Staying Sane in Crazy Times

Recently meeting with a group of first year residents, we got on the topic of “how do we just sit with all the uncertainty right now?”

We met in the new normal – instead of circling up in the conference room- the residents popped up one by one on my computer screen in the Brady Bunch format as the Zoom chime ringed with each new face joining the call. 

I started with a simple question: “What are you feeling right now?”

Fear, anxiety, anger, doubt and sadness were sprinkled amongst the answers. These feelings sitting on everyone’s chest were aptly summed up by “We really just don’t know.”

Uncertainty is running amuck. 

Covid-19 is a tiny, faceless enemy like many of the other small but deadly diseases we treat. But it feels so different because of the lack of knowing what to do. With an MI (myocardial infarction which is a millimeter sized obstruction in the heart arteries for my non-clinical readers), we rush them to Cath Lab. With a PE (pulmonary embolus ie lung clot) or CVA (cerebrovascular attack ie stroke), we bust the shit out of that clot. 

But with Covid, we find ourselves saying, “IDK” more than what we as physicians like to acknowledge. 

As much information as the CDC provides, we’re still learning and wishing we knew more.  Each week as new information disseminates, we wish we had known the week before. Pull on equipment shortages, living at the 2 extremes of too busy and sitting on our hands and throw in panicked, scared patients and family members. It’s a lot. 

Let me repeat. It is A LOT. 

Yes, even for me as a trained medical professional.

Yes, even if I’m used to working in the ER. 

Yes, even us, even doctors, the people who are supposed to know it all in a time like this. 

And that’s ok. 

More than ok, it’s normal and healthy to feel all the feelings right now. This is a tough time in an already emotionally draining field. Pushing feelings away and numbing out does a disservice to you and all the work you’ve done.  Acknowledge those feelings, embrace them, own them. 

In lieu of having all the answers, we can choose to hone what we do know and what we can control. 

And the one thing we know (always) is that we don’t know! There’s no magic eight ball, so we don’t have any responsibility to predict what’s going to happen. 

We’re only responsible for what we have control over. Right now, those things are simple. We can breathe. We can seek wisdom. We can appreciate the little things. And we can rest. 

Breathe. Seek wisdom. Appreciate the little things. Rest. 

These actions might seem simple – too simple – in comparison to what we’re dealing with right now. But when things get too complex, remember KISS…keep it super simple. Simplicity kicks ass. 

So, breathe. Honor what you’re feeling and let go of the things that you can’t control. 

Seek wisdom instead of answers. Answers give us information, but wisdom gives us action. We can seek wisdom from each other, our communities, from higher powers, and from ourselves. Looking at the bigger picture allows us to tap into our superpowers and do what needs to get done. 

Appreciate the little things whenever you can. This is a big cloud, but it has its silver linings. Remember that no matter how bad things get, there’s still good happening in this world. Let the hard times remind you what makes life worth living. 

And finally, rest. Put your phone down. Turn the news off. A good night’s rest will do more for you – and therefore, for others – than scrolling will right now. For better or for worse, it’ll all still be there in the morning. 

Breath. Seek wisdom. Appreciate the little things. Rest. 

Create your oasis in the chaos. Take the big ball of Uncertainty and crunch it up in your hands, observe it, see how small it is, and put it in your back pocket. All you really need to do is just stand in this situation. Because to stay standing in the unknown is true courage.

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