How doctors relieve their stress in the time of pandemic


At the forefront of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps it’s vital now more than ever that healthcare warriors take a breather to recharge their batteries. On National Doctors’ Day (July 1), we find out how some doctors unwind during their hectic schedule.

It’s been a multi-pronged fight for those in the health sector. With several hospitals across the country overwhelmed with COVID-19 caseloads, it’s an uphill task for doctors who have been at the forefront of the battle against the pandemic. But even superheroes sometimes need to take a breather in between saving the world.

This National Doctors’ Day, celebrated in honour of the birth and death anniversary (both fall on the same day) of eminent physician and Bharat Ratna awardee Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, we find out how some healthcare warriors unwind in these stressful times.

Blues to cure the blues

K R Radhakrishnan playing the saxophone

Perhaps, there’s nothing like music to help de-stress after putting in a hard days’ work. Dr. K R Radhakrishnan, a cardiac surgeon with a multi-specialty hospital in Chennai, is someone happy to trade the stethoscope for his saxophone once he’s back home. “That’s how I unwind every day. Being a cardiac surgeon, it helps to have nimble fingers,” he says with a chuckle. A jazz buff, Radhakrishnan also plays the clarinet, the harmonica and tenor sax. Formerly part of a band, the self-taught musician now plays by himself to backing tracks.

Raja Natarajan playing the violin

Geriatrician Dr Raja Natarajan from Madurai too takes the musical route to mellow out. In fact, he recently started a YouTube page, Shri Raja Music, to post videos of him playing the violin accompanied by his daughter, Sreenidhi, on the vocals. “With a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in Madurai, there’s a lot of caution among health professionals and the pressure is enormous. Without a bit of rest and relaxation, it’s difficult to focus. That’s where classical music and (composer) Ilaiyaraaja come as a breather for me,” says Raja, who’s has been playing the violin since school days.

Avik Mondal doing callisthenics

Staying in shape is essential to help others stay healthy. Dr Avik Mondal, a post-graduate trainee at ENT Department of Kolkata Medical College, says it’s paramount to take care of one’s health no matter how hectic it gets. Presently on “Corona duty”, the 29-year-old busts stress by working out. “I do callisthenics and mostly weight-free workouts for about 1-2 hours a day but never to the point of exhaustion. It helps me re-charge my batteries,” he says.

For Dr. J Indira Amma, a General Surgeon attached to two private hospitals in Thiruvananthapuram, the paintbrush is as important as the scalpel. She says painting has become “a way of relaxation and self-expression.” Mythological figures are Indira’s forte, with her acrylic works adorning the walls of her house. “I set aside some time after dinner to paint since that’s when I typically get time for leisure after back-to-back work at the hospitals and consultations. I’m currently applying finishing touches to a large artwork depicting Krishna and Radha,” she explains.

J Indira Amma with one of her paintings

Mumbai is one of the cities worst affected by the pandemic, and pulmonologist Abha Mahashur of Lilavati Hospital there attests to how the situation has been taking a physical and psychological toll on doctors. “For over 12 hours a day, seven days a week, I’m in PPE (personal protective equipment) now. To be frank, there’s hardly any time for rest or relaxation these days,” she says. Nonetheless, having a “supportive” family is her pillar of strength during these testing times. “My husband I (an architect) stay with my in-laws and once I’m home, we talk about anything but COVID-19. I need that space to take my mind off thoughts about work and charge myself up,” says Abha, who listens to devotional chants during the drive to her hospital every morning to mentally prepare for the rest of the day.

Others, like Dr. Kamala Mukherjee (name changed), a paediatrician from Delhi, endeavour to make daily tasks enjoyable to relieve stress. Ever since her domestic help and cook stopped coming once the lockdown came into effect, Kamala took up the added responsibility of cooking for herself and her brother with whom she stays. “Sometimes, I feel it’s a blessing in disguise as I have rediscovered my passion for cooking. Nothing experimental or extravagant since I have a busy routine, but simple common Bengali dishes,” says Kamala whose hometown is in Kolkata. A seafood lover, Kamala says the traditional spicy curry macher jhol has been a staple on her dining table of late.

Rithu Krishna Kamaladevi reading a book

With physical distancing norms in place, options for unwinding outdoors remain out of the question. But Dr. Rithu Krishna Kamaladevi, a senior resident anaesthetist at JIPMER, Puducherry, is happy to forgo the beach and be immersed in the world of books after Corona duty hours. “I have downloaded a lot of e-books on Kindle. There’s of course Netflix but I find books a more rewarding escapism,” says Rithu. She’s presently in the middle of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, having recently finished James M Cain’s Double Indemnity and suspense thriller Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson.

Just what the doctor ordered!

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