecting on this journey, three-and-a-half years later, I now have the opportunity to rest and contemplate what I fondly term my 'two-year roundabout.' This challenging period of stress has ultimately shaped me into the physiatrist I am today.