Dr Tom Mulholland's Key Topics of Thought

Passing Healthy Thinking Tools On - Key Thoughts for Doctors from Dr Tom Mulholland

Dr Tom Mulholland is an Emergency Department physician at Auckland Hospital, an honorary lecturer in psychological medicine at Auckland Clinical School and founder of the Healthy Thinking Institute.

Tom_Mulholland_2.png

In conversation with Dr Sam Hazledine, Tom discusses his research on workplace stress, emotional control, productivity and healthy thinking. We’ve extracted some of the key topics of thought from Tom and Sam’s conversation on understanding stress in the medical profession and how doctors can better handle it.

 

1/ Check your hardware

If you find yourself in a negative or stressful space, Tom recommends first doing a hardware check. Ask yourself; have I had enough sleep? Have I had enough nutrition? Have I had enough exercise? Do I like where I am? And then if you think “yeah, I tick all those boxes” then you can go “okay, well it’s not a hardware issue”. Obviously for doctors working long hours is one of the major causes of stress and trying to address that is part of a bigger issue of doctor burn-out.

 

2/ Check your software

After you check your hardware you can then look at your software - what you are thinking, because unhealthy thinking causes unhealthy emotion and attitudes which can cause unhealthy behaviour.

Dr Tom uses a technique he calls ‘Emotional Algebra’ to analyse his thoughts and change his mindset. Below is an excerpt from his book “Healthy Thinking. How to turn life’s lemons into lemonade”:

 

Trigger + Thought = Emotion

therefore

Emotion – Trigger = Thought

 

You then can ask yourself the following questions to analyse your thought before deciding how to react:

  • Is it true?
  • Does my original thought help me achieve my goal?
  • Was the unhealthy thought worth it?

 

Once you identify an unhealthy thought you can change it by using the following equation;

Attitude = Behaviour = Goal

or

Goal – Behaviour = Attitude

Set a goal and then select the attitude and behaviour you need to achieve it.

 

You can choose which direction your life goes on any day by:

  • Changing your thoughts
  • Then selecting your attitude
  • And adopting a behaviour

 

3/ Remember why you’re there and your compassion

Dr Tom thinks that despite how difficult it can be, you’ve got to remember why we’re doing what we’re doing and also to remember compassion. He suggests it’s about reconnecting with the skill and the privilege that we have.

“If you look at the five things that make people happy - friends, family, health, financial security and sense of purpose - we’ve lost our sense of purpose. But we can reinvigorate your sense of purpose. That’s why people go to Doctors Without Borders and Medicine San Frontier. That’s why I go and help out in developing countries.”

 

4/ Get help if you need it

As Dr Tom says “You wouldn’t say, ‘Just manage your diabetes yourself’, so why would you manage your stress yourself?” Putting your hand up and saying I need help is hard but Tom thinks it’s getting easier, “That’s why I wrote my book to say it happened to me, it can happen to you and this is how you deal with it.” You can then get into a preventative space where you can improve your performance and make less mistakes. And that is essentially Dr Tom’s mission; “That’s where I’m trying to shift things, be the ambulance at the top of the cliff and give people tools that they can use on a daily basis so they don’t end up in the ED.”

 

Want to hear more from exceptional doctors like Dr Tom Mulholland? Check our series of interviews and blog posts here.

What do you think about Dr Tom Mulholland’s approach? Get the conversation started, share your comments below.

 

Passing Healthy Thinking Tools On - Key Thoughts for Doctors from Dr Tom Mulholland

Dr Tom Mulholland is an Emergency Department physician at Auckland Hospital, an honorary lecturer in psychological medicine at Auckland Clinical School and founder of the Healthy Thinking Institute.

Tom_Mulholland_2.png

In conversation with Dr Sam Hazledine, Tom discusses his research on workplace stress, emotional control, productivity and healthy thinking. We’ve extracted some of the key topics of thought from Tom and Sam’s conversation on understanding stress in the medical profession and how doctors can better handle it.

 

1/ Check your hardware

If you find yourself in a negative or stressful space, Tom recommends first doing a hardware check. Ask yourself; have I had enough sleep? Have I had enough nutrition? Have I had enough exercise? Do I like where I am? And then if you think “yeah, I tick all those boxes” then you can go “okay, well it’s not a hardware issue”. Obviously for doctors working long hours is one of the major causes of stress and trying to address that is part of a bigger issue of doctor burn-out.

 

2/ Check your software

After you check your hardware you can then look at your software - what you are thinking, because unhealthy thinking causes unhealthy emotion and attitudes which can cause unhealthy behaviour.

Dr Tom uses a technique he calls ‘Emotional Algebra’ to analyse his thoughts and change his mindset. Below is an excerpt from his book “Healthy Thinking. How to turn life’s lemons into lemonade”:

 

Trigger + Thought = Emotion

therefore

Emotion – Trigger = Thought

 

You then can ask yourself the following questions to analyse your thought before deciding how to react:

  • Is it true?
  • Does my original thought help me achieve my goal?
  • Was the unhealthy thought worth it?

 

Once you identify an unhealthy thought you can change it by using the following equation;

Attitude = Behaviour = Goal

or

Goal – Behaviour = Attitude

Set a goal and then select the attitude and behaviour you need to achieve it.

 

You can choose which direction your life goes on any day by:

  • Changing your thoughts
  • Then selecting your attitude
  • And adopting a behaviour

 

3/ Remember why you’re there and your compassion

Dr Tom thinks that despite how difficult it can be, you’ve got to remember why we’re doing what we’re doing and also to remember compassion. He suggests it’s about reconnecting with the skill and the privilege that we have.

“If you look at the five things that make people happy - friends, family, health, financial security and sense of purpose - we’ve lost our sense of purpose. But we can reinvigorate your sense of purpose. That’s why people go to Doctors Without Borders and Medicine San Frontier. That’s why I go and help out in developing countries.”

 

4/ Get help if you need it

As Dr Tom says “You wouldn’t say, ‘Just manage your diabetes yourself’, so why would you manage your stress yourself?” Putting your hand up and saying I need help is hard but Tom thinks it’s getting easier, “That’s why I wrote my book to say it happened to me, it can happen to you and this is how you deal with it.” You can then get into a preventative space where you can improve your performance and make less mistakes. And that is essentially Dr Tom’s mission; “That’s where I’m trying to shift things, be the ambulance at the top of the cliff and give people tools that they can use on a daily basis so they don’t end up in the ED.”

 

Want to hear more from exceptional doctors like Dr Tom Mulholland? Check our series of interviews and blog posts here.

What do you think about Dr Tom Mulholland’s approach? Get the conversation started, share your comments below.

 

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