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Doctors at Work Podcast.

Episode #83

How to deal with stresses at work. With Matthew Fuller

Mat Daniel

30/04/2024

Careers in medicine are rewarding, and at the same time full of stresses. In this episode, Matthew Fuller and I discuss how to manage challenging situations at work. Matthew tells me that it is important to distinguish emotions from facts, to recognise that emotions are data, and that it pays to step back and focus on what it is that you really want. Some challenges may not be easy to fix, but making a conscious choice on how to engage puts you in a powerful position going forwards.

Matthew Fuller is an ICF-accredited coach specialising in stress and anxiety. He knows firsthand what it’s like to be immobilised by stress and anxiety. The emotions and beliefs we carry with us have a huge impact on our success, the success of our teams, and our happiness. That’s why he works with people to explore their internal blocks, be they outdated beliefs, negative thought patterns, or unhelpful habits. He works with others as a travel partner, exploring their internal world through a blend of mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioral Coaching (CBC), and neuroscience to help them overcome the challenges in front of you. You can find him at  www.matthewctfuller.com, on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/MatthewCTFuller/ and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/matthewctfuller.

You can also watch on www.youtube.com/@dr-coach/videos.
Production: Shot by Polachek

Podcast Transcript

Mat: [00:00:00] Welcome to Doctors at Work. My name’s Mat Daniel, and this podcast is part of my mission to help doctors create successful and meaningful careers. Today, I’m having a conversation with Matthew Fuller, and we’re talking about how to deal with stresses at work. I don’t know about your jobs, but where I am, everybody seems to be super stressful all the time.

Medicine, of course, is a very rewarding career, but it is full of stresses. Matthew and I discuss how we can manage those challenging situations. It tells me that it’s important to distinguish emotions from facts, to recognize that emotions are data and that it pays to step back and focus on what it is that you really want.

Now, some challenges may not be easy to fix, but making a conscious choice on how to engage puts you in a really powerful position going forward. I hope that it’s useful.

Welcome, Matthew. Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Matthew: Uh, yeah, my name is Matthew Fuller. I am [00:01:00] a stress and anxiety coach. I started my training in the executive space, went on to do some cognitive behavioral coaching, and I do a lot of work within the EDI space, the queer community, and working with people around addiction.

Mat: And thank you very much for joining me today. It’s my pleasure. Yeah. And I don’t know about, um, what’s it like where you are, whenever I go into work. Boy, is my workplace full of people that are stressed. Is that something that’s happening everywhere or is that just medicine in the UK?

Matthew: Absolutely. I mean, I’m, I’m based in London and it certainly is something that you hear people talking about all the time.

I’m so stressed. Oh, I’m just feeling anxious, got all this stuff going on. It is something that affects us all and is, we’re getting better at talking about it, but the impacts of that are huge. And not only as. individuals, but on groups of people as well, we see that. So it’s definitely something that I’m noticing within all the circles that I exist in.[00:02:00]

Mat: And do you think it’s getting more prevalent, or is it something that’s always been there? It’s just that we seem to be better talking about it.

Matthew: I mean, that’s a really great question because I think that we are definitely getting better about talking about it, but also the things that stress us out or the stressors that exist in life, um, they’re ever changing.

So as we get better at maybe handling some things. We get introduced to a whole new set of stressors that impact us. And so when we, when I work with people on stress and anxiety, it’s more around how we cope because that way we were actually attacking our interaction with stressors as opposed to the individual stressors themselves.

And I, and I should say that, um, you know, coaching is not a mental health intervention. So, It’s quite different, but I do believe that we carry ourselves with us through the world. So, being able to acknowledge our mental [00:03:00] health and what’s going on is going to be fundamental, not only in how we feel emotionally, but how we perform at work, how we interact with others.

So, that self reflection and making decisions, aligned with values to satisfy needs that we have clarified through the coaching space with introspection and self exploration. It’s only going to help our mental well being. So I did want to make that distinction. This is, we’re not looking to have this conversation in a clinical way around anxiety disorders or depression.

So if you feel that you’re struggling with that, it is, the best advice is going to be to reach out to a professional counselor, therapist, psychologist, as we’ve said, it affects us all. And I think it’s worth having a conversation about.

Mat: And certainly for anybody who’s listening, who’s based in the UK, um, the practitioner health service would be an organization that would be very useful and to support doctors in UK that have health related issues.

Um, so let’s kind of focus on, on, on [00:04:00] that, you know, everyday stress, cause we all, we all go in and we say, you know, I’m really stressed today or you’re really stressed today. I mean, what, what, what do all these things mean? You know, we talk about sorts of stress and anxiety, you know, what, what, what are they and what’s the difference between those two terms and other related terms?

Matthew: So stress is our stress response is something that Uh, is triggered by an external pressure or demand, so we can call those things stressors. We get stress from stressors, how we interact with them, and they can be, they can be triggered by things at work, like deadlines or interpersonal challenges, um, but typically they’re short term.

