There are many things that people turn towards when things get tough. Some of us exercise or watch funny movies; connect with friends or craft; work in the garden or eat a family sized bag of Miss Vickies, salt and vinegar chips (just sayin’).
These are unprecedented times in our lives, and so I wanted to invite all of us to remember these five foundations to keep in mind — as humans and as health care workers — in order to maintain a sense of balance amidst the winds of challenge and uncertainty.
1. Back to Basics
Diet, sleep, activity, and social connection are the foundation of these foundations. None of these efforts need to look perfect, however our minds and bodies work best with whole foods, proper rest, physical activity and a sense of connection with those whom we love. No matter the demands of our day or week, attending to these basics will allow us to show up the way we want and need to.
2. Acknowledge That You Suffer Too
It is way too common in healthcare for us to witness the suffering of the world, serve others, and to forget our own humanity. We busy towards our sense of responsibility and often do not allow the overwhelm, fear or moral distress that we, too, can experience. Acknowledging our suffering does not detract from our ability to care and serve – it is actually what allows us to stay human and focus on what is important!
3. Be Here Now
In the busyness and rushing about of our work and personal lives, it is easy to get caught up in autopilot. When we do we are more reactive towards the circumstances of our days, and we fall asleep and reawaken to an onslaught of plans, problems and the weight of our perceived responsibility. It is important to train ourselves to pause — on purpose — in the midst of the day. This might be mindful handwashing, a 5 minute break to get some fresh air, or even a couple of purposeful deeper breaths to notice your body, your mind and what you are feeling. These mindful pauses allow the nervous system some balance, and our frontal cortex to come back online. Awakening again to this moment we can be more present for the human beings we work with, as patients or colleagues, and the tasks at hand.
4. Take Care of Yourself
Once we learn to pause throughout our days, we begin to notice when we are hungry and when we need to pee. We notice when we are tired and irritable, and when we are sad, lonely, or grieving. As we check in with what is actually here for us throughout the day, so we are better able to attend to our own needs. Maybe we need to eat, or go to sleep earlier; to exercise, or to call a friend, or cry, or laugh? None of this is wrong or right, good or bad. It is just honest.
5. Take Care of Each Other
Many of us suffer alone as health care providers. We wear a brave face, a smile, and an assurance of always being “o.k”. — until we are not…
40-60% of all physicians in Canada meet the criteria for burnout. The same is true for nurses. And while there are many resources that are available, too few of us seek help. How can we create an environment of mutual support — through care and vulnerability; kindness and generosity; humor and humanity? It is in our shared humanness that we can nurture trust, communication, and respect. How are you? How can I help?