Dr Mark Cox is a mental health advocate and founder of The Straight Talking Dr a podcast launching 21st February, 2022 that will cover the mental health journeys of people from all different walks of life.
Mark has always been passionate about helping others "I'm an outgoing and inquisitive guy who loves to spend time with my friends and family. I guess I've always been the caring sort who revels at the chance to help others."
This caring side was something he explored at school by taking different work experiences in the healthcare setting.
“During one of these work experiences, I spent time with a friend's dad, an eminent surgeon, whose bedside manner and rapport with his patients were inspirational. Since that week I have always endeavoured and strived to achieve a similar level of relationship with patients and it is this connection with others that pushed me into the world of medicine.”
He is currently working as a locum doctor in hospitals in London.
“This locum style of work allows me to have a greater level of flexibility in my work which allows me to spend time doing my other work on social media and my podcast. My role at the moment is in a Renal (kidney) department, however, I shall be moving back to Respiratory for a more substantive role in following up with Covid-19 patients in the community soon.”
We caught up with Mark for some advice for other doctors on priortitising mental health and to find out more about his up-and-coming podcast.
Have you ever experienced burnout, if yes, can you tell me a bit about it and how you got through it?
I don't think I have ever experienced full-scale burnout despite coming very close during my foundation years. I think I was able to avoid burnout by utilising the support of my friends and family. My best advice to anyone suffering from any mental health issue, burnout included, is to reach out to someone you trust for advice and support. It's amazing what a single conversation can do. Furthermore, if you can reach out to someone at work who can improve the situation for you then that is always a hugely positive step.
On a more general, preventative level it is so important to find time to decompress and look after yourself. As well as engaging in healthy behaviours such as following a healthy diet and exercise I would fully recommend finding an activity which allows you to achieve what is known as 'flow state'.
'Flow state' is that feeling of being in the zone, the mental state you achieve when you are fully focused on a task and all of your worries, fears, and other thoughts simply dissipate away. For some, this may come in meditation but for most, I think we can find this in performing an activity that we fully enjoy. The kind of activities that many people find flow state in include playing sport, reading a book, painting a picture, or even knitting yourself a new jumper.
I see that you are a passionate advocate for mental health and wellbeing, was there a specific incident that motivated you to get involved in this field?
An awareness and passion for mental health have been something that I have cultivated over a number of years. I wouldn't say there was a specific incident but more of a general understanding that we all have our own mental health and that this is something that is precious and requires each of us to invest time and effort into it to make sure we maintain mentally healthy.
What do you do to look after yourself and your own mental health and wellbeing?
The demands of medicine combined with social media and my podcast can sometimes feel like I am juggling many plates. In order to keep the pressures of this in check, I like to keep myself organised and ensure that I have a rough plan for each week. Being able to work through a quick list and tick tasks or goals off as you go can be particularly therapeutic.
As well as trying to practice what I preach in terms of moving my body and eating a healthy, varied diet I also have focused on practicing self-compassion as much as possible. It has never been more important to be kind to yourself. I try to take the pressure off, take stock of what I am achieving, and thank myself for just being and doing me. If we could all do this more we would all feel much better about ourselves.
Can you tell me a bit about your upcoming podcast The Straight Talking Doctor, what inspired it and what are you looking to achieve?
The first series of The Straight Talking Dr podcast will be released in February 2022 and includes 8 conversations with guests from all walks of life discussing their own mental health journeys. We focus on their journey and what they have learned from their experiences as well as talk about useful and actionable tips that people can use to improve their health and happiness.
I'm so excited to release the podcast and hope that people find the conversations both enjoyable and useful!
Do you have any advice for other doctors who are wanting to prioritise their own health and wellbeing?
As much as work is important and caring for patients is what keeps us going, your mental health and wellbeing should always come first. So many doctors are suffering at the moment under the pressure of work, however, if you don't take time to look after yourself there will always come a point in which you can not look after others.
To find out more about the Straight Talking Dr follow Mark on Instagram @thestraighttalkingdr