By: Adi Haramati, PhD, Georgetown University Medical Center
Manage your expectations
With disruptions to our routine: teaching classes, research activities, administrative responsibilities and, of course, clinical care, many of us desire to super-achieve and use this time to be super-productive. However, the emotional toll and the cognitive strain that is present with this pandemic should not be underestimated. We worry not only about our work, but the health and safety of family, friends and colleagues, as well as ourselves. So, be easy on yourself and manage expectations for yourself and especially for others in your team, division, department. We need to be realistic in the goals we set, both for ourselves and others in our charge.
Work towards reducing your stress level
No matter how much we feel we are in control, our physiologic stress response is activated. It is prudent to develop a clear plan that prioritizes our self-care: 1. Practicing good sleep hygiene; 2. Eating well (some are fortunate to have some time to cook meals); 3. Setting aside time for daily exercise (a 30-minute walk outside is refreshing and will lower your stress level); and 4. Adopting a stress-reducing practice: either a short 3-minute breathing exercise, or listing to music, or simply being in nature for even 15 minutes.
Be optimistic, in a realistic way
Balance the realistic view of the world, with a general positive outlook on the future. Yes, these are very serious times; however, in each person’s day there is something that is a source of joy. Find a way to recognize it and ask others about theirs. Consider having students, trainees, peers take a moment and share one thing that provided them with joy in the previous day. Gratitude, even in adversity, promotes a sense of balance. Positivity heals.
If possible, establish a routine
If you are working from home, the lines between work and personal time can get blurred. It is important to establish clear distinctions between work and non-work time, in your physical space and in your mind. Creating a routine for your work and interspersing exercise, walking, other activities during the workday, will help you maintain your energy level and give you clarity of thought.
Be compassionate with yourself and with others
This pandemic is causing a lot of stress for many of us, and we cannot be our best selves all the time. But being aware of that can remind us to be kind and be more patient. Do not be afraid to ask for help and reach out when others ask you for help.
Maintain connections and relationships
We are in physical isolation but need not be in social isolation. We can mitigate the feelings of loneliness and fear. While the virtual platforms have made it possible to connect with students and trainees and maintain instructional continuity, it is important to extend these platforms to staff and faculty. Create weekly check-ins to have team members share not only what is working, but also where there are barriers or challenges. Also, ask how each is coping outside of continuing the work. Invite folks to share joys as well as adversities.
Manage uncertainty by staying in the present
There are many things we cannot control, but by focusing on the present, we can control how we are in the present moment. Taking just a few minutes to ‘Be’, and not ‘Do’ can be therapeutic. A 5-minute mindfulness meditation can help reset our baseline.
Most of all: Lead by Example.