December 2018 Newsletter

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STRESS

I was going to write this month’s newsletter about stress management and decided that what most of us need isn’t just stress management it’s stress reduction. Sure, we can do relaxation, mindfulness practices, meditation, get plenty of sleep, eat healthily and exercise to help manage our stress but wouldn’t it be better to reduce the stress? Yet many people find this hard to do. Our lives have become so busy that we are under continual stress to be somewhere or do something almost all the time. Our children’s lives are so full of school and after school activities that their heads are spinning too. We have changed from human beings to human doings.

How can we reduce the busyness of our lives? How can we reduce our stress instead of just managing it?

One answer is that we need to declutter our lives – declutter both our physical space and our time allocation. Two years ago, I started the process of decluttering my physical space. When we declutter our physical possessions, we look at each item we own and decide whether it brings us joy or whether it is a necessity. If it doesn’t bring us joy or it isn’t a necessity, we sell it or give it away or throw it out. We gradually surround ourselves with only things that are necessary or bring us joy. We can bring this awareness to how we spend our money as well by only buying things that bring us joy or are necessary. This helps the environment and our pockets.

We can do this in other areas of our life as well. How we spend our time is just as important; does what we do bring us joy? Is that time spent on an activity a necessity or a joyful experience? If it is neither then maybe, we could look at not doing it. We could decide to only spend our time on what brings us joy and what is necessary. This is a choice we make every day and if our lives are too full of stress part of the problem is that we fill them full of too many activities. We could look at how we spend both our money and our time more thoughtfully and we might find we can change our lives for the better.

Last year I decided to leave conventional general practice because I wasn’t enjoying my work. There is the necessity of needing money to live on, so I do need to work which is why I started at Safflower clinic. I now choose to spend longer with patients and not stress myself out with ten-minute consultations. Sure, I earn less money but now I try to spend less money. I try not to buy things I don’t really need, and I am aware when I buy stuff that it may have an impact of the earth and on my pocket. I could work more or harder, but I choose to work less and buy less and spend more time doing things that bring me joy. I spend more time writing and gardening and walking and having fun with family and friends.

I have taken on more study and find this can be a source of stress if I try to be a perfectionist about it. Like most people my expectations of myself can be too high so I try to find the joy in the study and if it’s just a drag I only do what is necessary. Since I started at Safflower life has been a bit too full of work and study, so I am considering whether to defer next year’s study or do less study. Each activity in our life can be examined and we can let go of those activities that don’t fill us with joy or aren’t necessary. In this way we help reduce our stress levels, which is really the best stress management technique there is.

If you would like to buy a copy of my book – Holistic Medicine, Beyond the Physical – copies are available on my website for $30 including postage in Australia or you can pick a copy up at Safflower Clinic for $20.

Disclaimer. This newsletter is for research and entertainment purposes only. The information given in this site is not intended to replace a therapeutic practitioner relationship.

October Newsletter

I thought I’d share my October newsletter on my blog. This is a new initiative and if you’d like to join the mailing list please sign up on my website.

I’m spending the weekend hunkered down in my house because the island has been invaded by thousands of people for the motorcycle Grand prix. Like many locals I did my shopping early and will try not to venture on the roads too much. It’s good timing because I have my Chinese medicine exams coming up in a week or so and I really need to study.

I had already written this newsletter earlier in the week but mysteriously it had disappeared from my computer, which has been prone to gremlins recently. I’ve lost a couple of documents I’ve been working on and had sent off some work only to find I had sent an empty file. All that work had disappeared into the ether. I got very frustrated and angry with my computer.

The original newsletter was about Qi and energy flow. Qi is the Chinese concept of the energy that animates all life and connects all our parts and all the parts of the universe. It is a hard thing to define in western terms. The newsletter had been about how to better manage our Qi so that we stayed healthy. It discussed things that probably everyone has read many times before – everything in moderation, meditate, do tai chi, walk barefoot on the earth (beach!), surround ourselves with positive people and energies. All great things to do to calm and ground ourselves and to connect ourselves with people and nature.

