Years ago, I used to collect quotes and this is one of them: “We must not accept what we know to be intolerable simply because it appears to be inevitable.” I think of this now as I struggle to accept the intolerable and seemingly inevitable impact of COVID-19. How do we continue to function when we are challenged on so many levels?
Research authors define resilience as the ability to adapt to adversity, trauma or other stressful events and remain whole or even grow stronger because of them. While the idea of resilience resonates with many, others feel the concept places a burden on individuals, asking that they “just be tough.” However, resilience is a practice, not an inborn trait, so it requires deliberate attention. In addition, a growing body of evidence indicates that resilience is associated with a lower incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Below are some useful strategies to help cultivate resilience and mitigate stress during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Monitor yourself: Stress is a normal response to a crisis. Watch for signs — such as anger, guilt or rumination — that indicate your stress level is too high. Reach out to a trusted colleague, mentor or counselor for support, or review the resources and strategies suggested in this website designed just for nurses. Seeking help is a sign of strength.
- Manage your physical health: Nutrition, hydration and sleep are necessary for patients, and nurses, too. You’ll feel better if you address these needs regularly.
- Take breaks: Whenever possible, take a break during your shift. When you’re not at work, engage in activities that relax your mind and are meaningful to you. Read a book, listen to music, spend time with family or enjoy a favorite hobby.
- Practice self-compassion: Grant yourself the same kindness you would show to a friend. If you knew that someone you cared about was going through what you’re facing, what advice would you offer? Apply that advice to yourself. Learn more about self-compassion from this series of four-minute videos.
- Stay connected: Social distancing is a barrier to connection, a key element in cultivating resilience. Use text, phone or video calling to reach out to your friends and loved ones. Support your colleagues at work with kind gestures. Many people find connection in social media interaction, but others don’t. Do what feels comfortable for you.
- Honor your own contribution: Take one minute during each shift to acknowledge that you are present and doing your best in extraordinary circumstances. Your presence means the world to your patients, families and colleagues. And that resonates across the country and the world.
We do not have to accept the intolerable and inevitable effects of COVID-19 as permanent parts of our lives. This is real but it is not normal.
As we weather this storm, believe that better times are ahead with new knowledge that will change and enhance the care we give. This belief may help fuel the resilience we need to get us there.
- National Academy of Medicine resources for clinicians during the COVID-19 outbreak
- AACN nurses talk about strategies for surviving a bad day
- The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress offers resources that are part of the public domain, including a one-page handout on sustaining well-being
Add your ideas for managing stress and cultivating resilience to the following comments section.
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