We are still smack bang in the middle of pandemic and finding strategies to cope are at the forefront of people’s minds. I wanted to share what has helped me to stay resilient so far and by doing so I hope to inspire you. I decided to call this post my ‘COVInspiration’. Let me explain why: I was asked to create a short video for the viral #dontrushchallenge and my sister, who liked the video, said it was a COVInspiration. I realised then that although the Coronavirus pandemic has been a global disaster, it can also be a push towards inspiration. Trials can make or break us and I am determined that this pandemic will bring out the best in me and not the worst. (N.B. This post is not intended to be a productivity contest or to shame anyone into action. We all have different circumstances and unique challenges, so please do what feels right for you and if that means lying on a couch and eating chocolate chip cookies then I’m giving you a permission slip – I’ve had those days too so I completely understand!).
So here’s my COVInspiration:
1. Create a schedule
My usual routine of work, going to the gym, socialising, and just leaving my flat for random things has been thrown out the window. So, I’ve had to create a new schedule to help me maintain a sense of normalcy amidst the chaos. I’m a key worker, because I am a doctor, so I am still going to work which helps give some structure to my days, but I realise that some people are unable to work or have completely lost their jobs which means that sometimes the days can stretch into one never ending tunnel of uncertainty. I am driven by achievement hence I find that if I don’t use my spare time productively, I can easily become listless and my mood can get quite low. Creating some weekly goals and breaking them down into daily to-do lists has really helped me to have a sense of purpose each day; and the achievement of these small goals (some as simple as making my bed daily) gives me the motivation to keep on going. There is a saying that goes something like: “Control what you can and let go of what you can’t.” My schedule is something I have some control over (most of the time) and this is very grounding when life and the world in general seems so uncertain.
• • •
Since I now only leave home to go to work or to get groceries, the usual daily distractions have been removed from my life. I’m left with a lot of silent moments which have caused me to focus more intently on my life. I’ve been forced to examine if my daily habits are truly leading me to achieve my long-term goals and ultimately the purpose of my life. With this clear focus I’ve been able to make better decisions about how often I exercise, what foods I eat each day, who I spend my quality time with, and what activities I choose to spend time on. Without focus we all tend to drift, and life can get in the way of the goals we truly want to achieve. But clear focus makes the process of achieving goals so much easier.
• • •
3. Stay positive
It’s been a challenge to stay positive when I look at the death toll which keeps on rising daily. After 30 minutes of catching up on the news I start to feel quite hopeless and I begin to lose the desire to be happy, the desire to talk to people, and even the desire to go to work. Despite looking after sick patients daily I have felt truly useless because I do not have a cure for this virus and I cannot stop people from dying from it. I confess that I’ve cried a couple of times in the past few weeks because I’ve felt overwhelmed and here are some examples why: some of my colleagues have been infected with Coronavirus or died from it, I’ve had to make the difficult decision to withdraw treatment from several patients who were dying, I had to inform the daughter of a patient that her mother was dying over the phone (this is probably the worst way to ever break bad news to someone), and this daughter began to cry because she could not visit her dying mother due to the social distancing rules.
But after these episodes of crying and “losing it” I’m always left with the same decision: will I go to work and fight or will I sit at home in despair? Despair is much easier than hope, so I have had to dig deep on many occasions and choose hope despite my feelings because with it there is at least some possibility of a better future. However, despair strips all possibility away, it just makes you spiral into deeper levels of despair and in the end, you just give up.
It isn’t easy to stay positive and I have to work on it day by day and sometimes hour by hour. So, I limit the time I spend on the news; I limit the time I spend with negative people; I limit the time I spend with energy vampires; and I limit the time I spend worrying about the future. Instead, I spend the bulk of my time reading, watching or listening to positive things; I do things that bring me joy; I get creative – yay; I exercise to boost my endorphins (and my immunity); I try not to complain; I choose to make positive professions each day such as, “ I am a victor not a victim”, or “It’s going to be a great day today.” Staying positive is key to my survival, key to my physical and mental wellbeing, and it is key to giving me the strength to care for my sick patients. Fear is contagious but so is positivity, so I choose to spread it around because we need it now and we need it more than ever!
• • •
4. Talk about how you feel
When the lock down started in the UK I remember a sense of surrealism as I walked around central London which was empty during peak hours. It felt like I was on the set of a post-apocalyptic movie and I kept expecting some tumble weed to roll in front of me as a space ship landed bringing aliens with a cure from an unknown galaxy. Initially I kept thinking that I’d wake up from this bad dream and it would all be over but we have had weeks of being on lock down and I know for a fact that I’m not dreaming! COVID-19 is happening to us all and by discussing my experiences with my colleagues, my friends and my family, I have felt better because I realised that I wasn’t alone and someone else was going through similar things. This has helped me to process the impact of COVID-19 in a healthy way and it has helped to reduce my stress levels. Talking to others has also provided me with much needed perspective when I’ve lost sight of the bigger picture. No man is an island and I think we are as strong as our support network.
5. Do something nice for someone else.
One of my goals this year is to do something kind for someone each week and not to tell anyone what I have done. I find that doing something nice for someone makes me feel happier. It also takes the focus off myself and my problems. So, kindness is a form of therapy in itself and I get more out of doing it than the person whom I’ve blessed. I’m not going to list all the things I’ve done here because it is not a competition and I certainly am not the kindest person ever (I do have a dark side and she’s called Bronwyn). But I’m simply a person that’s trying to grow a bigger heart and become a better version of myself. Just google ‘random acts of kindness’ to get some ideas of what you can do for someone else.
• • •
So, that’s a summary of my 5 methods for staying afloat in the current pool of chaos that we are all swimming in. I hope that you’ve been COVInspired and I hope you make it through this period safely. Xx
• • •
Don’t forget to subscribe!
Welldone Doctor, you’re amazing!♥️
Thanks lovely!!! Sending you lots of love. x
Thanks EJ!! I appreciate it
Thank you, you have certainly inspired me. Trying to grow a bigger heart made me smile. Keep smiling and will be thinking of you on the front line. I guess we have been reminded we are but men that do not always have the answers. Xx
So glad you were inspired – that was my goal! We certainly do not have the answers, so all we can do is our best. I appreciate your feedback.xxx