Um, and. Once they’re sorted out, those stress responses go away. We hear about the flight or fight response or freeze response to stressors. And that’s, we, we have quite an antagonistic relationship with stress. We like, we hate it. We hate feeling uncomfortable. But. Ultimately, it’s not our [00:05:00] right to go through life unchallenged.

So stress itself is not a bad thing. It’s when we get into chronic stress or those, those stresses, those, those chronic stressors, um, take up more time than they ought to, and they become anxiety, which is more of a rumination. So stress itself, it’s fine. We don’t love it, but it is a part of life and it will always be a part of life.

Anxiety, on the other hand, um, it’s more of a prolonged state of worry. Thank you. And it’s not necessarily triggered by, by something and it exists longer, it’s the type of thing that keeps you up sleepless at night going over the same thing again and again and again. And although both of those can have physiological responses like an increased heart rate or sweating or racing thoughts and excessive worry difficulty concentrating.

Um, The, the stress, our response to stress is to treat that, to overcome it, to, [00:06:00] uh, handle the stressor and then we move on. Whereas anxiety, it’s again, it’s that rumination that keeps us mulling over the same thing again and again

Mat: and again. Tell me a bit more about this idea that, that, you know, stress is normal.

It’s there all around and we, we might expect that, that lives are stress free, but. But you’re sort of saying that, you know, that’s, that’s a totally unrealistic expectation. Can you tell me a bit more? Oh,

Matthew: yeah. Um, I mean, I have being in a kind of self improvement, self help space. I get so frustrated when I hear other coaches or people who call themselves coaches or, um, motivational people talking about, if it doesn’t make you feel good, don’t do it.

I’m like, that is not life. That’s unrealistic. It’s setting ourselves up for failure. And also some of the most meaningful things that we can ever do in life have incredibly stressful moments. You know, you think about going to the gym that creates [00:07:00] stress on your body that, you know, but it’s for your benefit, leaving a toxic relationship can be incredibly difficult, but it’s for your benefit.

Um, so. Because we are not in control of how the world works, there will always be things that stress us out. We don’t, we don’t get to exert everything that we want on society around us, unfortunately. We have control over ourselves. We have influence over the world around us, but there are things that we absolutely can’t control and our influence only goes so far, so that means that we will have these things that clash with our values, with our And that will bring up an emotional response because.

We’ll think something about it and our thoughts influence our emotions. So, yeah, that’s just the, that’s just the reality of things.

Mat: It’s interesting that you say that there are, you know, there are people out there that are sending the message out to say [00:08:00] that, you know, everything should be stress free and, you know, we should or could always be happy.

And I quite like sort of, you know, your comment that actually, you know, that that’s just not realistic. And I’m interested if I think of my experience is safe. I think of two, two very stressful periods in my career. So in the first period, I was, I was in a role that, that I was very unhappy with, you know, for whatever reason.

And the way that I dealt with that sort of, I worked really, really hard because I knew that, you know, if I did an exam, that would be my way out. So, you know, I worked very hard for the exam because I knew If I do the exam, you know, that’s my way out and that will allow me sort of to move away. Um, and that kind of, that was stressful, but, but I think I ended up being quite productive because that for me was a motivator to push and progress my career.

I can also sort of think of another period of time in my career where. where things were very stressful, um, and it kind of, and I ended up in a sort of [00:09:00] downward spiral and, you know, I ended up having coaching and then having therapy as well. Um, you know, both, both times really, really stressful circumstances, really stressful team, stressful environment, but in one occasion, you know, sort of, I went and propelled myself and I worked my way out of it.

And in another scenario, I kind of just spiral down, you know, what, what, why, why did I, or why do people respond differently to different? situations.

Matthew: So two great questions there. Why in this, why the same person might respond to different stressors differently? And why might people respond to the same stressor differently?

Because I guess I’ll go in opposite order of what I just said. So two different people might respond to the same stressor differently for a myriad of reasons. Uh, resourcefulness, how, how much was, How much confidence was built up when they were growing up around their ability to handle these tougher moments of life.[00:10:00]

What beliefs do each of those individuals have around this particular thing? What experience do, does each of these have, like, has one of them maybe managed something similar before, so they’re feeling a bit stronger to, to do that or a clearer idea of how to handle it. So when we talk about perspectives, we look at every single thing that happens from a different perspective, through a different lens from other people, and then, and then why might.

I be more resourceful in one stressful moment versus another and ultimately it’s kind of there’s some crossover there because it’s what’s my experience been what’s my confidence level but also how am I taking care of myself because perhaps I’m worn down from not prioritizing wellness, not resting enough, not feeding myself properly, [00:11:00] not having nourishing relationships with people, not disconnecting so that my brain can rest and recharge.

So there’s also a kind of how is, how are you primed going into those stressful scenarios, which is also going to be important.

Mat: So this sort of strikes me as two really There’s interesting things and very concrete things that we can talk about in terms of what people can do. Because you know, my podcast is all about how do you do that.

So I know it’s great that we’re talking about what happens but fundamentally we want to we want to leave people with tips about what to do. So I’m going to come back onto this this this how you are and your overall and And I’m going to use the dreaded R word, sort of resilience is a dirty word in medical context, Matthew, because, because most people think that resilience is, is, you know, you go on mandatory training to become more resilient.