Such things are easiest to do when our lives are flowing well. What do we do when things go wrong? How do we manage our Qi and our energy then? Sure my computer glitches aren’t major problems but my rising levels of frustration could have disturbed my Qi even more than it did if I hadn’t remembered to step away from the problem and pay more attention to my feelings. I’ve written at length about this in my book but basically too often we get enmeshed in our problems and fail to step back and look at the bigger picture. We also don’t pay attention to our feelings; we ignore them, or deny we feel them, or use drugs or alcohol to numb them. Feelings and emotions are stirred up energy or Qi. They indicate something isn’t right and we should pay them attention. We can do this by feeling them rather than avoiding them. I took a step back from the problem and went out to the garden to weed and plant some seeds to help process the frustration. I let myself feel frustrated and gradually I became aware of other feelings that I had been bottling up. Once we feel the emotions we often become aware of other issues we have been ignoring. For me it was that I had been working and studying too hard and that I needed to do more positive things – like meditate, tai chi, walk on the beach. And that everything in moderation is a good Chinese habit to aim for; less study and more play.

Now when I am stuck in some way and don’t know what to do and even gardening and planting seeds doesn’t completely get me unstuck I know it is time to write. Writing it out may not be for everyone but most of us have some form of creative expression that helps us restore us to ourselves. It might be singing or dancing or painting or knitting but it sure is good to make space in our lives to do it. Of course I could make time for writing without having computer gremlins bring the lack of writing space to my attention. But like many of us I ignore my energy imbalance until it erupts in some way. Once again I came to the realization that taking time out to do my writing is important for my inner self. I realized that Qi doesn’t just need calming and grounding and connection but also inspiration and passion and creativity.

We can meditate and do tai chi and walk on the beach to calm and ground ourselves. We can nurture our connections to people and nature. But if we don’t also make time to be creative and follow our passions our lives can lack a certain spark. So remember to spark up your Qi with some creativity and passion on a regular basis.

 

 

If you would like to buy a copy of my book – Holistic Medicine, Beyond the Physical – copies are available on my website for $30 including postage in Australia or you can pick a copy up at Safflower Clinic for $20.

 

I acknowledge and pay respect to the Elders and Traditional Owners of the land on which I work and live.

 

Disclaimer. This newsletter is for research and entertainment purposes only. The information given in this site is not intended to replace a therapeutic practitioner relationship.

Safflower Chinese Medicine Clinic

Opening  a GP practice at Safflower Chinese Medicine Clinic. 

I’m pleased to announce that I will be joining Safflower Chinese Medicine Clinic as an Integrative GP. I will be starting on Monday August 20th and consulting three days a week on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

The services I will offer as an integrative GP at Safflower are as follows –

  • Long consultations (history, examination, referrals, conventional and alternative treatment options)
  • Shorter follow up consultations (results, feedback and follow up treatments)
  • Routine appointments (for short general practice issues and laser acupuncture)
  • Routine appointments will be bulk billed for health care card holders and pensioners

I will offer longer consultations where I will spend time listening, taking a history, examining the person and ordering investigations where necessary to arrive at a shared understanding of the person’s health issues from a holistic perspective. I will then work with the person to explore both conventional and alternative treatment options considering the mind, the body and the spiritual aspects.

I have an interest in complex problems that may not have an easy diagnosis and I enjoy working long term with patients to explore their health issues and help them find ways to heal. I am also interested in all mental health issues and will explore with people the psycho-spiritual aspects that lie behind many mental health problems.

I will also offer routine consultations and advice on any general practice issues however the practice is not set up for emergencies or acute injuries. The practice is also not currently equipped to provide vaccinations, removal of skin lesions, suturing, ear syringing or pap smears.

I have an ongoing interest in laser acupuncture and will be able to incorporate this as one management option. I will work closely with other members of the team at Safflower to provide both a Western and an Eastern perspective on health issues.

I am currently studying a Masters in Applied Science in Chinese Herbal medicine at RMIT but am not yet able to prescribe Chinese herbs; for herbal prescriptions patients will need to see Brigitte, Eryn or Vicki.

More details about prices and booking an appointment will be available soon on the Safflower website.

 

 

The trouble with conventional medicine

I began this blog because I was disillusioned with conventional general practice and medicine in Australia. This disillusionment was part of the reason I recently retired but is it all the fault of general practice or a more global problem of contemporary life?

After all conventional medicine saves many lives and has made great advances in the last few decades. If you have a heart attack or a stroke or serious bacterial infection, medicine can, in many cases, save your life. For many cancers now the treatments can prolong life and sometimes cure. So what do I have to complain about?

I have been a GP for over thirty years and in that time I’ve seen many changes in medical therapies yet chronic diseases continue to have a major impact on many peoples lives and mental illness seems to be at epidemic levels. Obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, hypertension and other chronic illness all seem to be increasing at alarming rates.

