Increasing resilience has become a top priority among physicians and other frontline healthcare workers. The worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has brought an onslaught of stress and adversity for medical personnel.
We need to call on our Resilience now more than ever, in order to survive and continue to excel in support of our patients. Resilience is not inherited, we build it with our experiences over time, and we can continue to learn and increase our resilient capabilities.
Due to our own unique experiences and personality traits, we each respond in our own way to stress and adversity. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark reminder to healthcare workers and other frontline workers that circumstances can change drastically and swiftly. As healthcare workers, we find ourselves in a particularly vulnerable position.
The capacity to be resilient in any situation lies in finding ways to tip the balance between positives and negatives. Too many negatives can outweigh the positives, but the good news is that the reverse is also true. The key is to figure out how to tip the scale toward the positive side.
Each individual’s ability to tip the scale toward the positive is unique, depending on their perspective and access to the necessary tools. Keeping these tools at the forefront of your mind is useful in difficult times, a skill that can be honed to build greater resilience.
Here are 7 steps you can take toward increasing resilience today:
1. Reduce the stress
Reduce sources of stress in your life that you can control to the best of your ability given your own circumstances. Make a list of sources of stress. Sometimes just outlining the sources can make them tangible, and help you see ways to conquer at least something on the list. Even eliminating one stressor decreases the load on the negative side, increasing your resiliency.
2. Revisit benefits
Do you have employee benefits such as employee assistance programs, mental health counseling, and paid time off? Revisit your benefits and take advantage of any that could be helpful during this time, increasing the positives.
A major stressor for families now can be virtual schooling, and kids needing creative outlets while at home. Think of ways to get your kids engaged in creative activities that can serve double time by giving you a break while the children are occupied. Have things on hand and easily accessible, like activity kits with colored paper, craft materials, coloring books and workbooks, crayons and markers, word searches, puzzles, building/model kits, and of course, books. Get kids involved in creating the kits, or making challenges to each other to draw or write books, or build forts. If you get into the thick of it with them, all the better for your stress reduction and theirs! Involvement in these fun and accessible activities will lead to giving kids a secondary activity: cleaning up after themselves. Conquering those life skills! Pandemic bonus.
Journaling is great for you and great for your kids. Write about your thoughts and stresses, and track your wins each day along with what you found to appreciate, however big or small. Help your kids to do the same. Journaling about their feelings and activities each day will give them a way to retain the memories of how they coped and thrived during the pandemic, helping them to build their own resilience skills. Too young to write? Picture journals work too, and can be completed next to you at the table while you are taking the time for your own journaling each day.
Easier said than done for many, especially when your schedule is already overburdened, but find a way to fit in that daily walk, run, and another exercise, preferably in the open air.
Focus on the positive relationships in your life, and build new ones. Seek out friendships and family relationships that are stable, committed, and supportive. The limitations of virtual calls may be a little frustrating, but they are also an opportunity to reconnect with people you have lost touch with, or who are far away. How are your old med school classmates doing these days? Schedule a Zoom reunion. Take the opportunity to reach out to someone who may be isolated, and enjoy the positives of that interaction.
Engage and reengage your core life skills. Make easy improvements that simplify your life, like automating the delivery of items you need on a recurring basis, consolidating grocery store trips, and maybe getting rid of them altogether by using order pickup or delivery options that are now available. Why go back to a store ever? Unless grocery shopping is your hobby… Automate your calendar, and sign up for text reminders of meetings and appointments. Use tools like grocery list apps, menu planners, receipts, note-saving apps, and mapping apps to decrease your commute time and driving stress, and create checklists and daily schedules. Time invested on the front end to put these things in place will pay off in dividends, as staying organized will save you time each day in the long run.