Waiting is the Hardest Part
Often, the waiting is the hardest part.
In the last few days there has been a dramatic drop in the number of folks still determinedly denying that a problem is coming. If someone you know or care about is amongst them, please scroll through my page and pick one of my recent posts to share. You’ll find lots of information and explanation about the public health science behind #SocialDistancing and the reasons we in healthcare are asking every American to do their part to #FlattenTheCurve. There are some newer reports I’ve not posted previously that I’ll link in the comments section, and they re-emphasize the critical importance of slowing the spread of the #Coronavirus pandemic in order to give our physicians a fighting chance to help those who will become critically ill.
I’ll remind everyone again: this is not “just the flu.” Not only is it far more contagious, but we have no vaccine, no treatment, limited ability to screen (testing is still not being widely done) and only supportive care measures for those who become very ill. Again, please read and share my previous posts on this topic.
This morning I’m up early, waiting for a COVID-19 management webinar to begin. I’ve seen comparisons being drawn between this pandemic and the 1918 influenza pandemic, and while it’s true that there are similarities, there are also enormous differences in our ability to respond, and this is a big one. The best minds in the world are sharing and updating and teaching, real time, minute-by-minute updates on the evolution of the disease process and best treatment practices. It’s a deluge of information, but equally brilliant scientists are sifting through and distilling that tsunami of information into what we have to know, now. When this passes, I hope that #TrustDoctors and #TrustScientists become our new national mantra.
In the last few days we’ve had significant data out of China and S. Korea showing that aggressive social distancing worked. I know this goes against many of our instincts: American Individualism is something that many take great pride in. Right now, though, we are called to something bigger than that. This virus isn’t something we can pick a fight with in the street; it requires that we heed the science and work together (separately!) to combat.
At this time, we know that asymptomatic community transmission is occurring, and we can safely assume it is fairly widespread. That means, frankly, we must (should have already!) cancel everything non-emergent. Your haircut can wait. So can your routine eye, dental, dermatology or other appointment. That med-check you set up with your cardiologist a year ago? Call in and have a friendly chat – I promise you’ll be able to get a refill and a rescheduled appointment. Nothing except true emergencies or the need for supplies should send you out of the house in the weeks to come.
As for stocking up or resupplying in the weeks to come: Please think and plan, remembering that the whole idea is to reduce our contact with other people. Pick ONE person in the family to do the shopping, preferably a younger, healthier member. In the past, I always loved seeing little old couples wandering the grocery store together – now it is giving me palpitations. Folks, your parents SHOULD NOT BE GOING OUT AT ALL. I’ve had my mom locked up for more than a week now. She’s madder than a wet hen, but I keep telling her that grounding her hurts me more than it hurts her (she doesn’t find me funny, but I think I’m hilarious…).
I started another post on #BuildingResiliency that I’ll get up later today, but for now I want everyone to stretch, breathe deeply, hydrate, and please do your part today to flatten the curve. Physicians are standing on the beach, watching the tsunami build - they don’t have nearly enough of what they need for this fight, but they’re standing there nonetheless. The general public is being sent to higher ground for their safety; the biggest help you can offer right now is aggressive social distancing to help slow the spread of this pandemic.
It isn’t too much to ask.
Before I jump into learning mode, just a few reminders:
1) It is ok if you’re experiencing moments of fear. I am. It is normal and natural, and many of my colleagues are admitting that in our private forums. We are afraid because there remains so much uncertainty. We are afraid because we are still in that liminal space, mostly waiting for the tsunami to hit. We are afraid because we don’t have the tools we need: the ability to test, the personal protective equipment, enough ventilators, enough answers.
The best antidote to fear is connection, so if you find yourself in that space, reach out and talk to someone. We have so many ways to connect – use them, especially in this time of social distancing. Loneliness amplifies our fears, connection mitigates them.
If you are someone with lots of personal resilience and you’re wondering how you can help others right now, this is it. Reach out, personally, through your networks and check on people. Send a funny meme, a thoughtful text, call and leave a message, write a personal email – anything that says, “hey. I’m here. I love you. Just checking in.”
2) Tend to your personal #Resiliency strategies, and maybe even pick up a few extra.
Look, here’s the thing – a huge part of what I do for a living is work with physicians and other professionals around trauma mitigation and resiliency capacitance. AND this morning I realized that in the last week I’ve let slide almost all my emotional and spiritual resiliency habits. Most of them are little daily rituals that take no time and are almost background in my life – things like lighting the lantern in my kitchen window every morning, turning on music in the background, getting my feet in the dirt…
We all have been holding our breath a bit, and it isn’t doing us any good. Ritual and mindful breathing are excellent ways to disconnect from unhelpful chatter in our brains, and reconnect with our bodies. Bringing our breathing into balance helps to also balance out our autonomic nervous system (which, for many of us, has been in overdrive).
There are five major components to building resiliency capacitance. The four we can control right now are Physical, Mental, Socio-Emotional and Spiritual. In each of these categories are basic needs and strategies that are the same for every one of us, as well as areas that are going to be person specific. I’ll give a few examples and invite you to share your ideas below.
Which brings me to my closing thought for today.
Fear is a thief, my friends. It steals our ability to think, to plan, or to make rational decisions. It steals our joy, our compassion and our grace. If you find yourself afraid, call a friend and say, "tag, you're it -- your turn to ground me." We do this for each other, over and over, because we all need to stay present, stay focused, and stay unafraid. We do not know what is coming. But this is our country, and I have so much faith in my America and in Americans to rise to the occasion and take care of each other. This is what matters, and this is what we can do best.
Hydrate, sleep, nourish body and soul, breathe, repeat.
(Chocolate helps, too...)
I'll update again soon.