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My positive outlook has given me a new lease of life as a GP

Dr Natheera Indrasenan explains how you can effectively improve practice life if you put your mind to it

s general practice wearing you down? What would it take for you to enjoy life again, motivated in surgery and able to handle stress?

Two years ago I was a salaried GP. During an appraisal with the senior partner, I was asked: 'Where do you see yourself in general practice in a few years' time?' To my horror, my mind went a complete blank. I thought, this is simply not a job I'm going to be able to do for the rest of my life.

I've always believed in using preventive strategies to deal with stress, so I decided to train in neurolinguistic programming (NLP) and coaching. The skills I learned have made all the difference. In my experience, these strategies for coping with stress really do help.

Neurolinguistic programming is a system whereby you concentrate on the positive rather than the negative. If you believe you're no good at something, or can't find a way out of a stressful situation, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Conversely, positive thinking tends to lead to an upbeat frame of mind where solutions are found and things start to go well.

What you do is visualise things as you hope they will be ­ absence of form-filling, patients who comply with your advice, whatever. Visualise it as brightly and accurately and convincingly as possible. You will find that if you do this regularly and with commitment, things will start to improve. You will find a way to make them improve, slowly at first, and then with increasing effectiveness.

I was feeling bored so I started doing things outside general practice. I started public speaking. I'm setting up a hospice in Sri Lanka. I'm writing a book. All this has energised me and revitalised my interest in general practice.

Now, rather than thinking I have no choice in certain situations, I know that I can find a way to deal with anything. Rather than dreading problems, I know that all problems can be opportunities. Now I ask myself: 'How can I turn this problem to my advantage?'

The key is to ask yourself: what do you really want out of life? If you came into general practice to help patients and cure illness, and are feeling depressed and burnt out because you spend most of your time not doing this, find a way to put things right.

And if your reaction is, that's not possible, ask why it isn't possible. Have you tried? Once you make a start in trying to put things right, the process gathers momentum.

In my experience

These are the chief mistakes GPs make when they feel run down and dissatisfied with their work

 · They ignore the problem

 · They won't discuss it or seek help, even in an informal way

 · They refuse to be creative in their thinking ­ they can't see the possibility of change

 · They're afraid of change

 · They can't see that problems are there to be solved, and can be solved

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