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I am Dr. Wendy Lau, Meditation Teacher: How I Stay Healthy in EM

2017-10-07T22:59:04+00:00

Dr. Wendy Lau is an emergency physician working in New York and Maine. When she’s not doing locums in the ED, Dr. Lau can be found teaching her other passion – meditation. Dr. Lau’s outlook on tackling new activities and challenges is inspiring. If you ever wanted to know more about meditation, keep reading! Here is how she stays healthy in EM!


  • Name: Wendy Lau
  • Location: New York and Maine
  • Current job(s): Locums tenens, wendylaumd.com (meditation teacher)
  • One word that describes how you stay healthy: Fun
  • Primary behavior/activity for de-stressing: Meditation

What are the top 3 ways you stay healthy?

  1. Meditation. Other than EM, my other passion is teaching meditation and I have a daily practice. Meditation gives me a way to practice and cultivate equanimity outside of our work environment. It gives me a wider perspective on the daily grind and a way to off-load the burden of human suffering that we witness everyday.
  2. Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing) and yoga. I also teach Muay Thai and yoga. I practice every chance that I get, which is usually before or after short shifts and on my days off. I don’t really enjoy regular gym workouts as much, but will do them if I can’t get Muay Thai onto my schedule. Kicking and punching are incredibly satisfying, cathartic, and fun!
  3. Nature. I live in NYC, so getting out of the concrete jungle once in a while is very important. I try to go out in nature for a hike with friends or family at least once a month to recharge.

What’s your ideal workout?

A nice Muay Thai session where I can get a really good sweat and hone my skills. I’m too easily bored to run on a treadmill or lift weights. Learning something makes it so much more fun for me!

Do you track your fitness? How?

I don’t use technology for tracking. I go by how I feel and I just make sure that I ask myself this question every so often and be 100% honest.

How do you prepare for a night shift? How do you recover from one?

Because I do locums, I will usually schedule a string of nights. I haven’t found the magic bullet that cures the post-nightshift zombie state. I just try to not go into it with sleep debt, sleep as much as possible when I’m done, and recover by getting outside in the sun.

How do you avoid getting “hangry” (angry due to hunger) on shift?

I make sure that I eat a good meal before shift and bring a light meal and snacks (mostly healthy), but I allow for some indulgence. Chocolate!

How do you ensure that you are mentally in check?

The most important thing about being “in check” is to actually check in with ourselves and be honest with where we are. Most of us push ourselves too hard and it’s even more difficult to recover once we go overboard and we end up accruing a deficit.

Meditation can help with that. People think that meditation is just for quieting the mind or reducing stress. But one of the most important things that meditation does is to refine our sensitivity to ourselves, so that we can find compassion for ourselves. From that place of compassion and honesty, we can make decisions that are aligned with our needs.

What are the biggest challenges you face in maintaining a longstanding career in EM? How do you address these challenges?

Burnout is a multifactorial issue. What gets me the most are work-life balance and the feedback loop between hardening around the witnessing of human suffering and being unable to genuinely connect with others (at work and at home). The work-life balance bit is less of an issue now that I have much more control of my schedule. The second part is a work-in-progress that involves constantly bringing attention to this issue. This issue is so subtle that it can quickly get lost in a busy lifestyle and other seemingly more immediate concerns.

Best advice you have received for maintaining health?

Be kind to yourself.

 

Zafrina Poonja, MD

Zafrina Poonja, MD

ALiEM Assistant Editor,
How I Stay Healthy in EM series
Emergency Medicine Resident
University of Alberta