The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly shaken the entire world. The uncertainty over what we are facing may cause fear and worry, particularly in a profession that puts us on the front-line of patient care. As nurse anesthetists, we are known for being resilient and able to overcome even the most difficult of challenges, personally and professionally. In times of crisis, it can be daunting to be strong when fear of what we are facing is so overwhelming. However, it is essential to remember that as a unified force, we will overcome this challenge together.
Even the strongest of us are fearful, which is entirely natural. The absence of fear is not what defines courage: Courage is defined by our ability to overcome challenges even when we are afraid. We must draw upon our deep inner strengths to conquer the difficulties we are facing. Each of us has something unique to offer during this crisis. Draw on those strengths and offer them to others so that we can come together and fight COVID-19 as a community. The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) supports you in your efforts to stay well during these difficult times.
It is also natural to worry, as we don’t know what the future holds. Looking at things from a narrow, rather than a panoramic perspective can help us to stop feeling so overwhelmed with worry. Take each small challenge one at a time. Plan for the future, but stay focused on the present day. Praying can be comforting, as well as consulting with your personal clergy or pastoral services at your facility. Meditation and spending quiet time alone can also help to quiet the worrying thoughts in our heads. Do what makes you feel safe, and focus on the things you can control.
It’s time to band together like never before. Those on the front-lines must remember and reach out to those isolated at home, and those home-bound must reach out to those working long, arduous hours. We must fight loneliness together by staying connected and building bonds that will strengthen us from the inside. Leave no colleague behind: Coordinate small groups and hold each other accountable to make sure everyone feels supported. Remember that some may need more support than others, including but not limited to those who are older, single, pregnant, have children or are caring for elderly family, and those with known exposure or confirmed COVID-19.
Self-care is crucial for us at this difficult time. Be intentional about getting control of your mind, as it is easy for worrisome thoughts to carry you to a dismal place. Journaling your experiences, talking about your experiences with co-workers, and expressing your feelings to those close to you are good ways to help cleanse your mind of fearful thoughts. Thinking, writing, and talking about the positive parts of your day can boost your mood. Go out of your way to do kind things for others. Being kind to one another will boost morale and reduce stress. You can also reduce stress by taking care of your body: exercise, stretch, relax, and rest. Also, take advantage of the many companies that are offering free online resources for physical and mental activities to stay busy and healthy.
While social distancing and isolation are vital to reducing the spread of COVID-19, both can negatively impact our mental health. As physical and social beings, a dramatic shift in the way we interact and live our daily lives can be depressing. You may find yourself experiencing an exacerbation of pre-existing anxiety and depression or experiencing it for the first time. We often suffer with these feelings in silence, but you will realize that you are not alone when you find the courage to share your feelings with those you trust. Be on alert for those who are having difficulty coping. If you suspect someone may be really struggling or suicidal, reach out to them, ask them if they are okay, offer help, and direct them to AANA wellness and peer assistance resources on physical, emotional, and mental well-being online at AANAWellness.com. Also, take advantage of online counseling services and your employee assistance program. If you are struggling, it may be hard to reach out, but please know that we are here for you and want to help you. If not us, just reach out---we are all in this together.
Take time to stay informed, but remember to rest your brain from the barrage of news coverage and social media posts. If you are at home or in isolation, play board games, write a book, paint pictures, watch uplifting or funny movies, cook something new, clean your house, build something, and spend quality time with your family. Be creative, and take this time to do something you have been wanting to do but have put aside. Also, share your fun activity ideas with others. I encourage you to choose to show the world the best of who you are. Be selfless, do good for others, and be kind to others. In doing this, we will boost morale and combat stress, depression, anxiety, and loneliness together. And lastly, think of all of the challenges you have faced in the past, and use the same courage and strength you used to overcome those challenges to overcome this one. Let us all come together, take care of each other, and be well.