Why are we getting sicker?

Why is medicine failing to make us healthier?

Of course there are many reasons for this but the primary one is that medicine generally looks for the quick fix to treat our illnesses. Give the patient a pill or a combination of pills and that will fix things. Cut out the offending part or bombard the body with toxic drugs. Of course these treatments often work in the short term but for mental health issues and other chronic diseases they rarely make a long lasting difference. What makes us sick is often our lifestyle yet medicine has failed to address most of our lifestyle issues.

Some of these issues are related to social concerns that doctors feel powerless to address. Problems of loneliness, isolation, lack of community and too little contact with the natural world are difficult to solve. Together with poor diet, busy stressful lives and lack of activity these issues shape our health in dramatic ways. Yet many patients aren’t willing to look at these issues preferring instead the quick fix of a medication. And many doctors go along with this because there is so little time to address the core issues of why so many of us are sick.

The most significant problem is that we have not yet adapted to modern life, which leads most of us to be under chronic stress. Our diets are nutrient poor and we just don’t do enough physical activity or sleep enough. Many of us work in jobs we dislike for enough money to maintain our over consuming lifestyles. We eat too much, we do too much and we have forgotten about the importance of good relationships and community ties. We also have forgotten about our connection to the natural world and about finding joy in our lives.

So why is medicine meant to address these greater issues?

I believe that doctors should be interested in changes that lead to better health and medicating patients rarely leads to permanent change. It just greases the wheels of a huge pharmaceutical industry. Doctors need to name the problem and in many cases the problem is our addiction to our modern lifestyles. It is our contemporary lifestyles that are leading to much of our disease. There are no quick fixes but changing our lives can lead to much better health outcomes and much happier patients.

Of course people don’t need doctors to make their lives better and healthier. Everyone can make changes to their lives that will improve their health and I will write about these in a future blog. But changing medicine to help people address these issues is important. Naturopaths, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, chiropractors and other complementary practitioners do not fail to address lifestyle issues with patients yet GPs and specialists too often just pay lip service to changing lifestyles while medicating the problem. A colleague of mine has started a clinic to help people try to cure their Type 2 Diabetes. Another clinic I have worked in has long appointments and tries to address the patient’s health holistically. Yet these are the outliers; most GPs spend 10-15 minutes with a patient and this time pressure leads to many of the problems.

The issue of course is how do we change a system that is so entrenched? I think we need to try a multi pronged approach.

First, patients need to educate themselves about lifestyle issues and their importance in treating disease. They need to demand this knowledge from their doctors.

Second, patients need to stop expecting quick fixes for chronic problems; people need to take responsibility for their health and make appropriate changes.

Third, the Medicare billing system needs to change so that there is not a financial disincentive to spend more time with patients. The Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) could spend more of their time and energy lobbying for these changes.

Fourth, the influence of pharmaceutical companies over doctors needs to be identified and discussed by the community and the media. Further regulatory changes need to be made to counteract the influence wielded by these goliaths.

Fifth, medical education needs to focus more on the importance of lifestyle issues. Nutrition and preventative strategies needs more emphasis in both under and postgraduate medical education.

Finally we all need to examine our own lifestyle choices and acknowledge their dramatic impact on our health and wellbeing.

 

 

#medicine, #general practice, #medication, #lifestyle

Endings

About ten days ago I retired from conventional general practice. It has been a long time coming but finally I had made the decision to pursue other interests. I am still doing some work in youth mental health at headspace but my focus will be on writing.

Writing is something I feel drawn towards in a way I once felt drawn towards medicine. Being a doctor is an absolute privilege and I have learnt so much from my interactions with all my patients. I have learnt all about holistic medicine from listening to people talk about their lives, their illnesses and the myriad ways in which healing occurs.

I would like to thank all the patients and staff who have supported me over the years and with whom I have forged relationships. Many patients have shared their inner most secrets with me and I feel fortunate to have been able to listen to them and hopefully help them towards their own healing. Healing is after all a natural process and as doctors much of what we do is try to provide the right conditions for the body to heal itself. Unfortunately conventional medicine is not so good at helping soul and spirit heal. Nor is it good at nurturing the patient’s connection with their soul and spirit.

While I hope I have helped some patients gain a better understanding of the importance of listening to their inner self, conventional general practice does not encourage this type of therapy. So I am glad to be leaving the system and striking out in a new direction.

