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At a time when their skills are needed more than ever, doctors are forced to deal with long working hours, stress and pressure in the course of their work. On Doctors Day, three medical professionals tell us how they turned to hobbies to keep stress away

Works of Dr. Govil Bhasker

The past two years have been a reminder of the dedication and risks healthcare professionals face in providing for their patients. From long working hours, wearing uncomfortable PPE (personal protective equipment) and fatigue to the lack of infrastructure, their paths have been strewn with pitfalls. Add to that the difficulty of self-care and the lack of facilities; it’s easy to see why medicine is a stressful profession. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. On Physician’s Day, three medical professionals reveal how they overcame this professional hazard by honing their passions and interests.

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Dr. Debraj Shome, Senior Cosmetic Surgeon and Director, The Esthetic Clinics

For Dr. Shome, fitness was a way of life rather than a trend. An athlete since he was a medical student, he often took up exercise to let off steam. It is also a professional requirement, he tells us. “I need to be able to stand for an eight-hour operation if needed and have the mobility to move around if needed,” he explains. With gyms closed during the pandemic, Shome resorted to a simpler, more basic way to burn off his stress. “I’ve realized that bodyweight exercises and calisthenics – like planks, pull-ups and push-ups work just as well. You don’t need a lot for a good workout,” he claims. a few rings and bars, Shome managed to create a gym routine to stay in shape. “Exercise as a repetitive activity requires you to engage your mind really hard. Then you stop thinking about the peripheral activities that clutter your thoughts. It’s relaxing and releases endorphins like dopamine in the brain,” he explains.

Canvas therapy
Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker, Bariatric and Laparoscopic Surgery Consultant, Saifee and Spectra Hospitals

“All professions are to some degree stressful. But medicine is on another level,” Dr. Govil Bhasker tells us. Although not on the front lines of the pandemic, the surgeon has witnessed the struggles and pressures of her colleagues as well as many families. “One of our jobs is also to reassure patients’ families when things don’t go as planned. It can be a huge burden to bear sometimes. We are human after all,” she reminds us. To express his emotions, the doctor turned to the canvas. It was a childhood hobby she has returned to over the past five years.

She tells us, “In medical school, you don’t have time to cultivate these hobbies. But it was the pandemic that really pushed her to paint as an outlet. His sketches capture life on the hospital wards through the perspective of a medical professional. “I’ve always loved colors and the process of creating something. Some people write; I paint,” she adds. As a practice, she strongly recommends doing something unrelated to your profession to let off steam. “It will help you relax and refocus at work,” she says.

Bonds That Heal
Dr. Vikrant Shah, Consultant Physician and Infectious Disease Specialist, Zen Multi-specialty Hospital

For Dr Shah, the frontline was home during the pandemic. As an infectious disease specialist, he admits the pandemic was something you couldn’t predict. Yet through it all, Shah admits that sometimes it takes time. “It’s important that everyone has a hobby.” Dr. Shah’s hobby is collecting ties. What started as an effort to look presentable soon turned into a collection of 200 ties (left) from around the world. “It has become a ritual in my house that the tie comes before the rest of my outfit. I would choose the matching shirts,” he laughs.

The ties were part of his effort to add personality to brighten up and instill optimism in dark days. Not everyone needs to start collecting ties, he tells us, “It’s my unique hobby.” Additionally, Dr. Shah shares a fondness for cycling and swimming. Exercise, he says, is key to beating stress. “If you’re not physically fit, you can’t be mentally fit,” he reminds us. He suggests taking time out of work to travel, see new places, or cultivate a hobby. Above all, Shah suggests keeping an open mind to the big picture. “The key is to keep learning new things,” he recommends.