There’s a new warning sign on the road that leads up to our health centre. It reads ‘caution small children’.
So I do. Every time I drive past the newly opened nursery’s entrance I wind the car window down and yell: ‘Don’t even think about a career in medicine’.
When I was a school kid my teachers labelled me as ‘observant’, along with ‘disruptive’, ‘cheeky’ and ‘a malign influence on others’. Being ‘observant’ is now passé, and to those fluent in psychobabble I would now be considered ‘mindful’.
And mark my words, ‘mindfulness’ is going to be the new ‘wellness’. Watch out for the re-branding exercises near you. Sacks full of business cards in the recycling bins, queues of quacks outside print shops picking up replacements, ‘Ms. B. Gotten-Gains, consultant mindfulness practitioner’.
Mindfulness is such a powerful tool that apparently ‘three quarters of GPs think it would be beneficial for all patients to learn meditation skills’.1
They’re preaching to the choir there and no mistake. There are some things people shouldn’t do with their mouths open; eat, breathe and think. I’ve got patients capable of doing all three, simultaneously. Dropping in the occasional mental semi-colon would do them no harm at all.
The BeMindful online test, based on the ‘Perceived Stress Scale’ (nope, I hadn’t heard of it either but it registered pretty highly on my ‘Perceived Bullshitting Scale’) asks: ‘Do you feel unable to control important things in your life?’
Like my workload? You and me both.
And so on and so on. If you took the Pulse burnout test the other week you’d recognise the questions.
‘Do you feel stressed?’
I’m taking a punt on this, but I was pretty sure that the answer ‘You bet your ass!’ would have scored pretty highly on a ‘Perceived Stress Scale’.
But, proving that the ability to rant in public about the horrors of what I now laughably refer to as my ‘career choice’ is, in itself, therapeutic, I only managed a paltry 50% on the Stress-o-Meter – a score so low that it made me feel that I’d let the side down.
I should be far more stressed by the crap that’s raining down on us than I am. I should be scoring 80%+ on a close marked scale. I should be writing letters to newspapers, calling in to talk radio stations and brandishing placards on city centre demos.
But I don’t. The best I can manage is to write columns, tweet tweets and post blogs.
I realise now that, no matter which party is in government, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to give a toss.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield.
1 Mental Health Foundation. http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-news/news-archive/2010/2010-01-05/