I hope to continue to do one on one work in mental health but I don’t plan to return to general practice. I will allow life to unfold and see where my clinical work takes me. For now I feel called to spend much more time writing about healing and transformation and mental health issues. So this is a thank you to all those patients who have shared their lives with me over the years. It has been a privilege to be given your trust and to be a part of your journey.

 

Changing work

Changing work.

I have been a GP for over thirty years and for much of that time I have struggled with whether or not to change and do something else. I have enjoyed some of the work yet always in the back of my mind been a little unsatisfied. I have changed jobs many times trying to find the perfect GP job and stopped work for a year once to write. But each time I change jobs I find myself back in the same place I had left. Doing work that doesn’t quite fit with who I really am.

Finally I have decided to retire from conventional general practice work and will be leaving San Remo at the end of July.

This decision has not been made easily but I finally realised that I couldn’t keep working in a system that does not support the provision of holistic health care within the GP framework. In Australia our health system is time poor and drug rich; it caters for a quick fix when there are very few quick fixes that actually work to make us healthier.

I have struggled to practice holistic medicine within the GP system and I have therefore decided to give up on that particular struggle. I am sad to leave the patients who have supported me but I feel that I should follow my heart for a change. For too long I have followed my head and justified staying in general practice through logical reasoning. In a way I am moving into my own holistic wellness by shedding a job that stops me from being truly myself.

I’m taking a bit of a leap because I can’t afford to stop working completely yet I also can’t afford to keep doing a job that doesn’t fit with my passions and interests. It is a little soul destroying to do work that is not in line with who I really am.

So where to now? I’m going to continue part time at Headspace doing some youth mental health work as their model is much more holistic than the conventional GP system. I’m going to do more writing which is my biggest passion. And I’m going to allow life to unfold. Just like I write about in my book I’m going to trust the process of life and let go of the outcome and see where life takes me. I’ve tried to control the process around work for so long that I became stuck in a system that I didn’t agree with. It’s time for yet another change and I’m excited to see where life takes me now.

 

Sea Change

Yet another change is on the horizon. I have decided to make the move to Phillip Island, a place I have spent so many wonderful holidays. I’ve got a new job at San Remo Medical Clinic and I start next week – September 7th. I’ll be working there Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to begin with and will keep working at the NIIM clinic in Hawthorn on Tuesdays. I’ll also continue some of my work with RACGP in the medium term.

The change will be a bit challenging because I haven’t done rural General Practice for a while. I’ll have to update my emergency medicine skills and learn to remove fish hooks apparently. I’ll continue to offer Integrative Medicine at both NIIM and San Remo practices but the San Remo practice will be more conventional general practice.

I hope to eventually have more time to spend writing as I haven’t written a blog since March and haven’t updated my website with new information for almost as long. The website is getting more visitors all the time so I hope to increase the amount of information available as soon as possible.

 

 

 

Changing jobs

In a couple of weeks I’m changing jobs. I’m leaving Modern Medical in Balwyn where I have been for three years and moving to the NIIM clinic in Hawthorn. (NIIM – National Institute of Integrative medicine). This is much more than a change in practice location it is a change in practice philosophy.

While I tried to practice my version of holistic and integrative medicine in conventional general practice it is difficult to do so. There are time constraints and a certain set of patient expectations that occur in a conventional general practice. Changing to an integrative practice will give me more scope to practice a better version of holistic and integrative medicine.

The change came about somewhat serendipitously. Modern Medical was sold to a steel company and while we were reassured that nothing would change the sale gave me the opportunity to look at other options, one of which was the NIIM clinic.

As they state on their website “The NIIM Clinic is a leading provider of integrative and complementary healthcare, located in Hawthorn, Melbourne.

Housing Melbourne’s most prominent integrative General Practitioners and complementary medical staff, the NIIM Clinic facilitates treatment for a wide range of illnesses, including everyday ailments as well as chronic diseases such as diabetes, bowel disease, and heart disease, metabolic and endocrine disorders, cancer and others.”

While I am sad to be leaving such a great group of doctors and staff at Modern Medical I am very excited to be able to join the team at NIIM. I am really looking forward to helping empower patients to bring about their own healing through holistic and integrative approaches.

My book, Holistic Medicine – beyond the physical, discusses how people can gain more control over their health and learn how to heal themselves. I hope to bring these ideas to my practice and help patients to explore their health and illness in a holistic way and discover how to bring about greater healing.

www.drcarolhead.com.au