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Physician Well-Being During the COVID-19 Crisis, Part 4: Four Ways to Increase Your Sense of Connection

By: Jason Horay
3 Minute Read

In addition to the physical health threats we’re facing with COVID-19, the pandemic has ushered in an era that, in many ways, challenges how we maintain our mental health as well.

We are in an era of social distancing: We’re not able to enjoy the company of others the way that we used to in the hopes of limiting the extent of this pandemic.

We are in an era of protective distancing: We’re physically separated from our patients with PPE and negative pressure rooms.

We are in an era of fear: We fear exposing our loved ones to the virus and are less confident in our abilities to help the people who need us.

Within this new landscape defined by distance and anxiety, it can be extremely difficult to find a meaningful connection to the world around us, particularly for healthcare professionals at the front lines.

Connection, a key factor of resilience, is about more than just closeness. Connection is about understanding yourself and others through empathy and awareness.

For physicians and healthcare professionals who are experiencing the extreme isolation associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, establishing connections is a critical component of maintaining mental well-being.

To help you generate a renewed sense of connection during this trying time, here are four effective techniques that you can implement today:

Be Present

There are reasons that meditation has so many benefits. It forces you to quiet yourself, be more aware of the present, and focus on your body and your breathing from moment to moment. For those who meditate or who would like to explore it further, many free online meditation apps are available. In fact, Headspace is offering all U.S. healthcare professionals who work in public health settings free access to their premium content through 2020.

However, this more traditional practice is not the only way to meditate. Singing, praying, dancing, or any number of actions and activities that allow you to simply exist in the moment will enable you to increase self-connection.

Healthcare professionals can also use this form of self-reflection on the job. In the practice setting, you connect to yourself by spending time being clear about what you value in your profession, linking your actions to those values, and noticing the moments that honor your values in the work that you do.

Have Compassion

Many healthcare professionals believe they are masters at the compassion game—and they aren’t wrong. But when it comes to self-compassion, their efforts often fall short. To feel self-compassion, you first must be willing to accept the fact that it’s okay to hurt sometimes and that you deserve relief.

It’s okay to admit feelings of anxiety and fear. It’s okay to admit that our current situation is taking both a physical and mental toll on you and your loved ones. It’s okay to accept that you deserve to be cared for by yourself and others. When someone asks us how you are doing, it’s okay to say that you are tired or scared and accept the compassion of others.

It’s also important to extend that compassion outwards. When asking others how they are doing, look them in the eyes, create the space for them to be honest, and let the focus be on their experience before moving on. Noticing compassion when you see it manifested in others also helps your own well-being.

Acknowledge Shared and Individual Experiences

Every one of your colleagues is experiencing the same situation that you are, but it’s important to understand and accept that not all people process situations the same way. It’s easy to think that your experience is not special and that you shouldn’t need help or support. However, the best part about shared experiences is that they allow us to work together to support one another. Taking the time to acknowledge that we are all in this together while simultaneously recognizing what makes this situation unique to yourself or others will help enhance connection and resilience.

Experience Awe

There is nothing like a worldwide pandemic to make us feel very small; like nothing we do will make a bit of difference in the larger sense. But feeling small doesn’t mean being insignificant. Recognizing and experiencing awe—anywhere and in any way—comes with a whole host of benefits, including feeling more connection with those around you. And finding awe-inspiring experiences can be easier than you think. Take time to reflect on and connect with the larger world around you by taking walks through nature, even if only briefly. Stop for a moment to really feel the sun on your face. Count the stars; watch for the shooting ones. Notice the things that you never thought to notice before. These small experiences connect us to something much bigger, to a greater purpose. We all have a role to play in that—and that is awesome.

We Can Help

At Curi, it’s our mission to help physicians in medicine, business, and life, and we are here to support your holistic well-being as both a healthcare professional and an individual. If you have questions about Curi’s well-being offerings, or if I can support you and your employees’ well-being in other ways, please reach out to me anytime at jason.horay@curi.com. For additional actionable advice on how to establish connections, I also invite you to watch Dr. Bob Leschke’s encouraging video, “Forging Connections During COVID-19.”

Jason Horay
Jason Horay is Curi’s Manager of Health Strategy and Well-Being, based in Raleigh, NC.
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