We offer reflections on survival and hope.
I’ve read that human beings are one of the most resilient species on the planet. We’ve survived numerous wars, natural disasters, famine, plague, and many self-induced traumas. I also know we generally hate change. As I reflect on the past year and all the unexpected changes we’ve survived and adapted to, I am in awe of the fact we made it this far.
Still, there are some days when I find it difficult to even get out of bed in the morning and I wonder how I’ll make it through the day. At these moments, there are a few “survival” strategies I turn to for help and to give me hope for the future.
My survival strategies.
- I remember we’re all doing the very best we can do right now. Usually when things at work are hard, I can turn to my home life for refuge. When there’s been conflict at home, I can sometimes breathe more easily at work. But right now, many of us are struggling on all fronts, with no refuge and no clear end point in sight. I remind myself to be gentle with each other and with myself.
- I remember why we’re doing what we’re doing: we’re here to try to help our patients and give them the very best possible medical care we can. The world – and my own life – may be in chaos, but I can still do something meaningful.
- I remember to maintain my daily practices that keep me centered:
- Pause and breathe for a few minutes, any time I feel my stress level rise.
- Remember the things I am grateful for. It’s important to acknowledge that things are really hard right now. But it’s also important to remember all the good things in my life.
- Go outside, even if only for 2 minutes. If possible, take my shoes off and curl my toes in the grass.
- Laugh a little, or a lot. I have a few people in my life who can always make me laugh, which is one of the things I am so grateful for.
- Don’t isolate myself. My first instinct when I feel sad or anxious is to close down and be by myself, which research shows is the worst thing to do for our mental health. I have to intentionally reach out to a friend and share a little bit of how I’m feeling.
- Focus on the present, just this one step, just this one day at a time.
There are some terrible things happening right now, and at the same time, there is also incredible kindness and beauty in the world. In the past year, I have witnessed an enormous amount of strength, courage, and resilience from my teammates. I’ve received lots of support from people that care about me, and even from people I’ve barely met. I’ve had the opportunity to care for my neighbors and loved ones, and I’ve formed bonds of friendship in situations I would never have anticipated.
So yes, I believe we are incredibly, wonderfully resilient. We’ve survived an unprecedented year and grown stronger in many ways. By moving forward, by taking that one next step, we are creating a better future for ourselves, our profession and our world.