That’s most doctors experience. But actually, I think what you’ve outlined for me, [00:12:00] the term that captures would be building resilience. Yeah. So knowing that medical careers has been a lot in a lot of other things. They’re really challenging the difficult, you know, you can have difficult times if, if somebody is doing exams or, you know, you entering a new job, you know, you’re changing job plans, you know, you, you move in hospitals, colleagues, you know, different exams.

If you’re building up resilience in a whole range of different things, um, that that’s kind of, um, So I’m going to, I’m going to come back to that in a second, but the first one I’m interested in is, because that struck me about the past experiences and the beliefs that I have, and there’s a kind of, there’s a paradox, which may be is that if I, if I’ve managed to deal with stresses, Then next time they happen, I’m going to say, well, I’ve done that before.

Next time that something really bad happens, they’re going to say, yeah, I’ve done that. And next time I’m going to say, yeah, I’ve done that. I faced worse than that. So, so kind of, it feels like the more times that I overcome stress, the better I get, um, at it, but maybe run away from stress. Then, [00:13:00] then I never overcome it.

Does that make sense? Yeah, it

Matthew: is this hilarious thing and I think what this is why it’s, people wanna give sound bites for social media for this, do this, this is what you need to do. But it is quite complex and there is this idea of if sometimes we don’t need to put ourselves in situations where we’re going to be challenged constantly.

There is this thing of our, in our lives where we get to curate how we exist, the spaces that we go into. So sometimes we get to choose to go into places that are. Less stress in, uh, induced than, or that induces less stress than others. Um, but you’re absolutely right. The more we sh we show ourselves that we can handle stress, the better we get at not only having the tools to handle, handle it, but also more self confidence in ourselves to be able to, to, to handle it.

So I think about it like. If I go to the gym, and every time that I go I use every single [00:14:00] machine, then I’m going to have a kind of overall strength that I get to draw on. But if I go to the gym and only use half the machines, or I use one of the machines, that’s great, I might be great at that. But if I have to go from, let’s say, doing bicep curls, that’s all I ever do, and I’m really great at it, my biceps are huge.

If all of a sudden I have to go and do a bench press, Okay, maybe I can use some of that strength, but there are other things that need to be developed. Whereas when I’m putting myself to many different stressors, each one of those machines, I have a more general strength that allows me to draw from. So, Yeah, when we talk about doctors, you know, they go through very specific training.

They’re very intelligent. They, there’s, there’s going to be a lot of things, a lot of strengths for them, but it also puts them in situations that are quite stressful, that maybe require different skill set from the training that they’ve received. And so, One, we need to be kind to ourselves [00:15:00] because ultimately doctors are humans, they have limited resources, they need rest, they need nourishment, they need life outside of the work, but we also know that maybe it’s not as idealized or it’s That that’s a bit idealized.

So we have to acknowledge the space that we exist in, the demands of that space and the fact that we’re choosing to stay in that space. So what do I need to help myself? Be more, uh, resilient, because as you say, I mean, when I work with people on EDI about this, we do not need a PowerPoint about EDI. We don’t need a PowerPoint about resilience.

We need to find what that means for us. How do I interact with those things? What are my specific needs? So this is, um, it’s tough to come on and do a podcast as a coach, because coaching, as you know, is. Client [00:16:00] led it’s about the individual experience. So we’re going to speak quite generally on this so people can pick and choose what, what works for them or what resonates with them, but it is, it is that.

individual bespoke experience. It’s maybe something that works for me isn’t going to work for you. And that’s okay. It’s about knowing yourself going inwards and finding that answer for you.

Mat: If I can just go back to the idea of, of, um, the, the, the more that you deal with stuff, you know, you, you recognize you say, yes, I can do that.

You know, I’ve got a range of experiences, which means that all the time I’m building my capacity and capability of dealing with stress, but I’m interested in how. How, how we take advantage of that. So, you know, if I kind of think, let me give you an example. So, so a couple of weeks ago, you know, I, I got an, an email that really annoyed me because it was something I’d worked really, really hard for.

Um, and then there was another group of people that completely ignored sort of the work that I put [00:17:00] into that and made a decision that affected me, but, you know, didn’t, didn’t sort of consult me, um, and, um, and, you know, didn’t involve me. Um, and it was, It was very, I was very angry and it was very problematic for me because kind of collaboration and teamwork, you know, that that’s kind of a big value for me.

And clearly, you know, these people just just totally, totally destroyed sort of that idea of collaboration. Um, but, um, I didn’t, I didn’t blow off. Yeah, sort of, you know, I handled it quite maturely. You know, yes, I sort of, I did, I did, it did percolate in my head, um, probably for a week or so, but then I moved on.

Um, so I guess what I’m saying is how, how do I, how do I capture, how do people capture experiences like that? So that next time somebody, something happens, Then, then how, how, how can I fall back onto that and say, actually, you can do that. You’ve already done it. You know, you didn’t send a drop email straight away.

