The lemon tree of life

Using a lemon tree as a metaphor, Anna Baverstock, consultant paediatrician and lead for doctor wellbeing, looks at the 'fruits' of home, family, friends, work and wellbeing - and invites us to remember the small acts of kindness.
Dr Anna Baverstock

As I write this the early cherry blossom is starting to appear and the trees have the first streaks of green buds. We are also in the anticipatory anxiety early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. By the time you read this the days will be longer, the trees in full leaf and I can’t truly imagine how the pandemic will be. Over the last few weeks, like all of us, I have been preparing and planning and responding to daily changes on a scale that is unprecedented.

While spring is my favourite season, I do enjoy the light and length of summer days. In warmer climes the lemon trees will be growing their fruit. While trying to frame wellbeing I often use a tree as a framework. I like the thought of deep roots grounded with branches and leaves above.

My lemon tree of life has five fruit - home, family, friends, work and wellbeing.

'The lemon tree of life' - by Dr Anna Baverstock

Starting with home, this is where we live and who we live with. Then we have family - many of us may live with our own most important family members, but others may be at different stages of life. Many also have family further afield and during a global pandemic we have had to find new ways to socially connect while physically distancing. We have also devised new ways to remain in touch with our friends. Virtual choirs, dinner parties via Zoom, family FaceTime and many other creative ways to be together to talk, connect and share.

Work for all of us is on a level never before imagined. Change is the new normal and we will all be working in unfamiliar environments, devising new ways to ensure we can continue to care for all our patients, while needing to prioritise those with more urgent and emergency needs. More than ever we will be leaning on our teams, old and new.

...we have to be able to hand over the baton to enable rest and recharge during shifts

Finally the most important lemon. Our wellbeing lemon. Here we must prioritise ourselves at work and between shifts. During this marathon relay that we're all part of we have to be able to hand over the baton to enable rest and recharge during shifts. We also need to ensure we prioritise wellbeing at work if we want to ensure the first and last patient of our shift gets the same high quality, compassionate care.

As I write this the pandemic has brought out the best and the worst of human nature. While the news coverage has sensationalised panic buying there is a quieter revolution at play. Small daily acts of kindness and thanks are an ongoing feature for many of us. Some talk of a kindness or compassion revolution. What I do know is this proverb could not be more apt: “If we want to do fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.