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March 17, 2020

Staying Resilient in Times of Crisis

Healthcare workers are truly heroes in these times. They possess a striking ability to withstand, recover, and grow during stressful times, which is the very symbol of resiliency.

Times like these provide a tremendous opportunity to strengthen relationships among all roles in the healthcare field to unite around a shared purpose. Whether you are on the front lines of patient care, a leader making high-stakes decisions, or are a support staff member transitioning to working remotely, each team member serves a unique purpose that contributes to a much larger picture.

During urgent times, reactions to stress manifest differently depending on our unique personalities. We want to provide you with tips and resources to help you stay resilient during what is, undoubtedly, a highly stressful and uncertain time. These resources apply to clinical workers, administrators, supporting roles, and those at home in social isolation.

In order to care for patients, you must first care for yourself. Self-care means actively nurturing a kinder friendship with yourself by practicing self-compassion, learning how to reset and renew, and finding ways to refuel your mind, body, and soul. It is vital to identify the signs of stress in yourself and your loved ones when facing something like COVID-19. This article from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides information on what to look for, advice on relieving stress, and knowing when to get help.

  • Identify signs of stress by recognizing specific changes in your behavior, your body, your emotions, and/or your thinking.
  • Practice healthy coping skills like keeping things in perspective, getting the facts, keeping yourself healthy, practicing gratitude, and periodically unplugging from the news.
  • Find ways to relax when you are noticing yourself getting anxious or stressed. Take breaks when possible, even for just a couple of minutes. Meditate or pray. Practice deep breathing. Get out in nature!
  • Practice micro-moments: Click here to read 5 easy micro-moments to practice self-care.

Managing Anxiety
We are all facing information overload, and the information coming in seems to change from hour-to-hour. Here are some tips to help you manage anxiety in the face of uncertainty:

Stay informed from credible sources like CDC and WHO. Click here to read the latest updates from SCHA on COVID.

  • Establish an emotional support system and reach out if you need help
  • Accept the things you can’t control by acknowledging the situation and your feelings without judgment
  • Be present and focus on what you can control today
  • See adversity as an opportunity for growth
  • Look beyond yourself by finding ways to helps others
  • Get active and get outdoors
  • Practice gratitude by making an active choice to notice the small, positive moments in everyday life, even when times are challenging. Let others know you appreciate them.
  • Maintain a hopeful outlook about the future

For more resources on managing anxiety, check out Taking Care of your Mental Health in the Face of Uncertainty and NAMI’s COVID-19 Information and Resources. MUSC has also published a good guide for managing anxiety as well.

Coping with Isolation
Social distancing, including remote work, presents unique challenges. Employees working from home should create a structured, dedicated work environment and build in self-care as well as daily benchmarks of achievement. Maintain a regular routine around your usual working hours and keep up with morning rituals. Dressing in regular work attire and taking regular breaks, including lunchtime, may also be helpful. Use technology to simulate face-to-face interactions. Be mindful of opportunities to integrate video into your conversations with colleagues. Consider using the video function on Skype, GoToMeeting, or Zoom for internal and external meetings.

Tips for Leaders
Leaders have a distinctive and weighty responsibility in times of crisis. Employees look to leaders for guidance, direction, and support. Leaders at all levels should consider the following in crisis situations:

  • Stay Flexible: This is an unprecedented time. Leaders must remain flexible and adaptable during uncertain, unfamiliar, and fluid situation. Remain open to change and accept that what has worked in the past may not be effective during this current crisis.
  • Managing Remote Employees: There are unique challenges with remote work, such as loneliness and disengagement. Be sure to check in regularly with your remote employees through the appropriate communication channel. Provide them with resources to practice self-care while they’re away and to keep them engaged. Leverage technology like Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, etc. to allow for some face-to-face communication during this period of social distancing.
  • Addressing Employee Concerns: Leaders, managers, and supervisors should personally reach out to their employees to ask about their major concerns and find ways to support them. For some employees, it could be finding childcare. For others, it could be financial stability or fears about the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Your employees want to know that their leaders hear their concerns and care for their safety and wellbeing.
  • Continue to Innovate: Stay informed of innovative protocols to best serve your patients and best support your employees. Many SC hospitals are adopting new approaches like drive-through testing and telehealth services. The SCHA staff is hard at work trying to keep you informed and provide helpful resources on best-practices. Click here to read the latest updates from the SCHA on COVID.
  • Encourage Civility and Kindness: Recognize that everyone is under an immense amount of stress dealing with increased work demands and uncertainty about the future. Encourage employees to show kindness by responding to others with empathy, compassion, courtesy and respect. This can include simple gestures like smiling, saying thank you, showing random acts of kindness, or beginning meetings with three good things or things for which you are grateful.

Being resilient is about your response to adversity. Only YOU can choose your response. This is an extraordinary time in history and in healthcare. We are all in this together and will get through this together. Let’s use this as an opportunity to adapt, grow, and emerge stronger than ever before.