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Mental health and wellbeing: Recognising triggers

Your mental wellbeing is particularly vulnerable at times of high stress, both within the workplace and outside of it. Some important triggers for dips in mental wellbeing are highlighted below.

Domestic triggers Professional triggers
Relationship breakdown Appraisals and revalidation
Financial stress Professional exams and career progression
Unwell child/partner/parent Working out of hours
Missing significant events Dealing or being involved with complaints
Being away from loved ones (geographically) Exposure to traumatic events
Moving house Geographical uncertainty of placements
Bereavement Difficult work relationships
Personal ill health Heavy workloads

Anticipating and preparing for trigger events can help you to build strategies for coping with the stress and changes that come with them, but also allow room for dealing with the unexpected.

Read blogs from doctors discussing the mental health trigger points for trainee physicians and tips for new consultants.

Accept what you cannot change

Covey’s circles of influence (Adapted from: The seven habits of highly effective people by Stephen R Covey. Simon & Schuster, 1992).

In his book, The seven habits of highly effective people, Steven Covey explores the differences between proactive and reactive individuals. Proactive individuals focus their time and energy on the things in their lives that they can directly control; their circle of influence. While they initially focus on a narrow field, as their efforts take effect they are able to expand their circle of influence.

The circle of influence lies within the circle of concern, the area where reactive individuals focus their time. This contains all of the other things that contribute to life; the things that we often cannot control and spend a lot of time worrying about. Spending time and energy here can be exhausting, frustrating and ultimately demoralising. Reactive individuals find that their circle of influence becomes smaller as they expend more emotional energy battling against the things that they cannot control.

As described in the RCP’s 2013 publication, Keeping medicine brilliant, a sense of autonomy is fundamental to maintaining intrinsic work motivation. Part of this is the ability to recognise those factors that fall within your broader circle of concern versus those that fall within your circle of influence.

A simple exercise to focus the mind and let go of unnecessary stressors could involve making a list of the current frustrations, tasks and ideas you have (be it life in general or professionally), and considering which of these fall into your circle of concern and which into your circle of influence. It can be surprisingly liberating to ‘park’ some worries that lie outside your own control and concentrate on those things where you can make a difference. Don’t forget that little things can often make a big difference in increasing your circle of influence.

Find out more

The RCP’s Mental health and wellbeing resource aims to support physicians to stay well and seek help when needed by opening up the conversation about mental health issues and their impact.