Nandan Lad, MD, Ph.D., 40, is a top neurosurgeon at Duke Health specializing in deep brain stimulation. He is used to performing six-hour surgeries where you can’t miss a single millimeter. It cannot freeze even with emergency calls. When a trauma patient is with bleeding in the skull, they sometimes have less than 15 minutes to prepare. “You have to have a calm mind and think clearly and move quickly,” he says.
For Dr. Lad, this means putting aside worldly distractions. He may have a sore shoulder or an unexplained conversation that annoys him, but as soon as he walks into the operating room, he zooms in.
How does Dr. Load his focus so quickly? By spending his non-surgical hours in such a way that he gets his mind and body going (which is why he calls neurosurgery a “way of life” rather than a profession).
Steal these parts of his routine to be ready for any stressful moment.
Hydrate, no caffeine
Dr. Lad avoids caffeine on surgery days because he says it can cause hand tremors. His move: a glass of water in the morning, another when he’s at work, and one between operations when he can afford toilet breaks.
Work on your focus
You were not born calm; you’re working on it Dr. Lad collects his focus repetitions at home by meditating daily with the Calm app. Sounds boring? Recruit a friend. His wife Nora attends his ten minute sessions. “I firmly believe in the mind-body connection,” he says. He’s also a fan of deep breathing: the next time you really want to focus on a project, try inhaling for three seconds and exhaling for four seconds.
Stretch and relax
Dr. Lad has been in surgery for hours, the arm muscles are tense, the upper body is often bent over his patient at awkward angles. To unwind, he does yoga once a week. After each operation, he spends a few seconds in the Warrior II pose. Try it out: While standing, jump with your right leg forward, arms outstretched to your sides. Rotate your torso to the left, then reach your right arm up. Hold for 3 seconds, then reverse and repeat on the other side.
This story originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of Men’s Health.
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