Make sure you are utilizing your support circle and staying connected. “That sense of connection is incredibly protective on multiple fronts for depression, for burnout, for suicide ideation, etc.,” Dr. Harry said.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s your teammates at work, your family at home, your best friend from medical school – whomever you can debrief with, vent with, and just share your thoughts and feelings with, these outlets are critical for all of us to process our emotions and diffuse stress and anxiety,” said Dr. Rudolph.
Dr. Poorman is concerned that there could be a spike in physician suicides caused by increased stress, so she also encourages talking openly about what is going on and about getting help when it’s necessary. “Many of us are afraid to seek care because we can actually have our ability to practice medicine questioned, but now is not the time for heroes. Now is the time for people who are willing to recognize their own strengths and limitations to take care of one another.”
Be compassionate toward others
Keep in mind that everyone is stressed out and offer empathy and compassion. “I think everybody’s struggling to try to figure this out and the more that we can give each other the benefit of the doubt and a little grace, the more protective that is,” said Dr. Harry.
Listening is meaningful too. “Recognizing opportunities to validate and acknowledge the feelings that are being shared with you by your colleagues is critical,” Dr. Rudolph said. “We all need to know that we’re not alone, that our thoughts and feelings are okay, and when we share a difficult story, the value of someone saying something as simple as, ‘wow, that sounds like it was really hard,’ is immense.”
Be compassionate toward yourself
Try to give yourself a break and be as compassionate with yourself as you would with others. It’s okay that you’re not getting in shape, publishing prolifically, or redesigning your house right now.
“There’s a lot of data linking lack of self-compassion to burnout,” said Dr. Harry. She says there are courses on self-compassion available that help you work on being kinder to yourself.
Get a “battle buddy”
The American Medical Association has a free “buddy system” program calledto help physicians cope during the pandemic. Dr. Rudolph said that now is a great time to use this military-developed intervention in which each team member checks in with a chosen partner at agreed-upon intervals.
For example, “You can tell that person: ‘If I don’t call my family for a week that’s a red flag for me.’ And then you hold each other accountable to those things,” Dr. Harry said.
The buddy system is another way to harness that sense of connection that is so vital to our health and well-being.
“The simple act of showing that you care … can make all the difference when you’re doing this kind of work that is both challenging and dangerous,” said Dr. Rudolph.