Everyone has a different idea of what a life of balance should feel like. If the management of stress and balance is so individual, why should we care what others are doing in this realm? My hope with this interview series is that by reading how a variety of people practice balance in their everyday lives, we’ll all get some affirmation, inspiration and maybe “borrowed courage” to try some new things. If you’d like to be interviewed here, send me a message or comment below! I’ll be the first subject…
In a few sentences, tell us about yourself (age, job, family, hometown, etc.)
I’m a 44 year old part-time anesthesiologist, part-time blogger, full-time wife and mama to a 3 year old girl and a 10 year old whippet. I live in Salt Lake City UT, but I’m from Scottsdale AZ.
What is one thing you’re passionate about (a thing you’re loving, something you would still do even if no one paid you/even if you have limited time, or a hobby you really care about)?
For many years, my passion was rock climbing and all things related, but climbing has taken a bit of a back seat lately. Current passions are strength training (especially with kettlebells) and being a mom.
What does balance mean to you (how do you find balance between work, home, community, and self?
It’s always a practice, with an asymptotic endpoint (i.e., there is no perfection, no true endpoint). I’m not perfect at balance, and I never stop trying to improve my balance. It takes constant re-evaluation and self-knowledge to figure out what you need at any particular moment in your life to feel balanced. (For more on how I define balance, read this post).
Have you experienced any trade offs in your practice of balance?
I need a certain level of simplicity and downtime in my life. This has become even more apparent after having a child. So I trade prestige at work (research, accolades, leadership roles, etc.) for a part-time job with a simple role of clinical anesthesiologist. I trade a relentless pursuit of excellence in things like fitness and blogging for a slower approach to improvement. I’ve also found that having less choices (what to wear, what to eat) enhance my feeling of balance. For example, I’ve traded my previous love of following fashion trends and shopping for having less stuff. I’ve traded researching and making elaborate recipes for “boring” meals of meat, veggies, and fruit.
Describe your perfect “average” day. (How does your everyday day flow if everything goes well)?
Because I work part time, each day can flow differently throughout the week (I wrote about this here). Let’s call an “ideal” but average day one where I don’t have to go to the hospital. Ideally,I’d wake up early but naturally without an alarm. I’d sip my coffee slowly, savoring the flavor. I’d play with my daughter and not feel rushed to go anywhere, but I’d spend ample time doing what we call “getting ready for the day”. This involves some beauty rituals that I enjoy (cleansing, skincare routines, playing with my makeup which lately I’ve been really into – the older I get the more I want to do, but I find it really fun!) We’d all take a walk in sunny weather – me, my husband, daughter, and doggie. Then we’d eat a yummy breakfast of bacon and eggs (and more coffee, of course).
My ideal day would involve some sort of exercise (strength training, yoga, or climbing). Maybe I’d have some time to write or tick off some to-do list items as well. We’d have an early dinner of tasty, home-cooked foods. When night fell, we’d do a bath and read some books, then I’d put my daughter to sleep and have more time to myself for a bath, reading, listening to podcasts or watching a few YouTube videos.
What are your go-to tools for self-care?
Journaling, blogging (obvi!), regular exercise (at least 4 days a week of some sort of movement), listening to inspirational podcasts, taking epsom salt baths almost every night after everyone else goes to sleep. My go-to tools do not presently include some common ones: formal meditation or calling/hanging out with friends. I haven’t found an outlet inspiring enough to really get into meditating, and I’m pretty introverted, so I like spending time by myself.
What is one morning routine you do that keeps you grounded and happy?
Every morning, I drink a big glass of “salty lemonade” (water, sea salt, stevia extract and lemon juice) with my medications and supplements, followed by a cup of excellent tasting coffee from my fully automatic espresso machine.
Any decisions you’ve made that have negatively impacted your balance? If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Deciding to leave engineering to pursue medicine had a definite negative impact on my balance for a number of years. Medical school wasn’t too bad, but the hours and demands of residency training were quite difficult. It took a toll on my mental state, physical energy, and relationships. Of course, this was all complicated by the fact that I had major health issues during that period of my life as well.
However, I’m not one for regret or “what ifs”. I knew I didn’t want to continue on the path of a corporate job in engineering, and I love many aspects of the work I do now. If I had to go back, I wouldn’t change things much. I do wish I would’ve paid more attention to my physical state and self-care instead of ignoring them in the spirit of residency stress, because then maybe my brain tumor would have been diagnosed and dealt with sooner.
What is one habit, tool, or item you’ve brought into your life within the last 6 months that has helped with your practice of balance?
I started it more than 6 months ago, but I’d say my regular, conscious practice of gratitude. Most nights, I either write down or at least name in my head 3 good things that happened each day. It makes me feel more positive, thankful, and happy.
How can people contact or follow you if they want to know more?
You can find me here on PracticeBalance.com, on Facebook as Dawn Baker, on Instagram as PracticeBalance, or on Twitter as DLBakerMD.