You took a step back and, and, you know, and thought about it. [00:18:00] I’m capable of doing that. So how do people capture and remember and learn from those kinds of experiences?

Matthew: Well, our emotions are funny thing. Our emotions are incredibly volatile, but they’re very important because they give us information.

They give us data. So my anger comes up because my value has been a value of mine has been breached or I’ve not received something that I felt like I needed. And so we can reflect on that and say, what is the real problem here? So I think there is. There’s an analysis of our emotional reaction, which is quite helpful because it gets us to understand what the problem was, which allows us to better react to the, the event itself.

If I’m very frustrated or angry, even as you say, because anger is not a bad emotion, anger, [00:19:00] we people are quite afraid of emotion, but it’s quite natural to be angry. Okay. Um, I certainly, I’m often frustrated or, or, yeah, yeah, and, and I think that we need to one recognize that our emotional experience is okay, but our emotional experience doesn’t give us a pass to act.

In a certain way, we get to feel what we feel, but then we decide once we get, we harvest it for information around the value that has been betrayed or the need that’s not been met, we get to then decide, I’m at this crossroads now. Do I go down the emotional reactivity? That’s going to give me something that feels good.

Or am I going to learn from this and then decide how do I get there? Move back towards getting that need met and so when you ask the question around like, how do I use that to [00:20:00] demonstrate that I can handle this again? One, I think just knowing that that’s a fact that you acted in a way that you’re proud of, that’s one thing, but I think there is also a crucial step of acknowledging what was important from a values point of view that helped you to do that.

Because it’s not just, I acted this way, so I should be able to do it again. When your emotions are coarse, like when those chemicals are coursing through your veins, because you’re feeling whatever you’re feeling, it’s really hard just to go, well, I did it because. Well, I don’t feel like doing it now. So how do I go against doing something that I’m feeling so animalistically, and it’s going to be often rechecking in with the values.

Why is this important to me? Where are these emotions coming from? What do I actually want to happen? Because I can’t control what did happen. But how will I interact with? reality [00:21:00] and in a way that’s going to move me to the future that I want.

Mat: So I think this is really relevant to, to many of us that there is doctors that the things happen and, you know, bang, straight away, there’s a reaction that’s emotionally driven and, you know, and sort of people, people complain or, you know, You know, people, people speak up and people get angry, me included, and an awful lot of other people as well.

Um, and you know, and that’s, and often it’s not particularly productive. So, okay, so we’ve got, we’ve got that idea that, that, you know, emotions are data, and it’s telling me something in the example that I’ve used. You know, it really very much went against my values. But I did manage to pause, um, and then, you know, moved in a more constructive way, but I’m wondering maybe if I, if I take that sort of a step further, because there’ll be people thinking that they’re going to say, well, stuff happens and bang, straight away, sort of emotions take them off in a certain way.

direction. How, how do they, how do they catch, you know, that, that moment where they, where they do have a choice of, you know, whether they act on it [00:22:00] or not? How did, how did they catch themselves and stop themselves going, you know, bang reactive?

Matthew: Such an important point. We are all at where we’re at. My level of self awareness is going to be different from yours, which is going to be different from the person listening to this.

And so, This is what I mean when I was talking about the coaching process being quite individual because I can say, just notice it. How am I, how am I supposed to do that? You have to start, you have to start where you’re at. And so for me, when I was trying to challenge some of my behaviors, it absolutely started with an after the fact.

I had a response. And there were consequences. And I noticed that I analyzed what got me there, what happened. And I continued to do that time and time again. And that timeline started to shift closer and closer and closer to the event where I got to make that decision to moving it further and further forward so I could say [00:23:00] now I’m at the point where I get to make that decision.

So it’s not a, there’s not a magic trick. You, if you are someone who All of a sudden something happens and then it feels like five minutes have gone by and, and you’ve acted and the consequences are the consequences. That’s just your reality and you need to start by noticing what was going on, thinking back, reflecting back.

What are you feeling in your body? What? What do you remember as your thought patterns and what emotions did you have to bring that to your awareness because most likely you weren’t even conscious of it. And so as you start to become more conscious of it, your brain, because of the way the brain works, it will start to make those connections of self awareness, self observation, and those will get stronger the more that you do it.

Mat: I hope you’re enjoying the show. Please click subscribe so you’ll be notified when new episodes become available. [00:24:00] This podcast is part of my mission to help doctors create successful and meaningful careers. You can be part of that mission too, by forwarding this show to one person who you think might benefit from listening.

Thank you. Now on with the show.

Okay, so I like that. And I think this is, this is important because I certainly I know, People that that that something happens straight away, you know, they react and you know, as you say that that that’s where they are. So what you’re saying is, the key thing is, you know, okay, so it happened. But afterwards, if you find yourself thinking, well, what was the point or I’m worse off than I would have been, I wish I hadn’t done it.

And actually, you know, that reaction hasn’t really moved any of us forward. It might have felt good in the moment because often it does, but actually sort of, it hasn’t really moved me towards the outcome that I want. Then that’s, that’s where you start and you sort of say, you know, okay, you know, what just happened?

