CHESTThought Leader BlogHow to Be Happy

How to Be Happy

By: Chetana Pendkar, MBBS

This post is part of our Life as a Fellow blog post series, which features “fellow life lessons” from current trainees in leadership with CHEST.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

The critical care environment has consistently seen high anxiety, depression, and ethical and moral distress amongst its staff. The COVID pandemic has led to an exaggeration of this, leading to increased levels of burnout. Compassion, communication, and empathy have been shown to help mitigate this stress and depression from the front lines, but these strategies are all in crisis management.

Being a first-year critical care fellow on the front lines of the pandemic in New York allowed me to experience some soul-shaking realities of life. From losing my mentors to the pandemic, to developing deep friendships with the ones in my trenches, the initial wave gave me all of it. But above all, it helped me slow down and reflect on my core values, life goals, and what I want to contribute to this world in my capacity. And, I want to share a few of these points that have made me HAPPY! Disclaimer: I am still a work in progress and have much to learn on my journey to happiness and awakening, but these are a few things that have worked for me.

  1. Gratitude: Happiness comes from within, and the first step toward accessing your positive emotions should be to appreciate all that you have. It helps strengthen our relations with people we are grateful for in our lives. Journaling gratitude can help you develop positive emotions, which may help relieve some of the anxiety coming from outcomes beyond one's control.
  2. Rooting your own self: Another practice that has helped me is finding my core values, figuring out my goal for the day, and what I can contribute, and ensure these all align with my principles and values to do good and do right by the patient. This practice can help when there are days in the ICU when all the efforts seem futile. And, feeling emotionally secure, you can maximize your output and help you go that extra mile while not feeling the burn but feeling more impactful. Rooting yourself can help you slow down the chaos around you; it can be anything from taking that deep calming breath to focus your thoughts to daily reflection, self-care, and hobbies. The byproduct of learning to be more rooted can give you the sense of being connected to your higher self, your purpose, and your community.
  3. Managing priorities and people: As much of a cliché as it is, we are social beings, and our happiness does route from our community. And, managing our time while building strong relationships with people can help us live, work, and excel as a robust interdependent unit. This practice can reduce the daily stresses of interpersonal hostility and develop a happy and secure environment to excel, whether at home or in the ICU. Once you prioritize the right people who make you happy, you can move to optimize your priorities to suit your time better.
  4. Physical wellbeing: Physical wellness cannot be neglected while on a journey to emotional wellbeing. It is challenging to be happy when you are sick. Understanding your body's needs for sleep, nutrition, and rest, while enriching it with physical activity, being in nature, and avoiding harmful substances, can help create a healthy mind in a healthy body.

So get up, get out, and be HAPPY.

Chetana Pendkar, MBBS

Chetana Pendkar, MBBS

Dr. Chetana Pendkar graduated from the State University of New York Downstate Health Sciences University Pulmonary/Critical Care Program. Additionally, she has completed the Advanced Diagnostic Bronchoscopy (ADB) Fellowship from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA; and an internal medicine residency at Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY. Dr. Pendkar’s clinical and research interests include medical education research with a particular interest in ICU communication, pulmonary physiology, and optimization of lung cancer screening and management.