Every physician I’ve coached this week has shared how much fear and worry they’re living with. An anesthesiologist fearful of COVID-19 exposure in the OR. A radiologist worried after hearing rumors of being deployed to the ICU. An internist with too many at-risk diabetics and COPD patients to safely manage them all. And each also fearful for their children, aging parents, and others. In a time like this, it’s natural for fear to run high. For physicians and for all of us. Our minds can flit from one worry to another, some grounded in reality and many not. We can find ourselves preoccupied with the latest news, worried about what the government will do next, and focusing on what the stock market crash will mean for our retirement.
Many of us are running in sympathetic overdrive—heart racing, breath shallow, body tight. Caught in a fight/flight/freeze response, it’s as if our foot is stuck on the gas pedal. In this state of activation, our ability to manage stress and challenge decreases. We become alarmist, reactive, and irritable, and our ability to cope and execute good decisions erodes. We forget that in this moment we are safe. That in this moment we’re healthy. That right now our loved ones are healthy and safe.
Staying in the present moment provides respite from all the worry and fear. This is not a Pollyanna endeavor; it’s respite grounded in reality. Particularly in difficult times, we need the clarity, focus, and balance that calm provides. It may actually be as essential as hand sanitizer!
There are a number of simple mindfulness-based strategies that can help keep us in the present. Here are three that you can try today.