You know, there was an emotion I reacted and I didn’t really get [00:25:00] the outcome. And then, you know, over, I don’t know, over years. Sort of, you gradually then move that closer to the point where, where, where you notice yourself um, and you’re, and you’re then making that choice about whether you react or whether you take a step back and, and, and think about it.

Matthew: And it’s also worth noting that that ability is not, it’s not something that you achieve and then you have it across the board. There are certain scenarios and relationships that I have with people, like I am, I know that there are people in my life that I am less. able to have that calm and clarity when we’re interacting.

And then there are other spaces where I absolutely have total control or what feels like total control. Like when I’m doing my volunteering with a helpline or with people struggling with addiction, I feel so in control of my emotional reactivity and my inner world. Whereas let’s say I go to a, um, a Thanksgiving dinner with my [00:26:00] family.

I feel a lot less in control. It feels like more effort. So. It’s important, again, to be kind to yourself, just acknowledge that that’s true, just acknowledge that you’re imperfect, that sometimes certain things are going to feel harder than other things, and there are a lot of reasons around upbringing and societal values and all the things we can get into, but I think ultimately just accept that it’s a skill that you can, you can, uh, hone, but there will be variations in the Spaces in which you interact.

Mat: I’m, I’m interested in, in that variation because actually that rings very true to me personally. And also if I think of there’ll be, there’ll be some groups and some meetings that I go to and I always walk away thinking, gosh, everybody was really bad tempered and we didn’t really achieve anything. And, you know, and, and there’s other meetings or groups or things that I go to where, where people are much more, um, the term grown up is coming up for me.

I don’t, I don’t think [00:27:00] it’s, um, it probably captures what I mean, but I don’t, I don’t think it’s the right term, but it feels like a much more mature conversation. So yeah, so now, now I’m wondering why am I describing one as a, as a conversation of, of, you know, a playground fight. In an office setting versus a grownup conversation.

So is it, do we get better at this as we get older? Well, I,

Matthew: I, one hope, one would hope. I think, I think it’s an incredibly personal journey and not everyone is interested in, in, in becoming less reactive because for some people emotions are truth. And emotions aren’t truth. They’re, they’re reactions based off beliefs that we have.

But if this is what I always say, if I can see in everyone else, they’re flawed thinking and how they’re unreasonable. I’m sure I’m not the only perfect person on the planet. There must be things about myself that I am, that I’m wrong on [00:28:00] that are not logical on that are yeah, completely. unfair or whatever, because if I can see it in everyone but myself, then I’m sure that I must just be blind to it.

So giving yourself the grace to be as imperfect as everyone else, and also accepting that you’re as imperfect as everyone else, I think is quite important. And some people don’t want to do that.

Mat: Tell me about the idea that emotions are not truth.

Matthew: Um, Yeah, it’s it’s a tough conversation to have because I think especially in a time where for so long people’s Emotions were invalidated We and we’ve come up with this thing that my my feelings matter.

Yes, your feelings matter, but They are also based off beliefs that can be wrong. So let’s say I’m trying to think of a not really [00:29:00] divisive topic to use as an example, but let’s say I’m, I’m, I’m saying that I’m a failure, let’s say the feelings that I have that come on the back of that may be depression, may be sadness, may be despair.

But, uh, I believe that every single person has the ability to grow and to do more and do better because that’s because we’re animals and animals can do that. Animals adapt, animals learn. So my feelings that I’m useless or incapable that creates these These emotions that sorry, my beliefs that I’m incapable or useless that create these emotions that, um, feel really awful, just because I feel really awful doesn’t mean that those beliefs that I had were true or that [00:30:00] they’re they’re valid, because there are there are many.

Is this making sense? I feel like I know what I mean, but I don’t know if I’m portraying it. Absolutely.

Mat: And, you know, I’m thinking of my example earlier when you’re the email came. And people ignore something that I was working on very hard and, you know, people just did their own thing and, you know, and I was very angry about it because, you know, for me, I thought, you know, what happened to collaboration.

Um, but I guess if I’m kind of saying without, you know, my emotion was anger, my feelings were being trampled, my value was being trampled. And I suppose that the. You know, the thinking behind that was that, that, that, you know, they, they knew what I was doing. They deliberately went against what I was doing.

They chose to ignore sort of my collaboration, whereas actually sort of in the discussion here, you know, what you’re saying is that like, maybe they have no idea who I am. Perhaps they’ve never heard of it. Maybe it was done by somebody who doesn’t know anything about me, or maybe they didn’t think that I’d care, or perhaps they didn’t email me because they know that I’m very busy, or maybe they did ask me to do [00:31:00] something, I send them a snotty email back saying, please don’t email me, and they said, we won’t bother Matt, he won’t care, and last time he was really upset and he was really stroppy when we sent him an email, so, you know, my thinking that they deliberately trampled sort of this collaboration, I mean, who knows, maybe they did, maybe they didn’t.

Is that, that may be a good, good, is that the kind of thing you’re talking about?

Matthew: Yeah, I think there’s definitely truth in that, that we, we very much think that we know people’s intentions, the reasoning behind why people choose to do certain things when ultimately we could be right, but there’s also probably an infinite amount of other reasons why things happened that the way that they did.

