What Eastern Medicine Teaches Us About Burnout
A major turning point for me came during the summer after my junior year of high school. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel around China with a group of fellow students from the United States. It was one of my first times being so far from home and I soaked up in every minute of the experience. Everything – from the food to the smells to the sounds on the street – struck me as so exotic. I was truly far from home.
The trip was unfortunately marred when I came down with a terrible case of dysentery and had no choice but to spend several days holed up in a hospital room in Shanghai – which I found to be an environment that was just as unfamiliar to me. For one thing, the hospital had dirt floors, which I had certainly never seen in a hospital back home. And even more notably, the methods of healing were completely different from anything I had seen before. It almost felt as though I had traveled back in time. I have to admit feeling some trepidation watching the techniques the doctor used on me – an unfamiliar (to me) blend of acupuncture, tincture pellets, and oils.
But the results spoke for themselves; in a short 48 hours, I had undergone a transformation that felt nothing less than miraculous.
That experience has long lingered with me. I never forgot how the Chinese doctors used so many different modalities to heal me – almost like a coordinated attack on the root symptoms of what was making me sick. Ultimately, that experience led me to decide upon medicine as my career path.
I was reminded that there are limits to our understanding and abilities that we may never recognize because of cultural differences. We may be so accustomed to the way that things have always been done that we lose sight of new ways to tackle problems. I realized that despite all of the miraculous and rightfully celebrated innovations of medicine in my culture, there is much wisdom to be gained from studying how other cultures think about healing and wellness.
Have you gained insights on how to treat and care for yourself from other cultures? What did you learn in the process of engaging with unfamiliar cultures over the years?