Ditch the guilt and stress: Embrace your core values like this inspiring doctor mom

Kim Downey:

I recently had an enlightening conversation with Dr. Sarah Wittry. We enjoyed learning about all that we share in common!

As a physical therapist, I was delighted to hear that Dr. Wittry’s medical career began in physiatry/PM&R.

Having friends and relatives who have benefited from hospice care, I have tremendous respect for her current work in palliative medicine and hospice.

We spoke of how it has felt to each of us to have the opportunity to benefit from the satisfaction that comes from being part of a well-functioning team.

We both have also appreciated the clarity and insight gained through working with a physician coach.

Alongside being a doctor, Dr. Wittry is raising four children. I raised two and was amazed that with all the hats she currently wears, she managed to carve out time for our conversation! I asked her about that, and she offered how she has learned many practical strategies and how she is passionate about supporting other working moms by sharing all she has learned on her journey.

Dr. Wittry’s work with patients at the end of their lives dovetails with her desire to center herself by living as much as possible in line with her core values. This allows her to take a big-picture perspective. Doing so helps her notice when she’s hyper-focused on minor annoyances to navigate the stressors of life with more resilience and make decisions with more confidence and less guilt.

Dr. Wittry shares some of her thoughts and experiences here to offer hope and encouragement to physician moms who may be feeling overwhelmed and feel like they’re constantly rushing and doing, but still somehow behind. Due to the profound positive impact coaching has had on her own life, she is now a certified coach for physician moms to offer others the same type of support and hope. Her story will surely resonate with many busy physician moms!

Sarah Wittry, DO:

We live in a world obsessed with productivity and getting as much done as possible each day. Finding “balance” can seem elusive, particularly for women physicians who are also raising children.

My family is my world, and it was built unconventionally as I went through years of infertility, foster care, adoption, and IVF. Our family of 6 is now thriving. Life is full but amazing.

I want to share my journey to encourage fellow physician moms that it’s not only possible but also profoundly rewarding to create a life aligned with your core values.

I experienced intense personal and professional burnout during the pandemic. Navigating the uncertainties of the pandemic, coupled with the pressures of a new city, no nearby family, and the emotional toll of ICU work during a global health crisis, left me feeling adrift. The multilayered challenges seemed insurmountable. During this time, I discovered coaching, which has played a crucial role in gently reframing my perspectives and how I approach life. It helped me discern what I had control over and what was beyond my influence, opening up a world of possibilities. Beyond my own inner work, being involved in intimate coaching communities has been instrumental in my healing journey as well. Healing happens in relationships.

I have found that small shifts can deepen your connection to yourself and enhance your ability to trust yourself more fully. They may seem minor, but these small shifts accumulate and bring about transformative changes over time. Embracing mindfulness practices like yoga, EFT/tapping, journaling, meditative walks, and guided breath work allow me to find joy, ease, and inner calm amidst life’s chaos.

As a hospice and palliative physician, seeing and contemplating mortality daily highlights the crucial nature of living our roughly 4000 weeks intentionally. I have frequent discussions with patients about things they’re most proud of, values they have lived by, and things they wish they would have done differently. These discussions supply me with the courage and confidence to keep creating the life that I desire most.

This has meant making changes and dismantling the status quo of what a “good doctor” or a “good mom” is supposed to look like and charting my own path.

I care about the type of energy I bring to each day. I want to embrace the entirety of the human experience with openness and confidence, even when faced with challenging emotions. Emotional intelligence transforms every aspect of life.

This journey of focusing on my emotional well-being has led to more connectedness, resilience, and capacity to navigate daily roles with self-compassion, calmness, curiosity, and connection. These qualities were overshadowed by societal and medical training conditioning.

Taking time to clarify your own core values and determining how they are currently being prioritized provides a powerful filter for decision-making. It’s an evolving process involving using your values as a filter to make decisions.

You can embrace a life with less stress, fewer expectations, and less urgency. You can be more present, connected, expansive, and vibrant.

I hope to inspire fellow physician moms to invest in themselves and take space and time to clarify where they are, how they feel, and how they want to feel. Tapping into our inner knowing and what I call our “soul nudges” is a powerful way to open up to the incredible array of possibilities that await on the journey to a more fulfilling and aligned life.

My deepest desire is that we all have the courage to take stock of our lives, clarify what we truly want, take action, and do the work imperfectly so that we can live confidently in alignment with our values and not experience deep regret at the end of our lives.

Sarah Wittry is a hospice and palliative care physician. Kim Downey is a physical therapist. 

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