Um, and, I think, I think we also, if we, if we overly believe our emotions, um, we also rob ourselves from the [00:32:00] ability to, to be wrong, which I think is incredibly important. If we, if we relate our emotional experience to fact, then, then they become so inextricably linked that. Us becoming wrong about something is a personal attack or a personal violation of some kind.

Whereas if I believe something and I’m wrong, I might have an emotional response to it, but it doesn’t change anything about who I am. So if we think about like, I, I don’t think the, I don’t think flat earthers are probably listening to this podcast. So let’s, let’s use that as an example. They might be, I don’t know, but, um, I feel confident enough in who I am in my, my, um, my state in the world to say that we, most people, uh, believe that the [00:33:00] earth is round, let’s say.

And just because someone believes that the earth is flat, they believe that they feel very emotionally strongly about that. It doesn’t mean that that’s true. So, when I talk about just because you feel a certain way doesn’t mean you’re right, it’s not to invalidate anything, it’s just to put out there that, yeah, you can feel really strongly about something and be wrong.

And again, it goes back to this thing of we see it in other people. We see how people feel very strongly when, whether it’s a parent figure or a lover or a friend, how they can feel really, really, really strongly about something and then be wrong about it. But with ourselves, we don’t, we don’t let that be true.

Mat: And I suppose if there’s a fusion between, you know, that emotion and the belief, it’s very difficult, [00:34:00] you know, going back to your comment about allowing ourselves to be wrong and changing our mind. I mean, you know, who knows, who knows whether the earth is flat around. Maybe we’re wrong. Yeah. So, but the point is, the point is, it’s, it’s when those, when, when the emotion and belief are so close together, you, you lose the ability to take a step back and consider The other person’s point of view, which may be, you know, in the case of in the case of flat earth, that’s fine.

But if I kind of thing in my, in my maybe some of the meetings that I go to, if there’s an emotion and the thought belief that’s, that’s fused, that that’s not productive when you’re trying to have a professional meeting, you know, between between a range of people that are all there trying to do the best for the patients.

Because, you know, there needs to be, there needs to be a gap for all of us to be prepared to listen to somebody else not, not necessarily agree with the other person, but listen to the other person’s point of view. And, and I guess, you know, when, when emotions are flying high, then [00:35:00] I think people are not prepared to listen to the other person’s point of view.

And that’s, that’s problematic. Yeah,

Matthew: why do we grip so tightly to the need to be right? We can believe that we are right, but especially as you talk about working with patients and having the patient’s care at the forefront, if my emotional reactivity is getting in the way of the care that I’m trying to give to the, the patient, that should tell me something about myself more than about what’s going on in that room.

And we need only. We look at the history of medicine to, to know that there have been many, uh, periods of time where certain things were believed to be true, and then more evidence came out and it changed. And that will continue to be the case. So why do we need to attach our identity to the things that we believe in that moment?

Mat: Let me move us along. You said earlier That, um, you used the term that people [00:36:00] choose to stay because you know, there’s lots and lots of, um, doctors, the healthcare professionals that are, that are, that are suffering with burnout, um, and struggle, they struggle to, to thrive and flourish, you know, in the kind of ever changing complex environment that, that is healthcare, um, and, you know, often people contemplate leaving medicine.

Often people think the grass is greener on the other side. And then. An interesting thing for me with the conversation that I have with people outside the medicine is that the grass often is not greener on the other side. Yeah, so it’s a different shade of green rather than greener. I think sort of that’s kind of the way that I would describe it.

But you use the term, you know, people choose. People choose to stay and people accept the demands of the space that is around them. And why, why is it so powerful when somebody chooses to stay, chooses to engage, you know, chooses to continue to do good, good work? Why is that choice such an important, powerful thing?

Matthew: Feeling as though we have [00:37:00] taken control of our lives is incredibly important. It makes us so much more resilient and resourceful when we feel like we’re in this scenario because we want to be here. We know the consequences and the realities of existing in a certain space and choose to stay there anyway.

When we shift out of what feels like conscious choice and has moved into situational happenstance, It can feel much more like we’re trapped or a prisoner or a victim of things. And then it’s harder to be resourceful. It’s harder to, to seek out positive change because you don’t feel as though you have any control.

So recognizing that you could throw it all away tomorrow, completely leave, you have that choice, I think empowers you to, to, Advocate for yourself and what you want and need in that space. Ultimately, the [00:38:00] realities are what they are. And maybe in some spaces you can’t get exactly what you want, but it’s your life to curate.

If you spend all your time fighting against the reality of a certain hospital, let’s say, with a structure and, uh, infrastructure that it has, with the personalities that it has, if you spend all your time fighting against that when you have seen that nothing is going to change, at that point you’re keeping yourself in a scenario that you’re not happy about.

So, what, what control can you take? And it might not be leaving medicine, but maybe it’s changing the way you want to interact with it. Maybe changing the space you’re in the, I don’t know, X, Y, and Z. I’m not as familiar with the nuance of it, but feeling as though you have control to make the choice to exist in a space is very, very important.

