Ways to Maintain Control and Increase Personal Resilience During COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted on May 7, 2020 by Bob Leschke, MD

There is a lot up in the air right now. Things are changing, sometimes multiple times in a day. Sometimes the waiting is the worst part. At the same time, for clinicians, especially emergency clinicians, this is really what we are trained for. We walk toward the problem, not away from it. Even knowing that can be stressful. How do we maintain our resilience during this crazy time? 

A Quick Reminder About Resilience

First off, a reminder. Resilience is sometimes defined as the ability to bounce back from a hit. It’s your ability to recharge that battery when it gets depleted. Resilience is also the ability to keep the battery from getting depleted as quickly in the first place. It is all of the things that we do to create a solid foundation from where we can act. It is our ability to recover back to who we know we are. Another reminder. We, as a group (clinicians), are generally better at the resilience game than other groups. You literally got this.

There are many ways to develop and maintain resilience. The biggest one is control; focusing on the things that you can control, letting go of the things that you can’t control, and dealing with the negative feelings that come from facing the very truth that not everything you want to control is in your power to control. There is so much of this situation right now that is out of our individual control. Suspecting that, hearing that, seeing that, living that, adds to a growing level of frustration that can sneak up on you if you aren’t careful.

Here are some ways you can maintain control increase your resilience during this hard time.

1. Educate yourself

Knowledge is power. Staying informed on the latest and greatest and understanding that the information can and will change, will go a long way toward staying in control of the situation.

2. Engage

It’s easy to want to put your head in the sand and just hope for the best. But you have a lot to offer, not just in your clinical work and knowledge. What are your individual strengths? Where and how can you show up for others? How can you be part of the solution instead of adding to the problem? 

3. Trust your trusted leadership

Sometimes we often suffer from “smartest person in the room” syndrome. We think, for very good reasons, we have ideas nobody is talking about or our ideas are better than the ones being put forth. This is an easy trap to fall into because we think we are adding to the conversation. It is sometimes hard to know when to add our more than two cents. But if you trust your leadership, they will need strong leadership behind them, not competing with them. When adding to the conversation, ask yourself “is what I am putting forth in the conversation helping the leaders to better lead?” If not, how can you change what you are adding to do that. Sometimes an orchestra doesn't need another flute.

4. Take care of yourself

There is truth to putting your own mask on first before helping others (now quite literally). We often sacrifice for our patients, our colleagues and our families before we care for ourselves. This situation has the likely capacity to result in increased working hours, less sleep and poor nutrition, if you let it. Taking control of your own health and well being so you can show up healthier is paramount. Make taking care of yourself a priority and have a plan to do that.

5. Mindfulness and presence

At work, take brief breaks during the day to calm down, focus and recommit. Even just taking three deep breaths at your workstation has been shown to improve well being. Walk back to the office or call room and take one minute to stretch. Remind yourself that you can’t be in more than one place at the same time, and that the patient waiting two hours can wait one more minute. Take things one at a time. Encourage others to do the same.

6. Don’t take home for granted

What does being present at home look like in this time of uncertainty and stress? Consider taking a walk instead of binge-watching Netflix. Consider reaching for something other than alcohol. Put some time boundaries on how much you talk about work with your non-medical people. Studies have shown us that our kids want quality over quantity and so be present with your family even if you can’t be present for as much time. If you are facing the opposite, more time at home because of quarantine, how can you maximize that time to feel most productive?

7. Look for the positive

As clinicians, we are trained to look for what is wrong, what isn’t working, what isn't going in the right direction. Often that leads to only noticing the negative things and forgetting to point out the positive. Make a point of noticing what is working. Express your gratitude to and compassion toward others. Tell people they are doing a good job. Ask others how they are doing and what you can do to help. Not only will this help others, but it is also shown to improve your own well being.

Read Dr. Leschke’s insight on How to Increase Your Sense of Connection During COVID-19 and watch his encouraging video for healthcare professionals below on Forging Connections During COVID-19:


We Can Help

Physician Well Being Resources members contact us at 877.731.3949 or through the VITAL WorkLife App to access your resources today. Whether you are experiencing grief, anxiety, stress, or need to talk to someone who understands what you're going through, we're here for you. VITALWorkLife.com.

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