I think in

Mat: medicine, for me, the way that that plays out. You know, the usual conversation is, you know, I don’t like [00:39:00] it. It’s all too difficult. You know, I’m, I’m going to leave. And then normally the first thing that comes up for me is, you know, like, why did you do it in the first place? You know, you worked two years of A levels, five years of medical school, however many years of postgraduate training.

And then you, you, you really saying that it’s not for you. And I kind of say, well, you know, it has been for you for the last 10 years, you worked for the last 10 years or whatever to get to this stage. And you know, how, how all of a sudden is this no longer the right career for you? And, you know, that’s the kind of question that, that, that often comes up for me.

And, but it’s, it’s that it’s, it’s how people, how people adjust, you know, whether, whether that’s, I like, I like, you know, the question of what is it, what is in people’s controls and how they engage with the situation and, and a really useful one for me there would be around, you know, what, what, what matters, you know, why did somebody do medicine in the first place?

You know, what, what, what, why did you do it in the first place? And then connecting and identifying that, and, you know, for [00:40:00] most people it’s because, you know, I want to make a difference and, you know, and actually, um, I would argue that, that, that the, the worst. the healthcare system is, the easier it is for us to make a difference.

And that kind of people say, like, what do you mean? And what I mean by that is because, you know, if healthcare was perfect, and we had all the resources in the world, and everything was easy, and everybody got what they wanted, it’s it’s I wonder, would we all go into the workplace and say, Well, you know, I’m just turning up, you know, this is really easy.

I’m not having to work hard. Whereas if you, if you go into a sort of environment that’s challenging, which healthcare is, um, that, that’s difficult, that’s stressful, and then you kind of sort of say, well, actually, you know, yeah, this is really tough, but, but actually that’s my opportunity to make a difference.

Maybe this is my value, speaking rather than anybody else’s, Matthew, but you know, the value is, is to make a difference. Then one of the things for me is the, the, the worst the system is, the easier it is [00:41:00] For me to make a difference. Am I making sense? Yeah, you,

Matthew: you are making sense. And I think there are a few points that I, I want to bring up there.

I think one reconnecting with values, as you say, what drove you to do that? Also, I always talk about the other side of the coin. Nothing in life is free. Everything comes at a cost. So for the benefits, uh, that you’re receiving. For the benefits that you’re receiving, are you prepared to pay the cost? So as you continue to collect data, you get to say no.

You get to say after 10 years of education, now that I’m in the space doing it, I don’t think this is for me. And I don’t want to pay the price that it, that this is asking me to pay. But also when we talk about cognitive distortions, black or white thinking, okay, so you have these values that drove you to do this for this long, this environment.

Does not give [00:42:00] you what you wanted. So what, with all those, with all those facts being true, what do we do now? And maybe it’s something around finding a different space to be in a different speciality, a different work environment. Maybe it’s a clinic that’s nine to five instead of a hospital. That’s 7 million hour shifts.

You know, it doesn’t have to be all one thing or, or, or nothing. And I think it’s, um, That’s the joy of the journey you get to decide because maybe after five years of doing that really intense thing it’s It’s then, it then becomes time to focus on some other values. Maybe family comes into the picture, or you, you feel your life’s going by and you want to travel more.

And if we get too, um, stuck in our identity, it can be hard to adjust to those changing values. And if we just accept that life has different seasons, [00:43:00] um, it can be quite important for our well being. Again, it’s that choice of being there, which, uh, which is crucial.

Mat: This really resonates, you know, because what I talk about, I talk about the conveyor belt career, that sort of, you know, people step on a conveyor belt at the age of 14, and, you know, and they kind of, they go to the conveyor belt and then, you know, they come sort of out, you know, the other end when they retire, if you like, and an awful lot of people never step off that conveyor belt, or the discussion is, I’m either on the conveyor belt, Or I’m off the conveyor belt.

Yeah, it’s sort of actually, you know, what you’re saying is that it’s much more complex than that. It’s not as simple as you’re either on or off the conveyor belt, because you can be on the conveyor belt for six months of the year and not the other six months. You can be on the conveyor belt on Monday or Tuesday.

You know, you can hop onto another conveyor belt, or maybe you can be on four different conveyor belts, you know. in time, you know, as, as well as a lift and an escalator. Um, it’s sort of that, it’s that, that nuances [00:44:00] that, that, that’s, that creates a much richer career, um, rather than sort of, you know, this is the only path and that’s the only career that’s possible.

Matthew: And that’s why when I say like, be wary of giving too much importance to your emotions is because maybe you have a period of three months where work is awful. Those feelings that come up that feel very real feel really important if you let that erase everything else Then you’re really, you’re not honoring the reality of who you are, what you want, and you’re just reacting to trying to get away from something that feels uncomfortable.

If you mind those emotions for data, where you can then say, Oh, actually, I’m learning that my wants and needs are X, Y, and Z, and I need to just fine tune this. So that it feels a bit better because things have changed and I’m not as happy now. Um, that’s so much more powerful than just going, everything is [00:45:00] awful and I need to run away from it.

Mat: I’d like to go back sort of to, to the other side of the coin and the price metaphor. Yeah. So, cause you said, you know, there’s this, I’m gaining something by going in and following my values, but, but there’s a price to pay. And there’s a question, you know, am I willing to pay that price or not? But if I kind of play with that metaphor, I’m thinking, you know, Okay.

Well, I suppose if I had more money in the bank, it would be easier for me to pay. The price. So, so how do I get more money in the bank so that I am able to pay more? In other words, how can I build my resilience so that I am able to, to deal with, with more challenges at work than I would otherwise.

Matthew: I’m trying to connect those two things. So I’m gonna, I’m gonna repeat what I mean, and you’ll tell me if, and can you just modify what you’re asking me? So, um, when I say nothing’s free, it’s like, for example, I’m an entrepreneur now. I [00:46:00] used to be in the civil service. I worked at Government Life, which was, I went in at nine, left at five, didn’t think about work outside of work.

And it was, it got to a point where I was not feeling challenged, I wasn’t feeling heard, I wasn’t feeling, you know, I had a great team, lovely people I was working with, but just as far as what I wanted out of my life. It wasn’t giving me that. Now I’m an entrepreneur. I work from the moment I wake up to the morning moment.

I go to bed at like some point, like I have breaks in between. I do take, I make sure I take care of my self care and stuff. I would love to have that leave at five disconnect until I go in the next day. Now, like the freedom that I have as an entrepreneur, I pay the price in being on the clock more and having less of an idea of My paycheck coming in consistently the same amount all the time.

So when I talk about paying the price, it’s like, you know, you give some things [00:47:00] and you get some things. So when the, the question that you asked me was kind of more, what I perceived was more around like that inner resourcefulness of like filling up the tank so that you can deal with the tough things that come up.

And I think that’s where we need to take responsibility. In advocating for ourselves and obviously the workplace does have a responsibility to make sure that it’s offering it’s it’s it’s tackling some of the institutional challenges that come up, but we also have to when we feel that our wellness is suffering, we need to take responsibility and say this is what I want.

This is what I need to be healthier. happier because if we’re always putting it on other people, we’re, we’re such, we put ourselves in a position where we won’t get what we want, where we won’t get what we need. And then we’re a victim to circumstance as opposed to fighting for, or fighting for what we want, which is [00:48:00] tough to be in.

And as someone who’s burnt out, I lived that. I asked and asked and asked, um, to be given something. And I was very unwell. And I had to take control, which made, which meant making some difficult decisions that had long lasting consequences, but I am better and healthier and happier for it. Yeah, and I

Mat: think that that’s the challenge for us in health care is that the system is very challenging.

And, you know, there’s always issues with this. There’s a mismatch between demand and capacity. And, you know, and as doctors and patients, we find ourselves in the middle of that. And one side of that is, you know, is, you know, the structures that we work in, the funding, the organizations, the line management, you know, that does need to be better.

Um, equally that’s for us as doctors to influence. So, you know, sort of sometimes we say, well, you know, it’s the system, but you know, who’s the [00:49:00] system, the system that that’s us, isn’t it? So if you say the system needs to be better, but, you know, but the system is you and I, so that’s you and I need to be better.

So, so, you know, some of us have We can influence other people and we can we can help people above us and people below us and people on the same level as us and you know we can do that as well as helping ourselves. But if we kind of take a take a stance and say the system needs to do this for me, you know that that.

That might be tempting, but that’s playing a victim, isn’t it? And the reality is that, that, you know, the system is incapable of doing it for you, number one. Number two, you need to do it yourself. Number three, you and I are the system. And, you know, if there are things that need to change, well, you know, sort of it, it’s us that need to change it.

Matthew: And life’s not fair. Life’s not fair. So sometimes doing what you believe is right and fighting for your own, like being your own biggest advocate, being your own biggest hype man or support or cheerleader has consequences. That is just the [00:50:00] reality of things. And so trying to play both sides where you don’t disrupt things, but also demand what you want that very rarely do you get to ride that line.

Mat: Matthew, I’ll bring us to a close and maybe if I could ask you to perhaps summarize what we talked about, you know, where people, where can people go if they want to find out more about you and what your top tips would be.

Matthew: I think the summary for all of this would be just to remember that it is a journey, that there are going to be highs and lows, and that Mastery, when it comes to knowing oneself, it’s hard to do.

So as soon as you think, you know, something, something else will present itself and that’s okay, let yourself be imperfect because you are, I certainly am. And so that’s what I try to demonstrate on my socials, Instagram, Matthew CT Fuller, because it is a constant journey and lessons are plentiful. If you decide to, if you decide to learn them, they will always [00:51:00] be there.

We talk about there being. good days and growth days. I stole that from a friend of mine. And I think that, um, that’s so true. I think if we look at the challenges in our lives as opportunity to learn about ourselves and about how we feel and want to interact with the world around us, we won’t suffer so much.

So that’s what I would say.

Mat: Wonderful. I love that. Thank you very much, Matthew. Thanks, Matt.

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